President Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey.
The letter is short and to the point. Three paragraphs total, including the operative clause: “I concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”
This will almost certainly add chaos to an already, uh, dynamic time in the politics of the American economy.
Politico’s Sudeep Reddy joined us to talk about whether the White House’s reason passes the smell test, the impact this firing could have on Republicans’ congressional priorities and what Paul Ryan is thinking right now.
Kai Ryssdal: So the proximate cause as laid out by the Department of Justice in the letter that the president cited in his letter to Comey was the FBI director’s handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation. What’s your take on what this is really about?
Sudeep Reddy: That is is one way that they could package it, and certainly what was in the latest day in the news cycle. But in a prior day in the news cycle, there was a lot on what was going on with the Russian investigation and the ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian people. So that is also one element that will be layered on top of it, that will be dissected for days, and weeks, and months and maybe longer.
Ryssdal: This is, as I said setting up our chat, a busy time in Washington. There’s obviously health care, there’s taxes the president wants to get done, there’s infrastructure, there’s so very much. How much of a stall will this put on what happens in political Washington? What’s your guess?
Reddy: It is going to stall just about everything. Washington is not a place that can deal with more than one shiny object at a time. It’s the one thing you focus on whether it’s a war, or a debt ceiling, or a budget. It focuses on the one thing and it sucks up all of the oxygen. It is going to be even worse to that effect because it is obviously a heated political period and a lot of Democrats feel like they can milk the chaos of the last 100-plus days, and the health care bill passing, to win back the House and the Senate. So there is going to be very little else being done on health care or taxes or infrastructure.
Ryssdal: So I’m watching CNN before I come into the studio to talk to you, and Wolf Blitzer tosses to an interview with Sen. Joe Manchin from West Virginia. He says “Senator, you must have been surprised by this news,” and Manchin says — and this is a quote — “I found out about it as I was coming over here to talk to you in the interview, Wolf.” Clearly there has been no groundwork laid. This is going to spin out now amongst … Congress for a good long while.
Reddy: It will. This is one of those things that was both surprising and shocking, and also not surprising and shocking. It’s the question that people have been raising for months was: “Is Trump really going to allow the FBI to continue investigating him, or at least his team, in this way?” Well obviously this is going to trigger a lot of attention on the need for independent investigations, and a special prosecutor and every other element of the Russia issue. So it’s not really clear what it accomplished for the Trump team in the near-term on that front. It just drives all of the attention back to the issues that you thought the Trump White House would probably want to move beyond at this point.
Ryssdal: All right super quick because we’re running out of time: You know how we play the what is Janet Yellen thinking in five words or less game? What is Paul Ryan thinking right now in five words or less?
Reddy: “Oh, God.”
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