The mainstream media (and by extension, commentators and commentary websites) got burned over the last several days on anonymously sourced stories that turned out not to be true.
One of them was the allegation that days before his firing, Comey requested additional resources for the Russian counterintelligence investigation. Acting FBI Director, Andrew McCabe denied it during his Senate committee testimony. The other story involved the supposed threat by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to resign when told his recommendation letter was to be the cover for Donald Trump to fire Comey. People within the Justice Department and Rosenstein deny this.
If anything, it is a clear warning to journalists and media organizations to be more cautious about running an anonymously sourced story, especially if the reporter has one source.
None of this changes the fact that President Trump lied about his rationale for firing James Comey. Trump supporters will say, “So what? He didn’t need an excuse to fire Comey.” Then why give a reason at all, especially one that is not true?
In Trump’s interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump said he planned on firing Comey “regardless” of the Justice Department’s recommendation. In doing so, Trump undermined the Vice President, his spokespeople, and senior aides who all referred to the Deputy Attorney General’s recommendation letter — for two days. Trump referred to the recommendation in the termination letter he wrote to James Comey.
Something else Trump said during his interview with Lester Holt is remarkable:
And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe directly contradicted that in his testimony calling the Russia investigation “highly significant.”
Let’s think back to the end of 2015 when Barack Obama in October of 2015 said, before the completion of the inquiry, that Hillary’s private email server didn’t compromise national security. Conservatives were rightly angered at what appeared to be the President interfering, no matter how minor, with an ongoing investigation.
What Trump did is no different. It is not a “made up story, ” and the semantics of whether or not it is Trump himself under investigation by the FBI or his campaign as part of the counterintelligence probe is absurd, especially when conservatives are the ones engaging in those semantics.
Yes, the people screaming for impeachment and saying this is a “constitutional crisis” are being overly dramatic. Trump did not stop the investigation and by statute, he had the authority to fire Comey.
The problem is, Trump lied about why he fired Comey, and that is unacceptable.