A Timeline of the James Comey Debacle
Reporting by Elena Sheppard.
We’re in uncharted territory now. The political seas were rough before, but now it’s gale force winds; batten down the hatches because who knows what will happen next. At the eye of this storm is recently-fired FBI Director James Comey, who finds himself today as the most talked about person in Washington — and with reason.
The long and short of it is that Tuesday — one week after he was fired by President Trump — a memo Comey wrote, after a February meeting with President Trump, came to light. The memo is damning, in that it reveals that President Trump asked Comey, who was then FBI Director, to stop investigating then National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. If this memo checks out, what President Trump did can be called an “obstruction of justice,” which is a federal crime and grounds for impeachment. FWIW obstruction of justice is what led to President Nixon’s impeachment in 1974.
But there is a lot at play here — and it should be noted that new information is constantly coming in. In fact, much of the information mapped out below wasn’t publicly known until well after it happened. But let’s map out this whole Comey saga. There is no doubt we’ll be telling our grandkids about how we lived through this moment in American history.
July 29, 2013
- James Comey is confirmed by the Senate as the seventh FBI Director. He wins in a vote of 93-1 (with Senator Rand Paul being the only person who did not vote for him). It’s a term of office that in full is meant to last 10 years (it was structured this way so an FBI director’s tenure never tracked perfectly with a president’s. It is an apolitical position by design). Prior to being FBI Director Comey was a lawyer, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, as well as U.S. Deputy Attorney General.
September 4, 2014
- Comey is appointed as FBI Director by President Barack Obama.
July 5, 2016
- The next time the nation really turns its eyes to Comey is July 5, 2016, in the midst of the whole Hillary Clinton e-mail saga. While everyone is debating how important the email issue is, Comey comes out and says that he doesn’t recommend charges against Clinton but that her actions were “extremely careless.”
October 28, 2016
- Flash-forward to just a few days before the presidential election and Comey comes out in a letter to say that the FBI is looking into Hillary’s emails once again. After Trump’s win, many will pinpoint this as the moment Clinton lost.
October 31, 2016
- Candidate Trump says “it took guts” for Comey to make the announcement about Hillary’s e-mails.
November 6, 2016
- Comey attempts to backtrack the severity of what he said about Clinton, “Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton.” The damage is already done.
January 6, 2017
- Trump and Comey meet at Trump Tower for the first time. Intelligence officials brief Trump on a report that Russia did, in fact, meddle in the presidential election.
January 27, 2017
- President Trump and Comey meet for a private dinner. In Trump’s account, Comey asks to keep his job and tells the president that he is not under investigation. In Comey’s account, Trump asks Comey to pledge his loyalty to him and Comey demures.
February 13, 2017
- Michael Flynn resigns as national security advisor when it becomes clear that he misled Vice President Pence about his personal communication with the Russians.
March 4, 2017
- President Trump tweets an accusation that President Obama had him wiretapped during the election. Comey asks the Justice Department to issue a public denial of that claim.
March 8, 2017
- As tensions rise between the White House and the FBI Comey says while speaking at a conference, “You’re stuck with me for six and a half more years.”
March 20, 2017
- In a hearing, Comey confirms that the FBI is looking into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. It is extremely rare for the FBI to confirm investigations except for when officials think divulging the information is in the public interest. “This is one of those circumstances,” Comey says.
May 2, 2017
- For the first time, Hillary Clinton says she was on her way to winning the presidency before the Comey letter hit. Trump tweets a response saying:
May 3, 2017
- Comey testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee saying it makes him “mildly nauseous” to think that his October surprise helped get Trump elected.
May 9, 2017
- Without much fanfare, President Trump fires Director Comey. Comey learned of his firing while addressing a group of FBI employees; it was so unexpected he initially thought it was a prank, Trump had his bodyguard deliver an official letter saying Comey was fired. Trump in the letter also thanked Comey for, three times, telling him he wasn’t under investigation.
May 11, 2017
- Mixed messages from the White House as the those around Trump say he fired Comey on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, while Trump goes on NBC News and says, “It was set up a while ago. And frankly, I could have waited, but what difference does it make?”
May 12, 2017
- Trump tweets the following, raising speculation that the Oval Office is constantly being taped. Press Secretary Sean Spicer refuses to confirm or deny.
May 16, 2017
- Sources close to Comey say that in a meeting which took place on February 14, the day of Michael Flynn’s resignation, President Trump asked Comey to end the FBI investigation into Flynn. Immediately after this conversation Comey wrote a memo — he is known as a copious and detailed note-taker (as are most FBI agents) a practice which holds up in court — detailing the president’s requests, which many view as tantamount to an obstruction of justice. The White House has denied this ever happening.
May 17, 2017
- The Senate Judiciary Committee invites Comey to speak at open and closed sessions. They are also seeking all memos and documentation related to this event.
May 18, 2017
- During a news conference, President Trump says “no” when asked if he had pressed Comey to end the FBI investigation into Russia. He also calls the decision for a special counsel to be appointed in the Russia investigation tantamount to a “witch hunt.”
- In the same news conference, Trump changes his position on why he decided to fire Comey. He had earlier said he did it of his own volition. But today he says, “I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.” The assertion goes against his previous statements.
There is certainly more to come.