Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With
This morning, the president tweeted:
Wow, looks like James Comey exonerated Hillary Clinton long before the investigation was over...and so much more. A rigged system!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2017
In a tweet storm, Benjamin Wittes made several points rebuffing the president’s suggestion that Comey acted inappropriately with respect to the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But one of Ben’s tweets stands out.
The people who think Comey was out to save Hillary really should have a cage match with those who think he was out to defeat her. /2/— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) September 1, 2017
Here’s a point Ben missed: The president has at various times been both of these people.
On the day that then-FBI director recommended that no charges be brought against Clinton, the president criticized Comey for letting her off the hook, tweeting:
FBI director said Crooked Hillary compromised our national security. No charges. Wow! #RiggedSystem— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 5, 2016
In October, after Comey announced in a letter to Congress that the FBI was reviewing additional emails, Trump affirmed that he thought Clinton should be investigated and praised the director for standing up to the system at a rally. He said: “It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they’re trying to protect her from criminal prosecution.”
Then, in his letter dismissing Comey on May 9, the president “accepted [the] recommendation” of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo and suddenly joined the ranks of those who believed that Comey had mistreated Hillary Clinton in his handling of her investigation.
But if his comments to Lester Holt and Russian diplomats that the Russia investigation played a role in his decision didn’t manage to cast doubt on the sincerity of that rationale, today’s tweet certainly should: The President is now once again–as before he discovered Comey’s unfairness to Clinton–arguing that he treated her too leniently.