White House and FBI sources say privately that embattled President Donald Trump fired Director James Comey because the agency’s investigation into questionable interactions with Russians are zeroing in on criminal and unethical activity by the President and his aides.
“The probe has reached into the Oval Office and Trump is trying anything he can to stop it,” says one FBI agent with knowledge of the investigation.
Agents and White House insiders say Trump and the White House are “blatantly lying” with claims the dismissal of Comey had nothing to do with his investigation of the Russian connection to the campaign and White House.
The sources also say Trump’s statement in his letter to Comey that “I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation,” is inaccurate.
“This matter has evolved into an investigation where many people are under investigation, including President Trump,” admits one FBI agent.
Even though White House spokesman Sean Spicer and others claim the firing came from Comey’s actions in the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails, Trump’s letter did not mention that.
“He is acting more and more like Richard Nixon in his final days,” says a White House official.
While few are willing to go on the record with what they know and/or suspect, the talk is buzzing in the Capitol, the White House and throughout Washington.
Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association, is willing to speak publicly.
“We didn’t see it coming,” O’Connor said of Comey’s firing. “We don’t think Director Comey did anything that would lead to this. It is a gut punch.”
One FBI official says Trump “essentially declare war on a lot of people at the FBI. I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.”
Agents talk of “raw anger” and a determination to continue the investigation into Trump’s activities and actions. The intelligence unit, they say, operates without response or control from political influences, he adds.
Trump’s anger towards Comey surfaced repeatedly in recent weeks. At his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., Trump openly complained that he felt Comey was attempting to become “a martyr” with the Russian probe and expressed open contempt for the FBI Director not focusing, instead, on the President’s discounted claims that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped him at his home and offices in the Trump Tower.
“Donald Trump has not been back in the Tower since he became President,” says the FBI agent. “He is absolutely paranoid in his belief that it is tapped.”
Trump, the sources say, will demand that whomever he selects as the new FBI boss stop the Russian investigation and focus on laws he believes Obama and Clinton broke while serving as President and Secretary of State.
“He fully expects to use his executive powers to stop a criminal investigation and instigate inquiries that can divert from his own actions,” says a troubled White House aide.
When Comey asked for additional resources for his Russian investigation, sources say, Trump decided that was a final straw and fired the FBI director.
But Trump’s abrupt announcement of Comey’s firing caught the inexperienced White House communications team off guard and, with little time to prepare, the news that followed focused on criticism of the President and little defense of his actions.
This is probably the most egregious example of press and communications incompetence since we’ve been here,” one West Wing official told The Washington Post. “It was an absolute disaster. And the president watched it unfold firsthand. He could see it.”
Nervous Republicans in the House and Senate also felt left out of the process and feel Trump’s actions will fuel even more attention on the President’s questionable and potentially illegal actions.
“Instead of focusing on how to handle the situation, we are now hearing more and more discussion on what to do with President Trump with an increasing focus on how to stop him before he inflicts more damage on the party and the agenda,” says one aide to a GOP leader. “Some are saying it is long past time to circle the wagons.”
(Updated at 8:45 .m. on May 11 to add additional information)
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