President Trump and his advisers have repeatedly discussed whether to fire FBI Director Christopher A. Wray after Election Day — a scenario that also could imperil the tenure of Attorney General William P. Barr as the president grows increasingly frustrated that federal law enforcement has not delivered his campaign the kind of last-minute boost that the FBI provided in 2016, according to people familiar with the matter.
The conversations among the president and senior aides stem in part from their disappointment that Wray in particular but Barr as well have not done what Trump had hoped — indicate that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden or other Biden associates are under investigation, these people say. Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal discussions.
In the campaign’s closing weeks, the president has intensified public calls for jailing his challenger, much as he did for Hillary Clinton, his opponent in 2016. Trump has called Biden a “criminal” without articulating what laws he believes the former vice president has broken.
Bob Woodward’s Rage (affiliate link) gave the fullest account I had read to date of Trump trying to use Rod Rosenstein’s memo about Comey as a justification for firing Comey. Rosenstein (who was clearly a source for the book) was called into Trump’s office, where Trump told him he had been working for days on a long (and, as it turns out, completely crazy) letter that would justify a decision he had made days earlier to fire Comey. Rosenstein mentioned that he believed Comey’s handling of the Clinton matter was against law enforcement standards and justified his firing. Trump was thrilled to hear that and told Rosenstein to write it up. Rosenstein stayed up all night to write his memo justifying the firing of Comey. He gave it to the White House in the morning and Trump immediately fired Comey. Then the White House said it was Rosenstein’s idea and told him to hold a press conference saying so. Rosenstein said he was not going to do a press conference because he would have to tell the truth at such a conference, and that would directly contradict the version of events being put out by the White House.
Rosenstein’s memo concentrated primarily on Comey’s decision to announce the Clinton declination himself — a clear usurpation of prosecutorial prerogative — as well as his decision to hold a press conference disparaging Clinton although she had not been charged. This runs counter to all law enforcement traditions in the federal government. Rosenstein did, however, also criticize Comey for his decision to make a public announcement in October 2016 that the investigation had been reopened:
Concerning his letter to the Congress on October 28, 2016, the Director cast his decision as a choice between whether he would “speak” about the FBI’s decision to investigate the newly-discovered email messages or “conceal” it. “Conceal” is a loaded term that misstates the issue. When federal agents and prosecutors quietly open a criminal investigation, we are not concealing anything; we are simply following the longstanding policy that we refrain from publicizing non-public information. In that context, silence is not concealment.
Although Rosenstein’s criticism of Comey ultimately centered on the July 2016 decision and not the October 2016 decision to announce the investigation had been reopened, he clearly disapproved of both decisions. Rosenstein’s criticism of Comey’s October 2016 can be seen as part of the justification for the firing that the memo all but recommends. And Trump cited (falsely) Rosenstein’s memo as the justification for firing Comey. (Which nobody believed, and which he ultimately revealed was not true, in an interview with Lester Holt.)
As implausible as it sounds, it’s fair to say that Comey’s announcement that the FBI had reopened a criminal investigation of Trump’s political opponent was part of the justification Trump offered for firing Comey. Sure, nobody believed it, but it was part of the public justification.
Now Trump is reportedly considering firing Christopher Wray for not giving an October announcement that the FBI is investigating his political opponent. In other words, the precise opposite behavior Comey engaged in.
Trump’s dishonesty is on full display here, and the nose can detect his desperation from over a thousand miles away.