The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Timing

There are obviously legitimate questions about the timing of the Comey ouster. Byron York has a good dispatch on why the timing might not be as nefarious as so many people assume, which centers around the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein getting in place: 

The structure was this: The FBI director reported to the deputy attorney general, who reported to the attorney general, who reported to the president. When Trump fired Comey Tuesday afternoon, that chain of command had been in place for all of 14 days.

First, it took a long time to get an attorney general in office. Facing Democratic opposition, Jeff Sessions, one of the president’s first nominees, was not confirmed by the Senate until Feb. 8. Then, it took a long time to get a deputy attorney general in place. Rod Rosenstein, the deputy — and the man who wrote the rationale for axing Comey — faced similar Democratic delays and was not sworn in until April 26.

Only after Rosenstein was in place did the Trump team move ahead. That was true not only for chain-of-command reasons but also — probably more importantly — because Rosenstein had the bipartisan street cred to be able to be the point man in firing Comey. Even though his confirmation was delayed, Rosenstein was eventually confirmed by the Senate by a 94 to 6 vote, meaning that the vast majority of Democratic senators voted for him along with all of the Republicans.

How important was the arrival of Rosenstein to the bid to fire Comey? This, from a source in a Senate office Wednesday morning: “Many who are suggesting that there’s something nefarious about the timing of the Comey firing are likely missing the fact that DAG Rosenstein was sworn in two weeks ago (April 26), and that the FBI Director reports to the DAG on the DOJ org chart. It seems completely normal that the DAG would review their top reports within the first couple weeks of starting.”

Also, Trump wasn’t always categorical about Comey (although Trump provides little escape hatches to many things he says):

And besides, the president himself sent signals recently that Comey might not be entirely safe. In an April 12 interview, Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo asked Trump, “Was it a mistake not to ask Jim Comey to step down from the FBI at the outset of your presidency? Is it too late now to ask him to step down?”

“No, it’s not too late,” Trump answered. “But I have confidence at him, we’ll see what happens. It’s going to be interesting.”

When Bartiromo asked again why Comey was still on the job, the president responded, “Because I want to give everybody a good, fair chance.”

Does that sound like a ringing endorsement? It wasn’t.