The White House says President Trump fired the FBI's James Comey over his handling of Hillary Clinton's email trouble. Critics, however, think it's fishy that Trump just happened to get rid of the man leading the investigation into Russian meddling in the election. Now, a new report from the New York Times won't help Trump's case with those critics: It says Comey asked the Justice Department for "a significant increase in resources" to expand the Russia investigation just before he got fired. Here's a look:
- The meeting: Comey went to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last week with the request. (Remember that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russia inquiry.) Days later, Rosenstein wrote the Justice Department memo being used to justify Comey's firing, though that memo focuses on the Clinton emails and doesn't mention Russia, notes the AP.
- Denial: A Justice Department spokesperson tells HuffPost that Comey did not ask Rosenstein for more money, but she did not elaborate on whether he asked for other resources, such as manpower.
- The optics: "The timing of Mr. Comey’s request is not clear-cut evidence that his firing was related to the Russia investigation," says the Times in its assessment. "But it is certain to fuel bipartisan criticism that President Trump appeared to be meddling in an investigation that had the potential to damage his presidency."
- The briefing: Comey briefed members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on his request Monday, the day before he was fired, reports the Washington Post, which adds that the status of the FBI investigation is now unclear.
- The optics, take II: That Comey got the boot over Russia is all speculation, observes Joe Cunningham at the conservative RedState. "However, with a media that is not friendly to the Trump Administration, and with the number of leaks this administration has produced, the best case scenario is that Trump’s timing was bad."
- Another sign: CNN reports on what it sees as another "significant escalation" of the Russia investigation before Comey's firing: Federal prosecutors issued subpoenas to associates of ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who is accused among other things of failing to report business dealings in Russia.
- 'Enraged': Politico reports that Trump pondered the firing for more than a week as he grew "enraged" at the ever-expanding Russia investigation. "He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said."
- New Trump comments: In his first (non-Twitter) comments on the firing, Trump said Wednesday that he acted because Comey "was not doing a good job," per the Wall Street Journal.
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