Will Trump’s Firing of FBI Director James Comey Be His Saturday Night Massacre? (Updated)

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Trump’s sudden and unexpected firing of FBI director James Comey is likely to damage Trump. The question is whether this move will simply serve as the basis for sowing further doubts in the mainstream media against Trump, or will dent Trump’s standing with Republicans.

Comey made an odd practice of making moves that were arguably procedurally improper in his handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation, but some favored Clinton while others were damaging, given an impression of impartiality to the general public via getting both parties riled with Comey at various points in time. And regardless of what one thinks of his political and legal judgment, Comey had a reputation of being a straight shooter.

And more generally, the director of the FBI is perceived to be a role above the partisan fray. Firing him is fraught with danger; it has the potential of turning into in a Nixonian Saturday Night Massacre, where the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox led the press and public to see Nixon as desperate to stymie an investigation into Watergate charges. It was the archetypal “the coverup is worse than the crime”.

To minimize risk, Trump’s would have needed to have engaged in a whispering campaign against Comey, or least have notified some key figures in Congress that this was about to happen and give the rationale for the turfing out. And it appears he did do that to at least a degree, in that (as you will see below), Lindsay Graham, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, made a statement supporting the firing. But given the surprised reaction in the press, it looks like any ground-sowing for this move was minimal. Caution and preparation don’t rank high as Trump Administration priorities.

More specifically, whether true or not, the Democrats are likely to use this move to claim that Comey was fired for digging too hard into Trump-Russia connections.

We’ll know more in the coming hours and days. The official story is that attorney general Jeff Session and his deputy attorney general Rosenstein wanted Comey’s head. And since the FBI does report to the Department of Justice, Sessions is within his rights to demand the firing of the head of the FBI and expect the President to respect his request. So if this proves to have been a reckless move, it will reflect Trump’s poor judgment in selecting Sessions as his AG, who was a controversial pick from the outset.

From the Wall Street Journal:

In a letter to Mr. Comey, the president wrote, “It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a top member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a statement thanked Mr. Comey for his years of service to the country but said that a change in leadership at the bureau might be the best possible course of action.

“Given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well. I encourage the President to select the most qualified professional available who will serve our nation’s interests,” said Mr. Graham, a South Carolina Republican.

Note that Sessions himself had been fired from the attorney general’s office in the Clinton Administration. Clinton’s attorney Janet Reno, who was the first to engage in large-scale firings of attorneys in the Department of Justice, also fired the head of the FBI. From Bloomberg:

Comey, who has led an investigation into Russia’s meddling during the 2016 election and any possible links to Trump aides and associates, is only the second FBI chief to have been fired. In 1993, President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno dismissed William Sessions.

Trump’s decision means that he will get to nominate Comey’s successor while the agency is deep into the Russia inquiry. The move quickly intensified Democratic calls for a special prosecutor.

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that Trump “has catastrophically compromised the FBI’s ongoing investigation of his own White House’s ties to Russia. Not since Watergate have our legal systems been so threatened, and our faith in the independence and integrity of those systems so shaken.”

The Financial Times confirms that the Trump Administration didn’t lay much groundwork with Congress:

Mr Comey’s sudden dismissal shocked Republicans and Democrats. Brendan Boyle, a Democratic congressman, said the “stunning” action “shows why we must have a special prosecutor like our nation did in Watergate”.

The proof of the pudding is whether Trump and Sessions will be able to ride out demands for a special prosecutor. Given how much noise and how little signal there has been, I would have though it was possible for Trump to tough this out. With the Democrats having peripheral figures like Carter Page as their supposed smoking guns, all they had was innuendo, amplified by the Mighty Wurlitzer of the media. But that may have gotten enough to Trump and his team to distort their judgment. Stay tuned.

Update 5/10, 12:15 AM. The Hill reports Dems ask Justice Dept, FBI to ‘preserve any and all files’ on Comey firing/ Despite much howling for blood in the comments section, some readers there were able to provide what I was looking for, which is whether Congress had any basis for getting the info. Here are the two key remarks:

What files? Discussions between Sessions and any other DOJ official about Comey and about personnel changes would be deliberative process privilege. Congress will not get one single file about Comey’s firing.

Correct Comey serves at the pleasure of the President, not Congress. Trump has the power to hire and fire FBI directors.Congress confirms such appointments, but has no say whatsoever when it comes to firing a FBI director.

Lambert sent on this important find:

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  1. Old Hickory

    Different Sessions who got fired by Clinton. The fired FBI director was Wm. S. Sessions. The current AG is Jefferson B. Sessions.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Right, Sessions was a member of the AG Dept who was also fired by Reno. I’ve actually written about that but screwed up in this drafting. Will fix.

      1. apotropaic

        Sessions is recused. While that is, of course, lip service mostly, there is definitely a need to point that out if it becomes common knowledge that he was the driving force, no? I mean, we can be cynical but that doesn’t mean we don’t call a spade a spade.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation but the WSJ makes it clear he put his name on the firing. The article under the same URL has been expanded from its earlier version. I recall the earlier version saying they had called for his firing; the bolded sentence below is a smidge less strong but consistent:

          The reason for the firing, according to White House and Justice Department officials, was Mr. Comey’s much-criticized handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. The White House said Mr. Trump relied on the recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

          The Trump administration released a memo from Mr. Rosenstein who offered a blistering assessment of Mr. Comey’s conduct, calling his actions “troubling” and saying he had harmed the FBI’s credibility and had refused to learn from his errors.

          1. Oregoncharles

            FWIW, I don’t think any of us had any confidence in Comey’s handling of the email server investigation – we thought it was crooked and self-contradictory.

            But which aspect did Sessions and Rosenstein object to: the investigation, which said she was guilty, or the decision to let her off?

  2. bronco

    Congress and the press were shocked , shocked I say to hear Comey was fired. Next we will hear Clinton supporters express outrage that the man they demanded be fired by Obama was fired by Trump

    1. Larry

      That’s a sizzler of a take there. I can never keep track of how useful Comey is to democratic operatives and sympathizers at any given moment.

      1. Art Eclectic

        This is politics, all things depend on which way the voters and media sentiment are trending.

      2. bronco

        If Comey died tomorrow , Hillary Clinton would give the eulogy and wax poetic about what a great guy he was

  3. Andrew

    Isn’t Donald Trump just doing what he was good at in a previous role on a tv show he used to star in i.e. firing people ? Maybe he still thinks he’s on The Apprentice.

          1. Optimader

            Are you saying DTrump wasnt legitimately elected or some portion of the voting public still dont grasp how the electoral college works?

  4. jonst

    The botched testimony on Weiner—if indeed it was botched by Comey—would have been the last straw for me. Good riddance. Comey was becoming increasingly erratic—“mildly nauseous–who talks like that in public hearings? What does that even mean?

    1. MoiAussie

      No doubt Comey’s botched testimony is the trigger here, but his real offence has been his willingness to not prosecute when he arbitrarily assessed there was no criminal intent behind various criminal acts. He should have prosecuted when evidence of a criminal act was sufficient and let the courts sort out the question of whether intent was even relevant, given the crime.

      1. craazyboy

        Actually, he came right out and said Hill was guilty of some[unnamed] charges – but then he made some nearly incomprehensible words about the “office being to important for the charges”, or some such thing.

        So it really was Judge & Jury Comey making the call. He covered a lotta ground that day. That had me amazed.

        Then I don’t get why everyone says he’s such a good competent guy and wonderful manager. He’s been in the job 3 years and done nothing that meets the public eye. With all the Clinton and Clinton Foundation dirt in the public domain [$3 million weddings?! Uranium deal? Weiner Mail. Jeebus!] you’d think there would be marches on Deecee fer sure.

        1. Dune Navigator

          Will Comey do a Colby (and end up accidentally oopsey-daisically upside down in the Potomac)?

      2. Seamus Padraig

        Technically, only the Att’y General can decide whether to prosecute–and we all know how Loretta Lynch felt about prosecuting Hellary.

        1. MLS

          Correct. And while Lynch never formally recused herself (not that I’m aware of, anyway) she was incredibly silent on the entire issue – tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton aside.

          So it was incredibly strange that Comey recommended that no prosecution move forward (even more so given the bizarre comments about Clinton’s alleged lack of intent to commit a crime). AFAIK it’s unprecedented for the FBI to recommend anything to the DOJ, they merely present the facts that have been uncovered and let the DOJ decide how to proceed.

    2. DH

      The really unusual thing about FBI Director Comey is that he had two potentially constitutional crisis events on his watch with the US AG recused on both of them. Clinton’s bone-headed discussion with Loretta Lynch pushed Comey to the fore on Clinton’s e-mails and Jeff Sessions lies/obfuscations/omissions during his Senate confirmation hearing means that he has been recused from Russian matters.

      So nobody likes how Comey was in the public eye, but normally he wouldn’t have been because the AG would have been the public face. I think it is clear that Comey was not up to the task of being the public face, but I don’t think this dismissal has anything to do with that. If Trump had requested his resignation in January or February over his Clinton e-mail handling and his potential to be a loose cannon in public appearances, then that would have been understandable. To suddenly figure that out four months after the inauguration simply doesn’t fly.

  5. cm

    I support the firing of Comey, and would have supported it if done by Clinton, Obama, Sanders or Trump. His actions wrt “intent” in handling classified information, and his unilateral (in public at least) decision on leveling charges against Clinton (which was not his job) render him unfit for office.

    Anyone opposing this firing should note they share opinions w/ John McCain, which ought to give any non-neocon pause…

    1. John Wright

      Per Marcy Wheeler, Comey was big on heroic optics, but later quietly did what the powerful wanted.

      One wonders if it was massive internal pressure from inside the FBI that pushed Comey to make any critical statements about Clinton.

      From: https://www.emptywheel.net/2014/08/14/the-hospital-confrontation-heroes-of-rule-of-law-gutted-separation-of-powers/

      “Remember that cinematic story of how Jim Comey and Jack Goldsmith and Robert Mueller stood up to Bush and Cheney and forced them to shut down their illegal dragnet to defend the rule of law in 2004?”

      “It turns out, what Comey and Goldsmith did in secret two months later was not so heroic. As I lay out over at Salon, the memo of law they used to get their illegal dragnet blessed by the FISA court argued both Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and the Congress that passed the PRTT law in the first place had no choice but to cede to Executive power.”

      Comey may come to prefer the way he lost his job, he can self-righteously claim that Trump fired him for doing my job, when possibly few people respected the job he was doing anyway.

      I also did not like his arguing that attorney HRC’s apparent “intentions” figured in whether or not Clinton was in violation of any law with her email server.

      And Clinton did not save a backup of the 30K “personal” emails she deleted before handing the remainder to the government.

      If they were innocuous, why not save a backup?

      Who knows what information was in these, and if some bad actor made a copy to use for blackmail purposes during a HRC presidency.

      Good riddance to Comey

    2. sid_finster

      I am all for firing Comey on substantive grounds, but Trump has now injected new life into Russiagate.

      Even though there is just as much evidence to suggest that Mickey Mouse murdered George Washington as there is to support Russiagate, those who want to find something will insist that Comey’s firiing proves that there *must* be something there. The fact that a few months ago, Democrats themselves insisted that Comey *must* be a Russian spy has already been forgotten. He is now their New Best Friend and an Official Martyr to Troof.

      Expect the Truimp Administration, now and for the foreseeable future, to be consumed with endless hearings, fishing expeditions, blocked appointments and witchhunts. Anyone who ever talked to a Russian person ever will be held up breathlessly as “proof” that Trump must be a Russian tool. Those who want to believe will profess to do so.

      Of course, Trump’s erstwhile friends and their Deep State allies will helpfully suggest that Trump start a war or two so that he can “prove” that he is in fact his own man.

      Trump has already shown himself to be succeptible to such suggestions. Do the math.

  6. WeakendSquire

    Both the Right and the Left are disinclined to believe in or care about any scandal involving Russia. And it was actually the Clinton partisans who demanded Comey’s head in the first place–and we all know the Clinton history with independent prosecutors. So the Democrats who whine about this or call for an independent prosecutor just end up looking like the partisan hypocrites they are.

    What this does, after a few days, is get the Russian hacking investigation out of the news, so everyone can focus firmly on debating how many people need to lose their health care to satisfy the tax-cut gods.

  7. allan

    I’m old enough to remember when Jeff Sessions recused* himself from the Russia investigation.

    I had no use for Comey – he was smug, self-righteous, and exhibit A for the revolving door in D.C.
    But this is not good. Just imagine who might be nominated to replace Comey.

    *Apparently not really, if Sessions can fire the head of the main entity doing the investigation.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      What is not good, but really bad, at least for now, is Hillary Clinton has connection with the acting FBI director, McCabe, through his wife.

  8. Kevin Carhart

    A friendly suggestion about the post. “Note that Sessions himself had been fired” suggests that this is an angle to contemplate. But it isn’t, because William Sessions is a different guy than AG Jeff Sessions. There are about 2 million angles to this thing, but that isn’t one of them since it’s just a name coincidence. If it was the same Sessions, it would be even more byzantine.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, please reread what the post says.

      It states Jeff Sessions, who was a member of the Attorney General’s office at the time, was fired by Janet Reno. Reno ALSO fired the head of the FBI, a different Sessions. Both were unprecedented moves at the time.

      This suggests instead that Jeff Sessions would be well aware of the Reno precedent by having been on the scene at the time.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I initially botched the drafting but corrected it when I read the account at Bloomberg (which didn’t mention that the current AG Sessions was also fired by Reno). Too many players to keep track of.

          1. DH

            At least Jeff Sessions has gained experience of being fired. I am sure that will come in handy in this Administration.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, ”

      Bizarre how? I think Comey just failed post-modernism. Can I just say, “Benghazi is a genre”? If the media _remembers_ anything from nine months ago, maybe it’s an SNM. Instead, I expect our Boswells to be very smarmy about “crying wolf”. Comey earned his bones by being a squeaky wheel.

      Easy to be wrong, perhaps the Clintonistas end up giving us a phrase for what happens after you are thrown under the bus and are then resurrected as a martyr?*

      * **The Irish prolly have a word for that. **I guess this is a bleg.

  9. Tvc15

    This sentence from Trumps letter firing Comey is odd.

    While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.

    The first half of the sentence doesn’t belong.

    1. Carolinian

      He’s being sarcastic.

      Comey said Assange should be prosecuted so good riddance to Comey. Trump seems to be surrounded by even looser cannons than he is. Will McMaster be the next to go? Or Nikki Haley who seems to see her role as making pronouncements about administration policy?

      1. Gregory Hill

        Yes, I agree regarding Assange: the man is thankfully a thorn in the Deep State’s flesh and a hero in his own right. Yes, it wreaks of SNM and may have legs down the road, but I am no fan of Comey either.

    2. Aumua

      Isn’t he simply trying to establish that he didn’t fire Comey because of any alleged investigation he’s grateful that he definitely wasn’t under?

      1. craazyboy

        And an hour later subpoenas the investigation! hahahaha. Looks like this one had some planning!

        Be something if there was nothing there. “Honest Marshal, it was all a ‘talking point’ for the Press. Everyone’s doing, donchtaknow?” hahahahaha.

        Hillary is back from the walk in the woods, and the “Resistance” just won’t “Stop” running on the BS.

  10. BrianC

    The most interesting thing about the letter is the second paragraph:

    “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

    From: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/james-comey-terminated-fbi-director

    The entire first half of that sentence is a distraction. Looks like gas on a fire to me. Why even include it in the letter at all?

    – Tvc15 beat me to it!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Is he saying, ‘You crowed thrice, but I am not to be denied?”

    2. Crazy Horse

      The problem was the Trump was trying to formulate a longer sentence than allowed by Twitter, and that caused neural blockage.

  11. Jim Haygood

    The Scream:

    Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) made the biggest impression, going to the Senate floor about an hour after the announcement to clearly outline the stakes.

    “Any attempt to stop or undermine this FBI investigation would raise grave constitutional issues,” he told colleagues.


    Constitutional issues? HA HA HA HA

    What is “Senator” Durbin doing about the war escalation in Afghanstan and Syria? My point exactly.

    We’ve got a problem in politics
    So few Richards, so many dicks

    1. Uahsenaa

      The constitutional crisis meme has got to stop. Maybe if any of these hacks had actually paid attention in their high school government class, they would know that the Constitution doesn’t have the first thing to say about the FBI, that it didn’t even come into existence until the 20th century (though its precursor dates to the very late 19th). In fact, you could entirely dissolve every single three letter organization and it still wouldn’t even amount to a constitutional sniffle, much less a crisis.

      1. MLS

        you stop it with you and all your facts and everything.

        there’s TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome) going on!

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      FBI Director is one of those jobs where if you do a good job you should suffer burnout regardless of who you are. A 10 year term is bizarre if you expect a quality job. I would expect resignation and early retirement if the job is being taken seriously. Then you have to consider the quality of staff and team work arrangements at any given time and how much workload a FBI Director or Cabinet Secretary has to deal with.

  12. Matt

    I’m already seeing Twitter Dems doubling down on the Russia stuff. The Russia hysteria is setting us up so that there will be absolutely no political incentive for future Presidents to be friendly with Russia. I wonder if they don’t know (or just don’t care) that they aren’t going to be able to put this genie back in the bottle after Trump is gone.

    1. jo6pac

      Thanks I love it and they just don’t care and hoping the lame stream corp. owned media will carry their propaganda.

      demodogs message is we didn’t fail but those looser didn’t vote for us the party of corp. Amerika. Double down

    2. John Zelnicker

      @Matt – I don’t think the Twitter Dems can conceive of the notion that there is a genie or even a bottle in this situation. They are so caught up in the Russia!, Russia! hysteria that there is no room in their thinking for any kind of rational thought or any consideration of consequences.

      1. Matt

        You’re more hopeful that I am. I think the more militaristic among them are so cavalier about conflict with Russia because of the Hitler-level delusions many of them have about the military capacity of Russia.

        “Just kick in the door, and the whole rotten structure will come down”

        “We’ll be greeted as liberators when we defeat the tyrant Putin!”

        Just look at that SNL sketch that aired a few months ago. They think these people are frozen, ignorant peasants.

      2. RRH

        Everyone in the MSM seems to forget the open mike catching Obama’s “I’ll be more flexible after the election.” I’m certain that he was not talking about yoga positions.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Nixon was smart enough to avoid Russia and the USSR, and instead, worked with China that would help suppress US wages for decades.

  13. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

    Personally I would be no good at power. My reading has led me to believe that you need a very strong stomach to endure what you have to deal with, whether it be human gore, hypocrisy, or the dark side of any civilization. I don’t have that stomach, and if you take Comey’s words at face value neither does he.

    So I think you can take that as a thumbs-up.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Nah, ask Obomber. Once you get past a little queasiness, getting “pretty good at killing folks” is a piece of cake. It’s just business as usual. Ask any Civil War or WW I general officer, or Bomber Harris, or Lemay or… the young guy, farm boy from Iowa who was a door gunner I knew on Vietnam. Just no problem killing gooks. His moral line was killing the water buffalo. “I know how I’d feel if someone blew away my John Deere.”

      1. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

        Re: The youg guy with the agricultural machinery sensibilities:

        Although he was the manipulator of terrible power, I see him as a victim (in the scheme of things), not a member of the power-elite.

        And the other military you mention, were they in the power-elite? Eisenhower should have been on your list, as he straddled the divide.

  14. Occasional Delurker

    I’m curious how this will be interpreted by people who get their news mostly via headlines. (I also wonder what proportion of the voting population that is.)

    The headlines I’ve seen so far, if they give a reason, just make reference to the Clinton email investigation. I sort of think this will be interpreted by many mostly-headline news gatherers as meaning that Trump fired Comey because he did not, in fact, lock her up. Indeed, even those who dig deeper may still believe that this is the real reason.

    So, like so many things raged about in the media, I’m not sure this really hurts Trump amongst his voters. Probably helps, really.

    And for something completely different, Snowden is not a fan:


    1. Art Eclectic

      All it does is reinforce existing bias. Dems are even more convinced about Russian ties, Reps are even more concerned the wheels are off, TrumpNation is even more convinced there’s an evil plot out to get their guy. And the media has a click frenzy to drive ad rates.

      Something for everyone.

  15. fresno dan

    “Trump’s sudden and unexpected firing of FBI director James Comey is likely to damage Trump.”

    How neutral or unconcerned with what the Establishment views as the requisite dogma regarding Russia is Trump?
    Articles about Trump being unhappy about McMaster gives the impression that Trump still believe he (Trump) is the boss.
    Yes, the dems have ridiculous notions about Russians as an excuse for Hillary. But being anti Russian is in the very DNA of the repubs. Would the repubs turn on Trump because Trump isn’t fervently anti Russian enough? I very much think so….they have a good repub vice president that I am sure ALL of them much prefer…..

    1. Huey Long

      You’re right, the red party is a virulently anti-red outfit.

      I can see the die hard GOPers turning on the Trumpster, but will his base stand for it? The Trumpster does have a bit of a cult of personality going on in some circles.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Its important to remember the disdain the country has for Versailles in general. Trump became President despite universal support for Hillary and to a lesser extent Jeb on the shores of the Potomac.

        The Republican Id is dedicated to hating Democrats. Bill Clinton and Obama could play Weekend at Bernie’s with Reagan corpse and kill Social Security, and Republicans would still hate them.

        Communists and other boogeymen of the past are secondary to this drive. The Versailles Republicans, a different breed, could never deliver Republican votes outside of Northern Virginia for one simple reason their base despises Democrats more than they might hate Stalin. They will never give credit to a Democrat. Remember the liberal whining about how Republicans never gave Obama credit for his right wing policy pushes.

        The other key point to the GOP voter relationship is Trump WON. He beat Jeb and his sheepdogs and then he beat Hillary (Hillary and the Dems lost). Trump is the their winner so to speak. As long as Trump is denounced by the usual suspects for bizarre reasons, Trump will maintain his hold.

    2. Carolinian

      They still have to have a case to make and there is none. Impeachment is just as much a fantasy as it was several months ago. In fact they no longer even have the argument that Trump must be stifled and prevented from doing all his crazy promises since they don’t seem to be happening anyway.

      Frankly I say good for Trump rather than letting Comey go all Janet Reno on him. If this country is going to be run by the NYT and the WaPo and CNN then we are truly sunk. He had it right when he was attacking this bunch rather than kowtowing to them.

      1. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

        From my side of the world the appearance is that the US is run by Fox, if it is being run by any media organization.

        Us Brits know that if any politician wants to gain power in the UK, they have to go “cap in hand” to the Australian (or American) known to us through the auspices of Private Eye magazine as “The Dirty Digger”. When it was announced that he was to get his hands on a media company in the US, I found myself wondering whether anyone in the upper reaches of US power had given any thoughts as to the consequences.

        If you take time to survey the three countries where Murdoch really operates, you will find:

        1. Fractured conservative political parties,

        2. A decline in manufacturing and high quality jobs,

        3. Declining standards of education,

        4. A poisoned polity.

        5. Hot real estate.

        There are some who speculate on Jerry Hall’s roll in all this. Oh to be a media baron – what a way to go!

        Pip pip!

  16. Huey Long

    Although the Mighty Wurlitzer is going to take this firing and run with it, I wonder if anyone’s really going to care outside of folks that watch a ton of CNN and MSNBC.

    I think scalping him at this point in his administration is likely to generate more protests and demonstrations than not scalping him.

    1. shargash

      Trump should have fired Comey on day 1. Comey botched the investigation of Clinton. Then he botched re-opening the investigation. The former made Obama happy, but the latter should have got him fired. Why didn’t it? And why did Trump keep him on? I have a feeling there are depths of l’affaire de Comey that we cannot see.

  17. Alex Morfesis

    Well don trumpioni may have stepped in it…although, maybe this has less to do with russia perhaps…fbi sorta sat on gulen charter school investigation and it would certainly help emperor trompe and prince erdo relationship if Fethu found his old self on an express flight to Ankara…considering the bean “kurd” thing recently added on the takeout menu…

    Can easily imagine potus & his not ready for prime time players wanting to use the hoover building as a bludgeon against people who dont fall in line…the blob counterforce…

    comey the straight shooter methynx is a bit of a “legend” but even the most slick and corrupt have certain lines they wont cross…

    1. Huey Long

      Can easily imagine potus & his not ready for prime time players wanting to use the hoover building as a bludgeon against people who dont fall in line…the blob counterforce…

      The FBI would be the preferred outfit for this sort of thing due to their many decades of experience bludgeoning those who don’t fall in line.


      1. alex morfesis

        oh come one now…that stuff never happened…all you have is proof…how can that stand up to narratives…

  18. oho

    “Will Trump’s Firing of FBI Director James Comey Be His Saturday Night Massacre?’

    It would be interesting to take a poll on what percentage of citizens know that “Saturday Night Massacre” is not a horror film.

    I’d be willing to bet a beer that this kerfuffle will be confined to the Beltway media and Sunday talk shows and will fade from the news cycle/Facebook feeds rather quickly.

    People are tapped out mentally with political talk.

    1. seabos84

      People are fed up. Savings & Loan mess & Iran Contra & & & & … yawn … Wall Street destroys the economy & no one goes to jail, Medical Industrial Complex management bloodsuckers insure that sickness leads to penury …

      1973 was 28 years after 1945. 1973 was 44 years ago. The post WW2 psuedo consensus is looooooooong gone.

      I thought we hated Comey cuz of what he did to HRC? Today we hate Trump cuz Comey was going after the Russians? Crap … I hate missing the 2 minute hate.


  19. allan

    U.S. Census director resigns amid turmoil over funding of 2020 count [WaPo]

    The director of the U.S. Census Bureau is resigning, leaving the agency leaderless at a time when it faces a crisis over funding for the 2020 decennial count of the U.S. population and beyond.

    John H. Thompson, who has served as director since 2013 and worked for the bureau for 27 years before that, will leave June 30, the Commerce Department announced Tuesday.

    The news, which surprised census experts, follows an April congressional budget allocation for the census that critics say is woefully inadequate. And it comes less than a week after a prickly hearing at which Thompson told lawmakers that cost estimates for a new electronic data collection system had ballooned by nearly 50 percent. …

    The decennial count typically requires a massive ramp-up in spending in the years immediately preceding it, involving extensive testing, hiring and publicity. However, in late April Congress approved only $1.47 billion for the Census Bureau in the 2017 fiscal year, about 10 percent below what the Obama administration had requested. And experts say the White House’s proposed budget for 2018, $1.5 billion, falls far below what is needed. …

    In the long run, as important as Comey’s departure, if not more so.
    How’s that demographic destiny working for you, Beltway Dems?

    1. Colin Spenncer

      Of course they want the Census Bureau to be in turmoil so as to avoid any data that might affect redistricting unfavorable to Repubs.

  20. Gregory Hill

    The first three words that went through my mind when saw this pop up on a news link were, “SATURDAY NIGHT MASSACRE!” DJT’s elevator (his brain) is stuck in the basement (his arse).

    We will see interesting times ahead – Enter Bread and Circus Stage Left.

  21. Anonymous

    I am no fan of Comey. I think his self-righteousness makes him a dangerous FBI Director and a loose cannon. However, people who think this is going to hurt Trump are likely wrong. If Trump knows there’s nothing in the Russia story, but he continues to string out the Democrats with it, then they’re the ones who are going to look foolish after having invested so much political capital in it. It may be the Russian story will be proven to be nonsense about October, 2018.

      1. sid_finster

        Even harder to prove a negative to someone who really really really wants to believe that there just has to be something out there.

    1. John Wright

      I suspect the Democrats are unaware they are indirectly insulting the Trump voters by the Russian influence story..

      They are in effect saying Trump voters were played by the “evil” Russians into voting for Trump, despite the 1Billion spend by Clinton and her considerable support in the US media.

      I don’t imagine the Trump voters like this message.

      It is truly remarkable, the Russians spend about 10% of what the USA does on “Defense” and are able to influence a US electorate that is largely unaware and unconcerned about world affairs.

      I believe enough voters know that Clinton played fast and loose with the email server to avoid FOIA and the Clinton Foundation pulled in a lot of money from foreign governments as payment in advance to President Hillary Clinton..

      The harping on the “Russia influenced the election enough to elect Trump” will bite the Democrats as they avoid the jobs, medical and economic issues that actually influenced the voters for Trump.

      If Trump indirectly destroys both the Democratic and Republican parties, he might rank as one of our more important Presidents, quite unintentionally.

      1. Loblolly

        That would require us to be rational actors rather than the cartoon idiots the media portrays us as.

        1. djrichard

          I’ve taken to using doge speak in my comments on Yahoo articles and WaPo articles. I figure that’s about as much intelligence the publishers are investing into the articles and into the audience, that I therefore tune my intelligence accordingly.

      2. Ellie

        With Trump’s support at a stable 35% no matter what he does, I doubt the Democrats care whether or not they are directly or indirectly insulting Trump supporters. Trump voters were played by Trump himself, and continue to be played. If there’s no ‘there’ there about Russia, why try so hard to kill the investigation?

        Trump and the Republicans are doing a good enough job on their own of avoiding the jobs, medical and economic issues facing the country. The Dem party is already troubled. It would be a great thing if Trump brings down the Repubs a few notches.

        1. Deadl E Cheese

          I doubt the Democrats care whether or not they are directly or indirectly insulting Trump supporters.

          For a party that’s been constantly squealing ‘demographics are destiny’ since 2008 they sure don’t have a clue about how lopsided the midterm coalitions are. Maybe these pseudoscientific doofuses should do a 2010 and 2014 postmorterm. Maybe they should realize that they have no chance in hell of not getting slaughtered in the Senate without some portion of Trump voters.

          If there’s no ‘there’ there about Russia, why try so hard to kill the investigation?

          If someone was spreading rumors about me humping dogs, even though I don’t, I’d be hot-to-trot on squashing it, too.

    1. Art Eclectic

      Nice. Team Trump managed to get out ahead of that story with their own. That’s some ninja level media mastery.

  22. juliania

    If it has to do with the Russian electorial witch hunt stupidity, then yes, I think Comey ought to have been fired. For crying out loud, enough already! Delicate matters are being attempted in the Middle East, and there is no sense in pursuing that craziness. I don’t understand why that shouldn’t be a perfectly acceptable reason to change direction and start attending to real issues with someone in the office who would support Trump’s legitimate claim (and Putin’s) that there was no there there.

  23. Wrong Letters

    Why doesnt he fire the top 10 layers of CIA instead? They are wreaking havoc for real everywhere domestically and abroad.

    1. Huey Long

      I would imagine the CIA/Intel guys are way harder to get rid of.

      To quote the late, great Sen. Frank Church:

      If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. (…)

  24. Toolate

    So not one poster here thinks the Russia story has any merit whatsoever?
    With those odds, the contrarian in me says hmmm…

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Because people here are smart enough to be skeptical of hysterical MSM headlines with no real goods, you act as if you are some sort of smart contrarian, when you are just echoing a Democratic party/media narrative?

      You do not seem to recognize that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The idea that billionaire, who was already famous in the US by virtue (among other things) of having a TV show that ran for 14 years and got billions of free media coverage during his campaign, is somehow owned by Putin, is astonishing on its face. Trump had to have been the focus of extensive Republican and Democratic party opposition research while he was campaigning.

      And perhaps most important, the night he won, Trump clearly did not expect to win. His longstanding friend Howard Stern stated a view similar to ours, that Trump ran because it would be good PR and the whole thing developed a life of its own. And before you try saying politics doesn’t work that way, the UK is now on a path to Brexit for the same reasons.

      All the Dems and the media have come up with are some kinda-sorta connections to Russia. Trump as a very rich man who also has assembled a large team of political types in short order, would have people who knew people in all corners of the world. “X has done business with Y” is hardly proof o of influence, particularly with a guy like Trump, who is now famous for telling people what they want to hear in a meeting and backstabbing them the next day.

      We’ve been looking at this for months. The best they can come up with is:

      1. Manafort, who worked for Trump for all of four months and was fired. Plus his Russia connections are mainly through Ukraine. Podesta has strong if not stronger Russia ties, is a much more central play to Clinton and no one is making a stink about that. And that’s before you get to the Clinton involvement in a yuuge uranium sale to Russia, which even the New York Times confirmed (but wrote such a weedy story that you have to read carefully to see that).

      2. Carter Page, who was even more peripheral

      3. Flynn, again not a central player, plus it appears his bigger sin involved Turkey

      4. The conversation with the Russian ambassador, which contrary to the screeching has plenty of precedent (in fact, Nixon and Reagan did far more serious meddling)

      5. The various allegations re Trump real estate and bank loans. Trump did have a really seedy Russian involved in a NYC development. One should be more worried that the guy was a crook than that he was Russian. Third tier, not even remotely in the oligarch class. There are also vague allegations re money laundering. The is crap because first, every NYC real estate player has dirty money in high end projects (see the big expose by the New York Times on the Time Warner Center, developed by the Related Companies, owned by Steve Ross). But second, the party responsible for checking where the money came from, unless it was wheelbarrows of cash, is the bank, not the real estate owner. Since the NYT expose there have been efforts to make developers/owners responsible too, but those aren’t germane to Trump since they aren’t/weren’t in effect.

      So please do not provide no value added speculation. If you have something concrete, that would be interesting, but I’ve been looking and I’ve seen nothing of any substance.

      1. Huey Long

        +1 on the Time Warner Center

        Very few condos there are occupied for more than a few days per year, and most of the residents I encountered during my tenure there were not US citizens.

        We were all very entertained when the Times broke the story.

        Just FYI, Ross does not own the TWC outright, he only has a stake in the place albeit a sizable one since aquiring TIme Warner’s office/studio unit.

      2. LT

        Trump a crook, but not any other oligarchs?
        The old saying goes something like behind every great fortune is a great crime.
        They clean up the image with a few rewrites and something like public office or foundations.
        The Presidency is Trump’s ca-ching. And the pauses on the promises and the falling in line (bombs away!).
        He’ll be right in the club.

      3. MoiAussie

        Whatever the Russian government may have done, and there is as yet bugger all evidence they did anything beyond expressing views and hopes, and perhaps facilitating leaks, they didn’t throw the election. What’s most ridiculous about the accusations that they did are the blatant double standards on show.

        Last week, Obama interfered in the French elections by endorsing Macron, which endorsement Macron then used prominently in his campaign. Where was the outcry?

        Now imagine that Putin or Xi or Kim Jong-Un or Bashar Assad had made a video endorsing Trump (or Clinton). There would be screaming and ranting in one part of the US media or another. Of course if it was May or Merkel or Hollande or Abe or Netanyahu who endorsed Clinton (or Trump) the reaction would be more muted.

        If it’s acceptable for Obama to endorse a presidential candidate in a foreign country, why shouldn’t any political leader in any part of the world have the right to do the same?

        The US routinely interferes in elections around the world, by endorsements (political and media), by channelling money and expertise to chosen candidates, by spying and hacking, and sometimes in darker ways. This is always considered acceptable in the US, and the outcry is only ever heard in faraway places.

        As for talking to a foreign ambassador being evidence of some dark connection, that’s yet another double standard on show, as Yves pointed out. Until some evidence of culpable content is produced, the accusation is just hypocritical mud throwing at a political enemy in the hope some of it will stick.

        1. Scott

          Way I see the world is that there are the jet setters who can shop for nations where from to carry papers and locate their businesses. It is their club.
          Then there is labor trapped in their nations of birth. Same as it was for the French & the Germans during WWI, which essentially never has ended.
          We are in the death throes of the 100 Yrs. Oil War.
          Trump & his see Putin & Russian history of Privatization which made Trump richer and more secure selling to Russian Oligarchs, rich from Privatization, and want that way in the US for themselves.
          No doubt in my mind firing Comey slows the investigation into Russian Trump campaign collusion, or explodes depending on how Senator Richard Burr reacts.

        2. Hayek's Heelbiter

          I don’t know if Trump went personally bankrupt, but I worked on a huge Trump bankruptcy filing at Bankers Trust (later Deutsche Bank) in the late 1980s. It was a WordPerfect document over 300 pages long and stored on a series of floppy disks (that’s how long ago it was) and was the first document ever to use OCR technology in the Document Production Center. I was tempted to make copies (which I should have done in retrospect), I didn’t pay much attention to the details, but the gist of it seemed to be that the creditors would take everything but allow Trump to keep his name.
          My perspective on Hill vs. Trump?
          Trump’s bankruptcy paid for several lovely vacations to Europe and Asia. Hillary and her Wall Street friends cost me $60k when I sold my flat in Jersey City.
          Color me jaundiced.

      4. Colin Spenncer

        “but I’ve been looking and I’ve seen nothing of any substance”

        How about Trump’s tax returns?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          We have discussed repeatedly that they won’t show anything, except stuff like how much Trump showed in gross income, how much he had in deductions, how much he gave to charities, and what his effective tax rate was. The idea that they will show anything about his business ties is utterly false. The other thing it could show that (like Romney) he had a Swiss bank account and decided to come clean about it in the amnesty.

          Have you ever filled out a tax return? The barmy and inaccurate claim is that he’d have to show who loaned him money. First, that is simply not true and on top of that, Trump almost certainly borrowed through a corporate entity. The only way you’d see who lent to them is by getting financial statements, NOT corporate tax returns.

    2. Paul Greenwood

      It isn’t a “Russian” story at all but for PC reasons they say “Russian” instead of Brighton Beach Mafia and laundering of proceeds from the Yeltsin Era corruption. Hasn’t it crossed your mind that no US bank would fund a certain developer after his 1990s workout and fortunately the USSR collapsed in 1991 ?

      Lots of money from men like Mogilevich and the Vor v Zakone had to find safe harbour in real estate laundered through Cypriot and Israeli banks. Noone was funding golf courses or high rises. Then there is the Kushner connection to overpriced real estate and offshore funding. It is not Putin or Russia, it is simply money being laundered through real estate in USA with its lax scrutiny and firms like Bayrock tied to Erdogan in Turkey

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Please stop spreading inaccurate information. I hate sounding like I am defending Trump, but the MSM is full of tons of baloney.

        Trump along with the aforementioned Steve Ross of Related were the only 2 major NYC developers to emerge from the early 1990s recession with virtually all of their empires intact. I heard about this in real time. A former client at Related who spent 18 months negotiating the workout was offended at the time that Trump got off so well.

        Trump has NEVER gone bankrupt personally. He has had some projects go bankrupt. It’s a small percentage of his total number of corporate entities he’s controlled.

        Moreover, lenders LOVE lending to creditors post bankruptcy. They have cleaned up balance sheets.

        Finally, lending to real estate is project based. If the basis for the projections is sold and you have shown you can build buildings on time and within budget (and Trump does have a track record of knowing how to build), and it’s the right time in the credit cycle, banks will lend.

        1. Paul Greenwood

          I have never ever suggested Trump has been personally bankrupt. In fact I never even suggested his projects filed corporate bankruptcy or Chapter 11, though we know some did. I know a lot about real estate projects.

          I also know how offshore money is parked and how the US is a major launderer of illicit funds through onshore and offshore companies. I simply state that Putin is not in my view involved with Trump in any of the ways suggested by US Media and political opinion, but that the influence of Vor v Zakone is very present in US politics and real estate projects

          1. Bittercup

            I really wish people would stop dredging up phrases they’ve picked up from Russian (i.e. your usage of “Vor v Zakone”) in some kind of attempt to sound more knowledgeable. The phrases are generally used incorrectly, which is super cringe-worthy to real Russian speakers. They’re also never particularly illuminating, and only serve to obscure and “otherize” whatever is actually being talked about.

            Good lord.

        2. Deloss Brown

          Dear Yves, if you don’t like sounding like you’re defending Donald Trump, please don’t post things that defend Donald Trump.

          I shan’t take up a lot of space, but the fact that he has never gone bankrupt personally is rather typical. One of his favorite tricks is to leave other people holding the bag. He tries to avoid all responsibility for anything that might reflect unfavorably on his brand.

          1. MLS

            Yves can certainly defend herself but since she hasn’t chimed in yet, I will.

            She’s not defending Trump. I don’t think anyone here is (nor am I). He’s a pretty horrible person. He’s an a**hole. He routinely screws people over in his business dealings (and one presumes in other interactions as well). All of this is known, but we elected him anyway.

            But just because we don’t like him doesn’t mean inaccurate information should be discussed as though it’s fact. It demeans all of us to not think critically about what’s being presented by the MSM as gospel (that’s part of what got us into this mess in the first place), and frankly it’s lazy or naive to simply believe what they spew outright just because DJT is a Grade A jerk. There’s virtually no hard evidence of Trump bowing down to Putin, and what scant evidence people point to is circumstantial at best. For the reasons Yves mentioned above, it doesn’t even pass the sniff test from multiple angles, yet the narrative is pushed on and on. It’s pathetic.

            Whether he’s filed personal BK or not is completely irrelevant to pretty much everything that’s worth discussing about Trump

            1. Deloss Brown

              Um–hi there, MLS–I think his personal history is part of the problem. He resents, and retaliates against, any attack on his reputation, or should I say his fame, or should I say his notoriety.

              Um–I haven’t seen CNN or MSNBC present untruths. I could be wrong. I am frequently wrong.

              I’m going to vent now, MLS. I am sick of people on this blog, which I have read since 2006 (when I worked for Citibank and was trying desperately to find out what I was doing–and it turns out I was ending the world)–where was I?–I am sick of people on this blog saying that Hillary would have been worse, or that Obama set up Trump.

              We don’t have any evidence pro/con his bowing down to rasPutin (my apologies for the horrible coining). But Sally Yeats said that Flynn was a danger because he could be blackmailed by Putin. Trump’s ties to Putin are a lot closer than Flynn’s–I assume–and I have to assume because he just fired the FBI Director in charge of the investigation.

              I think Trump’s main interest is in making money, and, true to the spirit of capitalism, he doesn’t care how it’s made or what happens as a result. Me, who spent many years toiling in a PTA, I regard Betsy DeVos as a personal insult.

              Shall we make book on how long General McMaster lasts?

              And I could go on, but anybody who’s paying attention, or has been, will be quickly bored.

              As for John Wright, I could merely ask how Bernie Madoff did so well for so long. Or I could quote the adage (probably not by P. T. Barnum): “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

              Yves au pouvoir. Confusion to our enemies.

              1. MoiAussie

                It’s a touch incoherent to recognise Trompe’s retaliatory personality, and then assume somehow that firing Comey shows his ties “to Putin” are a lot closer than Flynn’s. Comey may have been fired largely for lack of progress on the links investigation.

                We’ll never be able to actually judge what HRC would have done, but holding the opinion that she would have been worse is quite defensible, naturally you are free to differ. Maybe not worse for business as usual in the US, but certainly worse for the world at large, unless you’re a card-carrying neocon or exceptionalist.

                McMaster’s decline has been noted and largely welcomed here, it’s not clear whether you see this as good or bad. Is dumping a warmonger and MIC booster something you aren’t happy about?

              2. John Wright

                Bernie Madoff did so well because he had a completely false reputation for extraordinary results.

                You assert that it is well known Trump harms his investors and yet he continues to find new investors.

                A similar case could be a newly released Madoff leaving prison and attempting to then find new investors

                I doubt that Madoff would be successful in this pursuit.

                Madoff had the appearance of success due to investor ignorance, Trump is apparently successful with informed investors.

                P.T Barnum was talking about people buying circus tickets, not wealthy investors with well-paid advisors.

              3. Fool

                “Um–I haven’t seen CNN or MSNBC present untruths. I could be wrong. I am frequently wrong.”

                Yes, Deloss, you are wrong again.

                And who among us has never done anything that could be susceptible to blackmail or extortion by a bogeyman, i.e. a Russian? That you people have become dumb enough to conclude that this presupposes guilt is downright terrifying.

          2. John Wright

            If Trump manifests “One of favorites tricks is to leave other people holding the bag”, how does he continue to find new marks?

            This does not seem like a strategy that would work for long, given that this reputation would precede his next deal.

            Trump is a rather public person and one would suspect people with money would be aware that Trump deals were consistently bad and then risk adjust when dealing with him.

            If this is one of Trumps “favorite tricks”, one could suggest he could not use this trick very often even with slightly sophisticated investors.

    3. sid_finster

      “Because so many of you disbelieve, there must be something out there in spite of the utter lack of evidence.”

      That is some truly weak argumentation.

    4. Bill Smith

      The Russians have attempted to influence US elections for decades. There is nothing new about them doing the same thing this time. What is different about this time is that they left some chaos behind in the wake of the election.

      How much influence did they actually have? Not much.

      How much of the chaos they left behind, the current Red Scare, is self-inflicted panic? All of it.

      One thing is clear, they were successful beyond their wildest dreams when this got picked up and turned into domestic politics.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Didn’t you hear they hacked the election?

        The emails of a private citizen employed by a private organization were leaked and Larry King works for Russia Today which reported on Occupy. This is an act of war on America. There were “Cyrillic” letters. Did you know in Russia they speak Russian? Do you know who else spoke Russian? Stalin. Think about it.

  25. George Phillies

    Mr Comey also made some statements recently about Clinton emails and Mr Wiener, statements that seemed to be in need of significant reinterpretation. That might also have been the cause.

  26. VietnamVet

    Corporate Government messaging has fallen apart. The description of Anthony Weiner’s laptop went from “explosive” to “careless but not criminal” to “just several” Clinton e-mails on it.

    Democrats are generally supported by Wall Street, GOP by military contractors; but, together they are one war party. The new Saturday Night Massacre shows that with Donald Trump’s triumph, the government has split apart into nationalist and globalist factions. No doubt the James Comey firing buries the Russian interference investigation. However, with the wars in Syria and Afghanistan re-surging; this episode shows that nothing the government says or the media reports is near the truth.

    1. MoiAussie

      If it’s the real deal, this makes very clear that Comey’s sin was to go public in July to exonerate Her Royal Crookedness over the email server, when it wasn’t his call to decide about prosecution, and then to effectively go public again with his October letter on reopening the investigation.

      The deputy AG seems to regard the going public part of this as Comey’s most grievous offence, and recommends consideration of his removal because of his failure to understand the gravity of his mistakes and repent.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Lambert mentioned a media report on the letter and some of the text he quoted tracks the image, so it appears to be the real deal.

  27. Paul Greenwood

    Good that Comey is gone. He was the story. It is bizarre and confusing what is going on inside the FBI with wiretaps, Abedin, Weiner, Clinton, Trump, Kushner ……….it is like some Third World Secret Police running out of control

  28. TheCatSaid

    Comey’s firing makes perfect sense if one has been paying attention to the developments on George Webb’s YouTube series, currently day 198. There are many reasons Comey deserves to be fired; his long-standing roll in ensuring delays and ineffective investigations being one of the most important. Andrew McCabe is even more involved and hopefully will also be gone soon.

    It’s possible Comey did himself in with his testimony re: HRC/Abedin/Weiner emails & servers. Consider what Webb has uncovered re: Blackberry devices synching, and Nat’l Geospatial agency whistleblowing which has the capacity to track and record this synching = lots of muddy footprints. Comey could not cover them all up.

  29. PH

    Taking control of the FBI is the big picture.

    To politicize an agency, it is not necessary to order people to do things. It is enough to show people will be fired if they do not self-censor. Instill fear of speaking out.

    What Comey did or did not do is irrelevant. He was a loose cannon.

    Power is being consolidated.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Hardly. Trump has been astonishing in how LITTLE control he has taken of government. Just look at the unprecedented number of posts for which he has not put up any nominees. See Corey Robin in the Guardian:

      If Trump were actually serious about consolidating his power, he might start by, oh, I don’t know, consolidating his power. Instead, this is what he’s been doing – or not doing – since he’s been in office:

      The Senate has confirmed 26 of Trump’s picks for his Cabinet and other top posts. But for 530 other vacant senior-level jobs requiring Senate confirmation, the president has advanced just 37 nominees.

      Trump, in other words, has failed to fill 85% of the positions in the executive branch that he needs to fill in order to run the government to his specifications. It’s a strange kind of authoritarian who fails, as the first order of business, to seize control of the state apparatus: not because there’s been pushback from the Senate but because, in most instances, he hasn’t even tried.


      1. PH

        The mid-level political appointees are only one metric for consilidating power.

        Some high-level appointees are more important. The Supreme Court appointment is more significant than all mid-level political appointees put together. The FBI director is also outsized in its signicance.

        But something else is happening, palpable but hard to measure.

        Usually, mid-level political appointees stay in a post 18 months. Usually, they do not pay too much attention to the daily routines because they spend their time sucking up and angling for a promotion.

        Usually, the “Old Bulls” at the agency, the senior career staff, run the day to day.

        Not this time. Many senior career staff are leaving — especially if they hsve the slightest Progressive impulse. I am not sure if this is by design. But either way, it provides Trump with an unusual opportunity to make lasting change to the bureaucracy.

        Also, the spectacle of change is very apparent to staff. Toe the line, or get out.

        This process is underway.

        1. Deadl E Cheese

          You realize that your post is completely incoherent, right?

          First of all, people leaving their posts not because of exercise of executive authority but because they’re ideologically opposed to the regime isn’t despotism. If Trump had actively fired them for their viewpoints that’d be one thing. It’s just Sorkinesque bourgeois sniveling. Do you think that if the Weathermen somehow managed to get key positions in the CIA and FBI and Reagan ascended, would they have quit? Or would they have used the interval between Reagan’s victory and their firings to gum things up?

          A despot that fails to exercise their legitimate authority in lieu of passively getting what they want is hardly a despot. You may not like that the passive change leads to a super-reactionary endgame, but calling it despotic is an abuse of terminology.

          Secondly, your SCOTUS and FBI examples as evidence is laughable. Reactionaries appoint reactionaries to the judiciary. Who has Trump appointed or suggested appointing that would be beyond the pale for a Reagan or W. Bush? As for the FBI, Trump had cause to fire Comey months ago; certainly after Sessions was confirmed as AG.

          1. PH

            Trump fired Comey to consolidate control over FBI. The firing sends a warning shot beyond merely replacing an appointee. It intimidated career people.

            That was my initial post. Yves responded that she was skeptical because Trump seemed to disorganized to mount any effort to consolidate power.

            While conceding that he has been slow to appoint mid-level political appointees, i pointed out other ways that i thought he was consolidating power. I did not say he was forcing people to quit.

            Perhaps you think Comey was fired for some specific bad act, and not as part of an effort to increase control of the FBI. In my view, that opinion would be naive. But perhaps i am too cynical.

            1. Deadl E Cheese

              Perhaps you think Comey was fired for some specific bad act, and not as part of an effort to increase control of the FBI.

              The piece you’re attempting — and failing to — connect is ‘increasing his control over the FBI’ with ‘this is being done for sinister despotic reasons’. A despot and a non-despot would want to consolidate their control over the FBI for any number of reasons and furthermore would use the method of firing with little notice to the same end.

              If you’re attempting to claim that the firing is being done for OMG TRUMP IS A HERRENVOLK AUTHORITARIAN LOOKING FOR THE RIGHT MOMENT TO STRIKE reasons rather than something more mundane (Trump is a thin-skinned and arbitrary bully) then you need to do a better job explaining how it fits in with his agenda of not consolidating control over other agencies a despot-to-be would be expected to consolidate. Your ‘other ways’ is weak beer. Trump is consolidating his power by waiting for opportunities to appoint reactionaries in the judicial branch and letting the corporate culture decay in ways he finds favorable? Seriously?

              1. PH

                Whether you think Trump gaining more power and having a lasting impact on the bureaucracy and the judiciary is a good thing depends upon your political values and your view of Trump.

                At the Blaze website, the comment section is cheering.

                1. Deadl E Cheese

                  … okay? Where’s the point where I would be alarmed in a way that I would not be alarmed by W. Bush or Reagan or Romney or Rubio or Pence? Seems to me that if what you’re concerned about reactionaries assuming institutional power, Trump is, despite the rather histrionic image the MSM paints, actually a safer bet than his contemporaries or credible replacements.

                  Wringing your hands about reactionaries gaining more power and having a lasting impact on the bureaucracy and judiciary is pointless. That cow left the barn once the Democratic Party got their butts kicked in 2010 for humping neoliberalism and austerity. And so far, Trump’s so-called moves towards reactionary despotism are pretty weak beer compared to what we’d expect from a bog-standard Reaganite.

            2. Yves Smith Post author

              Oh come on.

              The appointment of a FBI director is subject to Congressional approval. Tell me how Trump is going to “consolidate control”.

              1. Deadl E Cheese

                The Democratic Party and Team Hillary specifically (further) ruined the brains of a generation of liberals by painting Trump as some kind of fascist aberration rather than a predictable culmination of the Reagan Coalition trying to maintain their grip on power. They can’t interpret his reactions and wishes in the context of his power base or political ancestors and therefore miss the obvious interpretation (Trump is a rudderless, plutocratic demagogue that’s a shiny coat of paint on the rotting edifice of conservatism) in favor of the conspirational one (Trump is a fascist Russian Puppet who is aiming to destroy storied liberal institutions in a grand reactionary Ragnarok).

                Liberalism rots the brain, kids.

              2. schmoe

                “The appointment of a FBI director is subject to Congressional approval. Tell me how Trump is going to “consolidate control”.”

                I don’t know . . . maybe by appointing a lackey who will be or is indebted to him for a potential multitude of reasons. Do you really think that Senate Republicans will actually scrutinize Trump’s appointee for conflicts of interest?

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  1. Lackey and “senior law enforcement professional” do not go together. The only one I can think of is Bernard Kerik, who toadied up to Giuliani, was promoted way above his level of incompetence, and later went to prison for tax fraud and false statements. People who can and regularly do plant evidence to get convictions (I have a friend who was the DA of a large East Coast city who said this was routine) are not acculturated to being suck-ups.

                  2. Trump has now made the FBI controversial. For his last controversial appointment, Neil Gorsuch, Trump nominated someone who was both super conservative and had an unimpeachable track record. The Dems found it hard to lay a glove on him in the hearing process.

                  3. In case you missed it, the FBI reports to the DoJ. The FBI is supposed to do only fact finding, and pass information to the DoJ. The DoJ, not the FBI, is the key player here. Comey stepped way out of line when he not only made but announced findings, both times with respect to the Hillary server matter. Sessions is the boss. He’s recused himself only with respect to Russia. The key person, as we pointed out via the tweetstorm in the post that you could apparently not be bothered to read, is Rosenstein.

            3. Optimader

              The direct Trump qoute was that he fired Comey because he was “doing a bad job”
              I happen to agree, he was trying to act as attorney general by virtue of interpreting evidence–NOT the fbi directors job!

              We may all speculate how long Comey would have lasted in a HRC admin??

              I am awaiting the edited archival tape of Dems bitterly complaining that Comey should be fired with their present lamentations about Trump firing him!

              Explain how a POTUS consolidates control of the fbi, and what that even means?

  30. expat

    Trump is just being Trump. He is narcissistic and impetuous. His actions to date display his character very clearly. Trumpeteers laud this as being the sign that he is not part of the establishment and that he is willing to make the hard choices to “drain the swamp.”

    Comey’s behavior was questionable but Trump’s decision to fire him is a sign that the Trump presidency is doomed. He will now lash out at Congress and media again for questioning this decision. He will probably end up like Nixon, walled off inside the White House. Will the rats leave the ship as it starts sinking?

    Our political system is inefficient and cumbersome, but that is part of the checks and balances in a democracy. Trump and his supporters still believe they have a mandate (a yuge mandate. Biggest ever.) to impose their will. Any resistance is seen as pro-establishment and corrupt.

    Of course, if we get Trump to go (frankly, I think he would pleased to be able to just leave), we get stuck with Pence.

    1. Quentin

      Yes. We witnessed the beginning of this byzantine thriller: why did Obama ever decide to nominate Comey in the first place? That’s probably anyone’s guess: the Most Opaque Presidency Ever.

      And soon we will be privileged to witness the end too: President Pence.

      Who are we supposed to thank for all this good governance? I’m inclined to give most credit to the ‘resistance’, though I haven’t yet figured out what those folks (as our dear former president would so affectionately call them) are supposedly resisting. Or will the new FBI director re-reopen the Clinton email investigation?

    2. Deadl E Cheese

      Our political system is inefficient and cumbersome, but that is part of the checks and balances in a democracy.

      Too bad the syphilitic rapists who designed this system didn’t stop to pause and think for one moment what happens in an ideologically unified government. It’s not like they didn’t have the example from their mother country of Whigs and Tories fighting each other!

      There’s a reason why impeachment ONLY becomes an issue in Presidencies where the dominant legislative regime is faced with an ideologically opposed President (Johnson, Nixon, Clinton). And, of course, never is even hinted at in ailing regimes where the executive and legislative branches just so happen to be ideologically aligned (Pierce, Hoover, LBJ, Reagan, W. Bush). The checks and balances liberals wank to WRT Watergate look pretty shaky right now even though Trump has a much bigger slam-dunk case for impeachment than any President since Johnson.

  31. 3.14e-9

    OMG, this is hilarious. Two weeks ago, the NYT was comparing Comey to J. Edgar Hoover and ripping him to shreds for costing HRC the election while failing to respond fast enough to “Russian hacking.”

    Now they’re comparing Trump to Richard Nixon for firing him.

  32. Mary Carson

    Ms. Smith, I would appreciate a post by you about what “The Russians” mean in a rational universe. As near as I can tell, “The Russians” let every one find out what the DNC was doing, which reflected poorly on her.
    TV News consumers (My mom (85) & brother (old enough to know better) completely conflated the 2. For them the Russians are responsible for Trump because they “rigged” the election. Their belief extends to vague feelings that voting machines were involved. They remember hearing something about Kerry and Ohio, without remembering the Kerry part, and add Ohio election fraud onto the Russians balance sheet.
    I have no trouble with any assertions that Trump and everyone who has ever hung out with him are crooked and hang out with Russian Oligarchs and Tyrants (Turkish & unnamed draft picks).
    We set Russia up for their Oligarchs, now they need a way to move their money offshore before their country implodes. Trump would be happy to help.
    So what I get is 2 things
    #1 The only election rigging, fraud, stealing or whatever is letting us know what Debbie was up to.
    #2 Trump’s associates are making nice with Russia & perhaps other countries to contract deals which may be illegal. If they are in a position of influence that could be a problem, but not a National Security problem unless somebody is doing something security related instead of lining their pockets.
    Reagan made sure the hostages were kept locked up until after he won the election, at which point he was smuggling guns and facilitating the murder of nuns and 1 Bishop, and perhaps the CIA took advantage of the situation and made deals with cocaine suppliers.
    Nixon made deals concerning the Vietnam war behind everyone’s back.
    Trump fired the head of the FBI.
    Nixon fired an independent prosecutor specifically investigating his crimes.

    I really don’t see the uncharted territory here. Trump may out-do Nixon and Reagan, but he’s going to have to up his game quite a bit.

    None of this should be construed as approval of Trump. I hope somebody gets the bastard for something. I don’t like end of the world talk. It numbs us to crime, and allows facts to become fuzzy. I believe 8 out of 10 non-internet uses believe Russia touched actual voting machines to change the numbers so Trump won. I have no problem believing Republicans in Ohio brought in dummy machines and hid the real ones in the basement, but that wasn’t Russia.
    I see this as another step in the destruction of our civil liberties. More arrests, more security theater, more calls for somebody, somewhere to do something to save us.
    Osama Bin Laden is rumored to have said (somebody told me there is a video) that all he needed to do was bomb America and they would destroy themselves trying to defend themselves. I think that is what’s happening.
    Feel free to take this with a grain of salt. I’m a high school graduate who likes to read.

  33. YY

    Firing of Comey, contrary to the astonishingly stupid comments by Chuck Shumer, is proof positive that the FBI has bupkis on the Russian collusion accusations. It would appear that Comey carried nothing to protect his position by way of compromising information about the new regime. While it is just as likely that the FBI is doing an equally incompetent job of the Russia probe as it did with the Clinton e-mail bizzo, it isn’t all that likely that the incompetence on the former will be pursued by the new masters whereas the sloppy job on the Clinton stuff is practically public record. So Comey only survived long enough to ascertain it was safe to fire him?

    1. Katharine

      I think you should reconsider your definition of proof. What you have is evidence (the firing) that is suggestive to you given your assumptions about how things work. It would not qualify as proof to anyone who did not share your assumptions.

    2. Mary Carson

      Never occurred to me that getting fired meant Comey had nothing. Don’t have any idea if you’re right, but it’s something to chew on.

  34. Damson

    Much is being made of this ‘Nixonian’ move by the MSM.

    Nó mention that the only former president who did the same thing was Bill Clinton.

    So why not ‘Clintonian’?

    Would not be at all surprised if Comey actually wanted out, and that this is theatre.

    The endorsement by Graham is something of a’ tell. ‘

    What remains to be seen.

    Andrew McCabe is now at the helm.


    1. cm

      Would not be at all surprised if Comey actually wanted out, and that this is theatre.

      Absurd. If Comey had a shred of integrity (which he doesn’t), he would have resigned on Day 1 of Trump’s presidency.

      Let’s not forget he was on the Board of HSBC (which laundered dirty Russian money) and endorsed water boarding. Fascinating to see who is now defending him.

  35. Clifford Johnson

    The largely undiscussed gravamen of Rosenstein’s underpinning memo is that: (1) the FBI’s role is limited to confidential investigation, the fruits of which must be silently submitted to the DOJ for both publication and prosecutorial decision-making; and (2) Comey’s unilateral exceeding these limits is manifest regarding Hillary’s e-mails. The implicit cause for the firing is transparently the threat of like conduct with respect to the unmentioned ongoing Russian investigation.

    Given that the FBI really is so limited by law, this rationale for firing, though at best inexactly restated by Trump, is not unreasonable. The real problem of course is the fact that it is the administration itself being investigated, vis-a-vis the procedural inappropriateness (if not impossibility) of tacitly having the FBI perform some sort of semi-independent investigative/prosecutorial role. The open question is whether the very obvious appropriateness (if not necessity) of appointing an independent special prosecutor will be suppressed as a matter of political reality.

    1. Byron the Light Bulb

      Imagine if Comey refused to appear before a Congressional Committee. Comey couldn’t just sit there and talk about the weather, shoot the breeze. And if the chattiness was so egregious, then why wait until this moment. Is it that Comey wouldn’t sit down before the cameras and give Trump the same mulligan Comey gave to Clinton?

  36. ChrisFromGeorgia

    Trump is first and foremost an entertainer. This latest drama is merely another act in his shtick. And one that will probably increase his popularity in terms of TV ratings.

    As usual, the Mighty Wurlitzer staying on the key of “eeevil Rooshans!” along with a reprise of Watergate (both formative memories for most boomers and early Gen-xers) effectively distracts us from finding solutions on issues that affect our day to day lives.

    Trump’s persona says more about us than it does him. We elected a guy to entertain us because our need for entertainment is greater than our need to see actual problems solved. For example, medical monopolies and pricing cartels, or the lack of prosecution of financial criminals.

    Kurt Cobain said it well – “here we are now, entertain us!”

  37. Optimader

    Good riddance.
    He broke his oath of office and exceeded his brief many times when he elected to interpret evidence rather than document it and forward up it the food chain.

    More bureacrats that break their oath of office/exceed their brief/manipulate-obscure official documents-public information/destroy evidence-purposfully break chain of custody should be fired and prosecuted. Where are the harddrives?

    My only issues are
    Why wasn’t he fired sooner
    Who is going to replace him.

    And.. what in the hell is is tbe “Russia” connection and the russian manipulation of the POTUS election bandied about as claims but never explicitly substantiated?

    Where are the harddrives?

  38. Byron the Light Bulb

    Does this mean the Kremlin no longer has plausible deniability regarding the DNC email hack? Well that blew up in everyone’s face, no? Normalizing relations, US-Russo bilateral energy agreements, and getting a my-bad-dog on Ukraine seem further than ever. Seems President Trump would have won without the DNC email hacks…And now Comey’s the banana peel.

  39. barrisj

    Huge amount of bloviating, hyperventilating, backing-and-filling…and for what? An action that should have occurred sometime in July, 2016, by then-president Obama. He let himself off the accountability hook by the Loretta Lynch-Bill Clinton “Phoenix tarmac” meeting, and her subsequent non-recusal “recusal” into any action regarding the HRC emails, opening the door for Comey’s rather extraordinary presser on 5 July, 2016. Obama clearly could have dumped Comey shortly thereafter, but election politics and resultant “bad optics” put the WH in a lose-lose position. However, campaign considerations notwithstanding, a more courageous president would have sacked Comey in the manner of Truman sacking Macarthur…not for insubordination but for grossly extending his remit. Let us remember that the FBI Director serves “at the pleasure” of a current President, and can be sacked anytime for any reason – you know, “at will”.

      1. optimader

        I am fraught that it isn’t used more often


        In Middle English, fraught (an etymological cousin of freight) was a verb meaning “to load (a ship),” and the identical form could serve as a past participle meaning “laden (with).” While the verb dropped out of the language almost entirely, the past participle stuck around, typically followed by “with” and an object — often a burden, whether real or figurative

  40. Blue Pilgrim

    When I called Putin before the election to ask who to vote for he said vote for whoever I want, that Russia was able to deal with any politician, and that he would sooner step into a gang of chimps flinging feces at each other that get involved in US domestic politics — and it turns out he was right. It’s the US that tries to run other countries, not Russia, and most everyone really does know that.

    I was wondering what was taking Trump so long to get of Comey, and though maybe he was still trying to settle down some other issues as he is trying to figure how all the knobs in the control room work.

    This looks to me like some script writer decided the soap opera show needed some new twists since ratings were beginning to flag — or maybe looks like a bunch of raccoons arguing about who grabbed which sandwich from the cooler and if lunch was being be divvied up fairly. I figure give a few weeks and the writers will have to come up with some other new scandalous plot device to keep the audience watching, as this too goes down the memory hole.
    Maybe something like the Flynn thing — Flynn? Flynn? I forget — who was he and what was that about? I’ve lost my program and can’t tell the players apart any more, or remember the plot so far. Does Assad still have to go or may he stay now? Who is being blamed for the chemical attack in Idlib? Is Kim Jong-un naughty or nice now? Is it Colonel Mustard in the Library who has the lead pipe? Is the economy up or down? Give me a clue here; my little gray cells have become weary.

    (Pay no attention the new French and Korean Presidents or the THADs behind the curtain, or what is happening in Venezuela)

  41. Theo

    Although I agree with the list of what we know about the Trump administration and Russia that Yves included in the comments, I think some of us are losing sight of other factors which I believe Glenn Greenwald brings out on Democracy Now today. There are three related videos starting with: https://www.democracynow.org/2017/5/10/glenn_greenwald_on_trumps_shocking_firing?utm_source=Democracy+Now%21&utm_campaign=89dc8927d5-Daily_Digest&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fa2346a853-89dc8927d5-191496549

  42. manymusings

    Is it possible we’ve reached the point where we’re incapable of seeing anything Trump does as benign, appropriate, or good faith? Everything in the Rosenstein memo is true, and damning, and quite frankly for the WH/DOJ not to reign in the sort of flagrant over-reach Comey has been proudly exhibiting for almost a year now would be a huge and dangerous mistake. Obama should have fired him — but Clinton’s email debacle ensured that anything his Administration might have done at that point would be construed as political.

    I don’t blame a new DOJ and Administration wanting to wash their hands of an FBI Director who apparently feels entitled to usurp whatever role and power he wants (and I’m not saying he isn’t well-intentioned, having been thrown into a no-win situation thanks to the Clintons). But it’s not just his bad decisions on the email investigation. Comey was fanning the flames over the Russia investigation with his odd public statements and riffs before Congress. Sure Trump was likely annoyed, as we all should be. Comey’s been offering up tidbits and musings with no apparent rule on when he can or can’t comment other than whether he wishes to indulge us with his clever theories or tortured moral dilemmas. Ditching Comey can only bolster the credibility of the investigation — and all the bluster about knee-capping or intimidation is pure hysteria.

    It seems perfectly plausible that Trump *was* itching to get rid of Comey and saw Rosenstein’s appointment as an opportune time — and that Rosenstein genuinely and earnestly believes everything he wrote, and regards Comey’s replacement as critical to restoring a functional justice system. These two things aren’t mutually exclusive, and making it sound nefarious by saying Trump “laundered the decision through Rosenstein” is just evidence of the double-standard constantly applied to Trump. It’s one thing to use a public servant’s credibility to sell something to the masses on false pretenses (e.g., Colin Powell and yellow cake) and quite another thing to base the timing of an action — an action that is well within the bounds of Presidential discretion — around having a credible figure in place to help bolster the rationale.

    And I’m sorry but it’s pretty silly to try to make an issue of whether the memo expressly “recommends” firing. It is very likely a matter of form and etiquette. Within government (and especially cabinet offices or the executive), there are formalities in how judgment or advice is passed up a chain, and much deference is paid to the officeholder in the position of making a decision — i.e., it typically would not be appropriate for a memo from lower in the hierarchy to pointblank “recommend” a course of action; conventions are observed to avoid any sense of seeking to substitute judgment or pre-empt a decision by “boxing in” a decision-maker through the paper trail. In fact, the format of the Rosenstein memo seems consistent with *unsolicited* input/advice; it sets out the precise logic for why Comey should go, but stops just short of saying it; you don’t tell the President what to do. By contrast, if Trump had *asked* for a memo detailing why Comey should go (e.g., the OLC memos justifying torture), you’d likely see far more forceful and unequivocal conclusions/declarations, because in that case staff are providing justification for a preferred decision, as opposed to setting out a case in support of a decision not yet settled. (And maybe the format of the Rosenstein memo was choreographed — who knows — just saying the lack of express recommendation isn’t proof that Trump is manipulating the situation for cover, if anything it cuts the other direction).

    Trump’s Presidency is a catastrophe. But all the more reason we have to continue to try to see clearly and sort through the hysteria. Maybe I’m just falling too hard into the skeptic’s camp …. but seriously just not seeing the cause for alarm on this one.

    1. barrisj

      And if the O-man would have sacked Comey in July, there would never have been the ludicrous “Weiner-Abedin” email BS and the nonsensical Comey “letter to Congress” in late October, 2016. Comey sacking: A huge non-event, in the greater scheme of things…a “Nixonian Saturday Night Massacre”???? Wha…? Pu-lease, people, gain some perspective, already.

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