“It’s insane. The whole thing is just insane.” — Anonymous White House official.
By now, you are probably aware that President Trump fired the director of the FBI Tuesday afternoon — and that his decision and the way it was executed were both bonkers, for a variety of reasons.
But there are so many insane aspects to the events of the last 24 hours, it can be hard to wrap one’s mind around all of them at once. Fortunately, news days like this are precisely why God gave us listicles.
Here is a comprehensive rundown of all the reasons why Trump’s firing of James Comey is an extraordinary shit show, even by our president’s formidable standards.
1. The president just fired the man tasked with overseeing the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The president has the authority to fire the director of the FBI. But before Tuesday, that authority had only been exercised once — and in that case, Bill Clinton only fired William S. Sessions after a Justice Department investigation found him guilty of flagrant ethical violations.
Historically, presidents have avoided firing the head of the FBI out of respect for federal law enforcement’s independence. After all, FBI directors serve ten-year terms precisely to ensure a measure of distance from the Oval Office’s occupant.
Thus, firing an FBI director before any internal investigation produced a report of wrongdoing would be precedent-breaking and extraordinary — doing so at a time when the FBI director was investigating the president’s campaign is astounding, and an affront to the rule of law.
2. The White House’s initial explanation for the firing insulted the intelligence of the American people.
Last October, Jeff Sessions applauded James Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation. The then-senator told Fox Business that the FBI director had an “absolute duty” to release his infamous October letter — and to make his controversial announcement explicating his rationale for not charging Clinton last July.
On Tuesday, Sessions advised the president that those two actions were so flagrantly inappropriate they were grounds for firing Comey.
Watch Trump praise Comey in 2016 for how he handled the Clinton email probe.
3. The deputy attorney general who wrote the memo explaining the White House’s rationale for Comey’s firing (reportedly) threatened to resign after realizing that responsibility for the decision was being pinned on him and not Trump.