Over the last year, President Trump has been all over the map when it comes to his feelings about FBI Director James B. Comey. First, Comey was allegedly corrupt. Then, he was gutsy. Then, he was respectable. And then, suddenly, he was no longer fit to hold office.
July 5, 2016
Trump says the system is ‘rigged’ after Comey announces no charges against Clinton
Last year, Comey found himself in an unusual position as his special agents investigated Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server while she was secretary of State.
Normally, the Justice Department decides whether to bring criminal charges in a case. But U.S. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch had to distance herself from the email investigation after a brief and ill-advised meeting at an airport with Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, raised questions about her neutrality. Lynch said she would accept whatever recommendations were made by career prosecutors and Comey.
That’s what led Comey to take the unusual step of publicly announcing in July why he was recommending that prosecutors file no charges against Clinton.
The FBI investigation focused on whether Clinton had improperly shared classified information over the server, and although he concluded that the Democratic candidate shouldn’t face any charges, he was hardly complimentary. “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” Comey said.
Trump, who would later embrace anti-Clinton cries from his supporters to “lock her up,” was disappointed in Comey’s announcement, tweeting the hashtag #RiggedSystem.
Oct. 17, 2016
Trump alleges ‘collusion’ and ‘corruption at the highest level’ of the government
As the presidential campaign entered its closing stretch, Trump’s allegations of corruption grew deeper after the FBI released documents that showed officials discussing a possible “quid pro quo” between the FBI and the State Department over Clinton’s private email server. As the Los Angeles Times reported then:
According to the documents, which were based on interviews with FBI agents, a high-ranking State Department official allegedly sought to pressure the bureau into changing the classification of an email related to the Benghazi attack in exchange for agreeing to help place more FBI agents in places like Iraq, where they are restricted.
Officials said that no deal was made, and that the classification of the email was not changed — nor were more FBI agents sent to Iraq. But Trump depicted it as a sign of “corruption at the highest level.”
“This is very big, and frankly it’s unbelievable,” Trump said in a video statement. “What was just found out is the Department of Justice, the State Department, and the FBI colluded — got together — to make Hillary Clinton look less guilty and look a letter than she looks. This is one of the big breaking stories of our time, in my opinion.”
Trump later suggested in an Oct. 27 interview with ABC News that Comey didn’t just make a “mistake,” but that “something happened.”
Oct. 28, 2016
After Comey re-opens Clinton investigation, Trump says, ‘I have great respect for the FBI’ and Comey ‘brought back his reputation’
After Comey informed Congress — in a now-infamous letter — that the FBI was reopening the investigation into Clinton’s emails, Trump exulted in front of a roaring campaign crowd.
“The FBI,” Trump said — pausing as the crowd cheered — “after discovering new emails is re-opening their investigation into Hillary Clinton.” Trump added: “I have great respect for the FBI for righting this wrong.”
Trump said later: “It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they’re trying to protect her from criminal prosecution.” Trump said of Comey: “I was not his fan, but I’ll tell you what: What he did, he brought back his reputation. He brought it back.”
Jan. 24, 2017
Now president, Trump bro-hugs Comey, decides to keep him on: ‘He's become more famous than me’
In an interview with “60 Minutes” shortly after winning the election in November, Trump declined to say whether he would retain Comey. “I haven’t made up my mind,” Trump said, adding: “I respect him a lot. I respect the FBI a lot.”
After Trump took the oath of office in January, the White House announced that he planned to keep Comey. The FBI chief had been part of a delegation of intelligence and security officials who went to Trump Tower in December to brief the president-elect on evidence that Russia had interfered in the election in an effort to help Trump win.
In a public reception at the White House Jan. 22, two days after his inauguration, Trump greeted Comey warmly — telling an audience, “He’s become more famous than me.” He shook Comey’s hand and gave him a gentle bro-hug, patting him on the back.
May 2, 2017
Trump turns on Comey again: ‘Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton’
As the months wore on, Comey cast a shadow over the Trump administration. In March, he testified before Congress that the FBI was still investigating Russia’s interference the presidential election — adding: “That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
On May 2, Hillary Clinton said during an appearance in New York that Comey’s October bombshell — his disclosure, shortly before the election, that he was reopening the FBI’s email inquiry — cost her the presidency.
Trump took to Twitter.
Asked about the president’s tweets the next day, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said: “The president has confidence in the director. But I think, clearly, his point was after some of the comments that were made yesterday regarding the reason for the outcome of the election, I think he just wanted to make it clear what exactly happened.”
May 9, 2017
Trump fires Comey
In a surprise move, Trump fired Comey a week later. Trump cited letters from Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein recommending that Comey be removed.
The meat of the case against Comey came from Rosenstein, who wrote that Comey had acted inappropriately by going public with his reasons for not pursuing criminal charges against Clinton. Rosenstein said Comey had laid out “his version of the facts for the news media as if it were a closing argument, but without a trial."
In Trump’s letter of dismissal to Comey, he added a personal twist: “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.”
Trump added: “I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.”