Hmm: Comey Requested Additional Funds for Russia Probe Days Before Getting Fired -- DOJ Denies

Posted: May 10, 2017 1:35 PM

Given the swirling developments of the Comey news cycle -- on which I posted my initial thoughts earlier, and about which I'll add some more color commentary below -- the following headline certainly looks suspicious. Is this alleged development freakout-worthy? The short answer is that we don't know yet, but here's the latest:

Details from the New York Times story:

Days before he was fired, James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, asked the Justice Department for a significant increase in money and personnel for the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election, according to three congressional officials who were briefed on his request...Mr. Comey asked for the resources last week from Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who wrote the Justice Department’s memo that was used to justify the firing of Mr. Comey this week, the officials said...The timing of Mr. Comey’s request is not clear-cut evidence that his firing was related to the Russia investigation. But it is certain to fuel bipartisan criticism that President Trump appeared to be meddling in an investigation that had the potential to damage his presidency. The F.B.I. declined to comment. But Sarah Isgur Flores, the Justice Department spokeswoman, said “the idea that he asked for more funding” for the Russia investigation was “totally false.”

Before we leap to conclusions, which seems to be all the rage these days, let's ask some important follow-up questions:

(1) A Justice Department spokeswoman says that the core basis for this story is "totally false," and that the alleged request did not take place. Determining who is correct here shouldn't be too difficult. (See update).

(2) If Comey's request for more funding and resources to pursue to Russia matter was made, was that the catalyzing event that triggered his firing? If so, that would look terrible. But keep in mind that members of both parties have been expressing strong dissatisfaction with Comey's job performance as FBI Director for quite some time, especially many Democrats. Bipartisan calls for his dismissal have been flying for months. Add his latest botched testimony to this reporting about the sequencing of events from Byron York, and I don't we are in any position to draw a direct line between "Comey requests new Russia probe resources" and "Comey is fired."

(3) Again, if Comey made the request -- a point currently under dispute -- was it denied?  The status of that 'ask' seems pretty relevant to this narrative, doesn't it?

I'll leave you with a few more side notes: First, James Comey is at least nominally a Republican.  His acting successor is Andrew McCabe, whose name may sound vaguely familiar to Townhall readers.  That could be because we reported last year that McCabe, who was a central figure in overseeing the Clinton email investigation, is married to a woman who ran for the Virginia Senate as a Democrat in 2015.  Her campaign was heavily bankrolled by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime close ally of the Clintons.  I don't know where Mr. McCabe's political leanings lie, but his wife's politics do not suggest that they're a Trump-supporting household.  If the idea was to jettison Comey in favor of someone who's more friendly to Trump's interests, McCabe probably isn't a guy they'd be eager to install for an indefinite period of time.  Second, echoing my most important point from this morning, the man or woman the president nominates to succeed Comey is a crucial piece of this puzzle.  He or she must have unquestionable credentials as a fiercely independent law enforcement professional, and be untainted by partisanship.  Ed Morrissey discusses a few possibilities:

The CNN list also includes John Pistole, who worked in both the Bush and Obama administrations, and who has 26 years in the FBI. He has criticized some Trump policies, but apparently kept his 2016 preferences to himself. Of all the names that have so far floated to the top in the media, Pistole seems like the most reasonable and least political of them all. There is one more name that has not come up yet: Patrick Fitzgerald. The former US Attorney is probably best known for his probe into the Valerie Plame leak and his prosecution of “Scooter” Libby for obstruction of justice, but he has a track record which includes investigations and convictions of Democrats as well, including then-governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois. He’s currently on the Board of Trustees for the University of Illinois (an appointment from Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn), but only 56 years old. If Pistole is a candidate of continuity, Fitzgerald would be an outsider and reformer, but with a significant amount of non-partisan credibility.

Finally, these optics are so comically bad that they almost feel exculpatory:

What I mean by that is if Team Trump were truly plotting to oust Comey because he was getting too close to the truth about Russia, would even the most hapless, inept, Veep-style aides remotely dream of scheduling a White House meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister for the very next day?  In any case, my overall position remains the same: I'm not reflexively inclined to believe the worst about Trump, nor am I automatically disposed to assume the opposite.  Let's follow the facts and ask serious questions; let's not reach a preordained partisan conclusion and rush to fill in the blanks accordingly.

UPDATE -- It sure looks like the Comey request was made.  Why would DOJ deny this?  Nefarious or miscommunication?  For what it's worth, DOJ is still denying. I'm currently seeking clarity on this disconnect:

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