04/12/17 04:20 PM—Updated 04/12/17 04:23 PM
By Steve Benen
In an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, Donald Trump was asked about “Obama-era staffers” that continue to serve in the executive branch. As the Washington Post reported, one official in particular stood out as important.
President Trump said in an interview aired Wednesday morning that he has “confidence” in FBI Director James B. Comey, but it was “not too late” to fire him.
Trump has long sent mixed signals on Comey and the bureau director’s future in government, though his comments to Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo are especially important because Comey has now confirmed that the bureau is investigating possible coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign to influence the presidential election.
This was all rather odd. For example, Bartiromo characterized Comey as an Obama-era “staffer,” but that’s not quite right. FBI directors are appointed to serve fixed 10-year terms – in large part to help shield directors from overt political influence and pressures – and in this case, the Democratic president chose a Republican to fill the post. That didn’t mean Comey was part of Obama’s “staff.”
In the same Fox interview, Trump went on and on about his strange belief that Comey helped Hillary Clinton last year:
In fact, Comey intervened in the election in such a way that almost certainly cost Clinton the presidential race, all while hiding information from the public about the Trump campaign being under investigation for possibly cooperating with a foreign adversary. To say that Comey was “very, very good to Hillary Clinton” is hopelessly ridiculous and completely at odds with the real-world events of 2016.
So why on earth would Trump make such absurd, demonstrably false claims about Comey now? Probably because the president wants to lay the groundwork for future complaints: if the FBI finds evidence of collusion between Team Trump and Moscow, the president wants to be able to tell his partisan allies, “I told you Comey was on Clinton’s side.”
That wouldn’t be at all true, but Trump’s laying down a marker now, just in case.