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Trump-FBI: Total War

President Trump fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, after an apparent love-hate relationship
Photo: Reuters
13/05/2017
18:47
Víctor Sancho / Corresponsal
Washington
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Keith Schiller, a tall, shaved and robust man in his fifties, arrived last Tuesday at 5 in the afternoon to the F.B.I. quarters with a yellow envelope in his hand to deliver it to director James Comey. Inside was a letter of “dismissal with immediate effect.” Comey, who was in Los Angeles, found out about the news on a television screen and he first thought it a bad joke. President Trump picked Schiller to be the messenger of such fulminant decision, he decided that the Director of Oval Office Operations, the former security director of Trump Tower, his part-time bodyguard and former New York Police Department detective did the honors.

On Tuesday, the President suddenly decided to fire Comey, the one who, to many, handed the White House to Trump; but for him, he was becoming more of an obstacle and a nuisance which, if not promptly removed, would interfere with his administration.

It was the end of a love-hate relationship. Trump used to praise the F.B.I. when he thought it was investigating Hillary Clinton and criticized it when it was not. The formula is really simple: with me or against me, the only rule which seems to function regarding Trump and which has to do with “loyalty.” If you comply, you are welcome, if not, your job is at stake.

When in June 2016 Comey recommended not to prosecute Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton for “extremely reckless” usage of her mail and classified material, Trump's anger was aimed to the F.B.I. director, to whom he accused of being part of the “rigged system” against him.

However, 11 days before the elections, Comey reopened the case and, along with it, handed over the presidency to Trump, thus the hate turned into the first approach to reconciliation. Trump overtly recognized that Comey was the key to defeating the Republican when, on the first occasion, gave the spotlight to Comey on a reception with senior security and intelligence officials. “Oh, there's James. He has become more famous than me,” he joked.

When Trump arrived at the White House, he invited Comey for dinner. On that reunion, amidst electoral victory brags, he demanded Comey “loyalty,” the only quality that seems to matter to the President. In response, the F.B.I. director offered him “honesty.”

On March 20, in a hearing before the Senate, the F.B.I. dropped the bomb: since July 2016 it was investigating the “Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 Presidential election, including the investigation of the nature of the links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination.”

It was the final sentence. The investigation on Trump-Russia links was accelerating, deepening and beginning to bear results. In addition, Comey abruptly disregarded Trump's accusations about former President Barack Obama spying on him during his campaign. For Trump, that action was disrespectful and an intolerable disloyalty. Comey's end was near.

On May 3, Comey returned to the Senate to testify. He made a mistake on his declaration, which he corrected a week later. It was the perfect excuse: that mistake would be the way to justify Comey's firing. Trump waited for Rod Rosenstein to assume office as Assitant Attorney General to make him write a memo which would be the excuse to fire the director. After Rosenstein's threat to resign, Trump declared to the NBC that the decision had been taken months ago.

The changes in versions of what actually happened increased the discredit of Trump's White House. The idea of firing Comey to root out the Russiagate evaporated and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence summoned urgently Rosenstein and Comey in order to explain their version of the facts. The former accepted and will attend next week, while the latter will not.

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