Updated at 8:48 a.m. | President Donald Trump and his top aides on Wednesday morning tried to paint Democrats as hypocritical for their outrage over his firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Trump abruptly fired Comey late Tuesday afternoon after Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his top deputy recommended the termination in a memo that said Comey had overstepped his authority last summer when he publicly announced his own conclusion to close an investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
In doing so, Trump removed the law enforcement official leading a probe of possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
The firing, which aides say Trump decided to green light the same day he was given the recommendation of Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, set off a firestorm in Washington. Senior Democrats blasted the timing of the move, which comes amid an FBI counterintelligence investigation of possible nefarious ties between Russian agents and Trump campaign associates. Democrats want Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor or independent counsel to take over the investigation that Comey had been leading.
But the White House, which appeared caught off guard by the outrage on Tuesday night, went on the offensive the next morning. They were eager to point out that when Comey announced he was re-opening the Clinton case just days before Election Day, Democrats blasted him.
Trump fired off a series of Comey-themed Tweets in the 7 a.m. hour, including one saying Democrats have “said some of the worst things about James Comey” and accusing them of now playing “so sad!” about his termination.
The Democrats have said some of the worst things about James Comey, including the fact that he should be fired, but now they play so sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2017
Trump also tweeted that Comey will be replaced by "someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI."
James Comey will be replaced by someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2017
Trump and his aides painted an image of a former FBI chief who had become unable to do his job.
“Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!” Trump wrote in another tweet.
Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2017
The White House on Tuesday night said a search for Comey’s successor is underway. On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted that Comey will be replaced by “someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI.”
The president also, as he has done before, lashed out at Senate Judiciary Committee member Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who has been all over cable news since the Comey news broke criticizing Trump and calling for an independent probe.
The president called for an investigation into Blumenthal’s statements “for years” that he served in the Vietnam war as a Marine, arguing that’s what should occur while the Russia investigation should be scrapped.
Watching Senator Richard Blumenthal speak of Comey is a joke. "Richie" devised one of the greatest military frauds in U.S. history. For....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2017
years, as a pol in Connecticut, Blumenthal would talk of his great bravery and conquests in Vietnam - except he was never there. When....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2017
Trump tweeted that earlier in his political career, Blumenthal would trumpet “his great bravery and conquests in Vietnam — except he was never there.”
At the time, the Marine Corps Reserve veteran said he meant to say he served “during Vietnam” and merely misspoke. Trump, who as a young man received one medical and four educational deferments from the military draft during the conflict, rejected that.
Once Blumenthal’s statements were pointed out in public, Trump tweeted that “he cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness...and now he is judge & jury. He should be the one who is investigated for his acts.”
caught, he cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness...and now he is judge & jury. He should be the one who is investigated for his acts.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2017
Principal deputy White House press secretary Sarah Sanders went on several morning TV news shows with a similar message about Democrats.
Democrats would have been “dancing in the streets” had Hillary Clinton won the presidency and fired Comey, Sanders said on MSNBC.
“She would have immediately fired James Comey, and the very people that are screaming now on TV … are the very people that would have been cheering and celebrating Comey being dismissed,” Sanders added.
She noted that “Democrats and Republicans alike have been calling for [Comey] to step down,” adding that “we’re at a place where the … reputation of this department … has taken a big hit.”
Sanders said the FBI can only recover under a new FBI director.
Sanders also dismissed the notion that Trump fired Comey over the FBI’s Russia investigation, saying that was not in the memos from Sessions and Rosenstein. Nor is there any evidence to show there were questionable ties between Russia and the campaign, she contended.
Rather, the White House is describing Rosenstein as conducting a “thorough” review of the FBI — he has been on the job for two weeks — that led to the president on Tuesday making, as Sanders described it, a “quick and decisive” decision.
Sanders answered “both” when asked on MSNBC if Trump had lost confidence in Comey or if he made his decision mostly based the recommendation of the AG and deputy AG.
“It’s taken place over a period of time, especially the last couple of weeks,” she said of Trump’s deteriorating view of Comey’s ability to do his job.
She also contended that Comey had lost the bureau and Capitol Hill.
“In a town like Washington, where you can’t get Democrats and Republicans to agree on much of anything, you could see across the board, generally, that Comey had become … a distraction,” the White House’s No. 2 spokesperson said. “It was time for him to go.”