Given how much has happened in Washington this past week, writing a column Friday that won't appear until Sunday is a little dangerous. A lot can happen in just a few short hours.
That's the nature of the news these days. It changes as different sources weigh in.
None of the news, however, may be more dramatic than what happened in a 48-hour period that commenced with the announcement from the White House that President Trump had fired the director of the FBI.
Until Tuesday, James Comey was the director of the agency conducting an extensive inquiry into whether the Trump campaign had improper ties with the Russian government. Trump abruptly fired Comey, allowing Trump surrogates and even his vice president to put forth an explanation that Trump himself discarded on NBC Nightly News two days later.
It was a staggering turn of events, so much so that understanding what the president said on Thursday and what his surrogates had said on his behalf on Tuesday and Wednesday is important not only to what has happened since but also to what may lie ahead.
It is also important in helping discern when, or if, the American people can believe this White House.
Understand first that no one knows -- nor can know -- exactly what lies ahead.
There is speculation that goes so far as to suggest these days signal the beginning of the end for the Trump administration.
Don't try to guess what may come. Just let the facts play out and keep up by following multiple reputable sources.
Start with Tuesday's run of the news, including that Trump had fired Comey via a letter delivered at FBI headquarters in Washington, although Comey was visiting an FBI field office in Los Angeles. Comey learned the news from a television broadcast while meeting with agents.
The public announcement came from the White House. Press Secretary Sean Spicer cited Trump's letter to Comey as well as a three-page memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, detailing Comey's role in publicizing an FBI inquiry into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's e-mail.
Spicer said the president acted based on "clear recommendations" from Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The two top Justice Department officials had met with Trump in the White House the day before the memo was written.
The rationale about firing Comey because of his treatment of Clinton was not believable, given the ringing endorsements candidate Trump gave the FBI director at pre-election rallies. You remember, these were the same Trump rallies that featured the "lock her up" chants.
Nevertheless, Spicer and others from the White House faithfully read from the memo, reiterating the Clinton-based rationale for the firing.
Their words led still more people, notably a number of Republican lawmakers, to buy into that rationale and the sequence of events suggested by the White House. One after another echoed the line.
On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence joined the chorus, saying the firing reflected the president's decision to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a deputy press secretary, would say later in the day that the president had been thinking about firing Comey for months but she reinforced the idea that Rosenstein had come to his job with fresh eyes and decided on his own to review Comey, then brought his concerns to the president.
Still later, a White House-supplied timeline acknowledged Trump's inclination to remove Comey and that the president had met with Rosenstein and Sessions to discuss reasons for removing Comey.
Maybe that should have been enough to suggest what would come the next day, but it wasn't.
When Trump sat down with Lester Holt for the NBC News interview, the president said he was going to fire Comey "regardless of recommendation." It was Trump's decision and it was triggered in part by Comey's recent focus on the investigation regarding Russia's involvement in the U.S. elections.
Again, these are the president's recorded words in that NBC interview:
"Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey knowing, there was no good time to do it. And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won ..."
The ongoing FBI investigation and the work of House and Senate committees probing Russian influence on an American election certainly suggest there is more to it.
This week, expect the fallout from Comey's firing to be an intensification of investigations.
There can be nothing less by the FBI, the Congress or by those who report the resulting news.
Commentary on 05/14/2017
Print Headline: Washington's wild week