We've now had a little over 24 hours to reflect on Donald Trump's sudden and unexpected firing of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday night. You may be looking at the scary headlines or seeing the confusing chyrons on cable news, and wondering exactly what the hell is happening. Well, we're answering a few of the big questions, so you can a. know what's going on and/or b. sound smart when you talk to your friends. Here are five things you need to know about James Comey's firing.
On Tuesday night, Trump issued an unexpected short statement saying that Comey was being fired.
That was followed up by an equally vague statement from Attorney General Jeff "Weed is only slightly less awful than heroin" Sessions. Following all of that, Trump's actual termination letter became public. In it, Trump went out of his way to claim that Comey told him that he was not under investigation for anything, in perhaps the ultimate political example of "the lady doth protest to much, methinks."
Why Did Trump Say He Did It?
Trump said that he fired Comey because of the reasons laid out by his Justice Department in a shockingly short memo. You can read it in its entirety here.
The memo, written by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, says that Comey was fired because of...his investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails! It says, essentially, that Comey was too hard on Hillary, and took to much power during the investigation. Unsurprisingly, Trump himself disagreed with this assessment
during the campaign last month a week ago.
What's the Real Reason?
Close observers dismissed Rosenstein's memo almost immediately. It was quickly revealed that Trump had been looking for reasons to fire Comey for quite a while, and had essentially directed his Attorney General to find some. The Clinton email charges were simply the quickest, most convenient thing. In fact, Rosenstein was so upset that the White House claimed his memo was the reason for the firing that he threatened to quit.
According to a damning article in Politico, Trump was upset about the investigation into his campaign's ties to Russia that Comey was leading. He was also pissed off that Comey had publicly spoken out against the president's ridiculous story about Obama bugging Trump Tower.
What Was That About Russia?
Comey was leading an investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. In an incredible coincidence, he asked the Justice Department for more people to help him out just days before he was fired. Incidentally, this is the same investigation that Jeff Sessions recused himself from because of his own murky ties to Russian political figures.
So Who's Taking Over?
Who gets the job? Well, that part gets a little complicated. One potential answer is, "Maybe not anyone for a while." Some Democrats say they are willing to hold up confirmation hearings on a successor until a special prosecutor—i.e. someone not appointed by or otherwise beholden to Trump—is appointed to head the Russia investigation. Incidentally, the idea of appointing a special prosecutor or something similar is rapidly gaining popularity among lawmakers.
Right now, Andrew McCabe is in charge. However, he has already been getting pushback from powerful Republicans, and seems unlikely to stick around. There are rumors—which he has denied—that Rudy Giuliani is being considered. Former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly's name has also been floated. More realistically, however, the job will likely go a career FBI person or member of the intelligence community. You can see some likely candidates here. One thing we do know: if recent history is a guide, it'll be a white dude.