Trump Blatantly Lied About FBI and It Matters

When Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, he and members of his administration and his surrogates repeatedly stated that the FBI was an organization relieved and grateful for Comey's removal.

At the time, this certainly seemed like a dubious claim, at best. But now we know with certainty that it just a straight-up lie.

Nora Ellingsen, Quinta Jurecic, Sabrina McCubbin, Shannon Togawa Mercer, and Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare: 'I Hope This Is an Instance of Fake News': FBI Messages Show the Bureau's Real Reaction to Trump Firing James Comey.
Over the next few days [following Comey's firing], a wealth of evidence emerged to suggest that Trump and [Sarah Huckabee] Sanders were playing fast and loose with the truth. But we now have the documents to prove that decisively. Their disclosure was not a leak but an authorized action by the FBI, which released to us under the Freedom of Information Act more than 100 pages of leadership communications to staff dealing with the firing. This material tells a dramatic story about the FBI's reaction to the Comey firing—but it is neither a story of gratitude to the president nor a story of an organization in turmoil relieved by a much-needed leadership transition.

...Over the weekend, we received 103 pages of records responsive to Wittes's first two requests—messages from FBI leadership around the country and across the bureau regarding the firing of Director Comey. The bureau identified 116 pages of responsive material and withheld only 13 pages, so this material constitutes the overwhelming bulk of communications to staff on the subject of the firing.

What does it show? Simply put, it shows that Ellingsen nailed it when she described a reaction of "shock" and "profound sadness" at the removal of a beloved figure to whom the workforce was deeply attached. It also shows that no aspect of the White House's statements about the bureau were accurate—and, indeed, that the White House engendered at least some resentment among the rank and file for whom it purported to speak. As Amy Hess, the special agent in charge in Louisville, put it: "On a personal note, I vehemently disagree with any negative assertions about the credibility of this institution or the people herein."

Before detailing the story these documents tell, let's pause a moment over the story they do not tell. They contain not a word that supports the notion that the FBI was in turmoil. They contain not a word that reflects gratitude to the president for removing a nut job. There is literally not a single sentence in any of these communications that reflects criticism of Comey's leadership of the FBI. Not one special agent in charge describes Comey's removal as some kind of opportunity for new leadership. And if any FBI official really got on the phone with Sanders to express gratitude or thanks "for the president's decision," nobody reported that to his or her staff.

The first reaction the documents reflect is simple shock, confusion and disbelief. The words "unprecedented," "tumultuous," "shock," and "surprise" appear in a great many of the emails. ...Most people at the bureau seem to have learned about the firing from television news. News of Comey's firing broke in the 5 p.m. hour of May 9, and there had been no communication to the bureau before then.
There is much more at the link, including a document with every FOIA email, so anyone can read them for themselves and decide whether Lawfare's characterization of the communications is fair. (In my reading, it is.)

One thing I want to note is that we already knew that most of the FBI learned of Comey's firing from the news, and that there had been no communication with anyone at the bureau to prepare for the imminent leadership vacuum, but, reading it again in this context, it seems pretty clear that the White House either didn't care they might cause, or actively hoped to cause, the very chaos within the Bureau they claimed was existent under Comey's leadership and cited to justify his removal.

Which is cynical in the extreme. And also par for the course with this deplorable administration.

What's extremely concerning to me is that reaction to this disclosure will be not horror, but resignation. Of course Trump was lying. That's what Trump does.

But that is not what presidents (are supposed to) do. That is not what an American president can do, if we want a healthy democracy and trustworthy public institutions.

One of the most troubling things about where we are at this moment is that Trump has exhausted the resistance. So few people are left with the energy to mount the requisite outrage in response to the disclosure that the president and his people ruthlessly and carelessly lied about the FBI to justify an attempted obstruction of justice. That is appalling.

And yet too many people now lack the capacity to be appalled by it, through a combination of outrage fatigue, inurement to Trump's chronic dishonesty, the human mind's need to adapt to new circumstances and accept the abnormal as normal for survival, and/or being overwhelmed by the dozens of other things equally as appalling and equally as deserving of our attentions.

Trump's lies should matter. Most importantly, they should matter to the people tasked with holding him accountable. That they don't makes it that much easier for them not to matter to the rest of us.

They're counting on that.

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