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The Week Donald Trump's Administration Became Engulfed In Chaos

17/05/2017 8:44 PM AEST | Updated 17/05/2017 9:42 PM AEST
Credit: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Over the past week, the White House and the capital at-large have been embroiled in a seemingly never-ending series of scandals that have appeared to thrust President Donald Trump’s administration into chaos.

Here’s a rundown of the past eight days of turmoil.

Tuesday, May 9

  • On Tuesday evening, Trump unexpectedly fired FBI Director James Comey, who had been leading an investigation into whether officials with the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

    The president’s dismissal letter cited recommendations from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former top adviser to Trump’s campaign, and recently confirmed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. In a three-page memoRosenstein argued that Comey was unfit for the job because of his handling of the investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of private email server while serving as secretary of state.

    Rosenstein later reportedly threatened to resign over being painted as the mind behind Comey’s firing.

    Comey, who was just four years into the typical 10-year term for his position, became the second FBI director in history to be formally terminated. He learned of the news on TV and initially thought it was a joke, according to several reports.

    Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle balked at Trump’s decision. Democratic lawmakers renewed demands for a special prosecutor to investigate Trump’s alleged ties to the Russian government, and while many Republicans backed the president’s firing of Comey, several said they found the decision and timing to be troubling

  • Sessions told FBI employees Tuesday evening that Deputy Director Andrew McCabe would become the agency’s acting director. McCabe himself is under investigation by the Department of Justice for his role in Clinton’s email scandal.

Wednesday, May 10

  • Trump’s explanation for firing Comey began to unravel  as he and his aides struggled keep the details of his dismissal consistent.

    On Wednesday, Trump addressed the issue publicly for the first time, telling reporters, “[Comey] wasn’t doing a good job. Very simply. He was not doing a good job.”

    He made no mention of Comey’s handling of Clinton’s email scandal or the Rosenstein memo. Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump adviser, also contradicted notions that Rosenstein’s letter set off the firing ― which she had read live on air the previous evening ― when she appeared on CNN Wednesday. She said Trump’s decision had “nothing to do with the campaign from six months ago.

  • The story of when Trump decided to fire Comey also began to fall apart.

    While Vice President Mike Pence claimed repeatedly on Wednesday that Trump decided to fire Comey because of Sessions’ and Rosenstein’s recommendations, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the same day that the president had been considering firing Comey “pretty much since the day he took office.”

    That night, a White House official told reporters that Trump met with Rosenstein and Sessions on Monday and discussed why Comey should be removed.

  • Earlier on Wednesday, Republican House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (Utah) said he’d requested a review by the Department of Justice’s inspector general of Trump’s decision to fire Comey.

  • The president’s meeting with Russian officials created a separate controversy.

    Trump had a preplanned meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday. He also met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak who, having met with both Sessions and Flynn last year, is the epicenter of the investigations into the Trump campaign.

  • Journalists sounded alarms after learning that Russian state media was given access to the president’s meeting with Lavrov, even though American media was left out.

    According to CNN, White House officials claimed they were “tricked” by Russians, who released photos of the meeting before the U.S. did and then trolled Trump on Twitter with jokes about Comey.

Thursday, May 11

  • In a dramatic turn from statements his team made the previous day, Trump said in an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt Thursday that Rosenstein’s and Sessions’ recommendations had little to do with his decision to fire Comey.

    “I was going to fire Comey, my decision,” Trump said. “I was going to fire Comey … I was going to fire him regardless of recommendation. He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”’

    Trump alleged the FBI had actually been “in turmoil” for years under Comey’s leadership, calling the former director a “showboat” and a “grandstander.”

  • That same day, acting FBI director McCabe told lawmakers such characterizations were “not accurate” and that “the majority, the vast majority, of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.”

    “Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI, and still does to this day, McCabe said.

  • All 17 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee called for hearings on Comey’s firing, saying the act “threatened to erode confidence in the [Department of Justice] as a bedrock of independence and integrity.”

    “The dismissal of Director Comey demands a clear and compelling explanation. To date, the Administration has provided none,” a letter send to the panel’s chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), read.

Friday, May 12

  • Trump began Friday morning with a thinly veiled threat directed at Comey, alluding that he may be in possession of recordings of their conversations.

    “James Comey better hope there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” the president wrote.

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused, several times, to deny that those tapes existed when asked by the press, saying merely “the president has nothing further to add.”

  • Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee said they were exploring ways to obtain any recordings Trump may have.

    An aide on the committee told HuffPost that potential requests faced a series of hurdles, as it’s unclear whether the mysterious tapes actually exist.

Monday, May 15

  • By Monday morning, several GOP lawmakers had called on Trump to release any Comey tapes.

    Some said it was “inevitable” the recordings would be subpoenaed, while others said the White House should release them to clear the air.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “you can’t be cute about tapes.”

    “If there are any tapes of this conversation they need to be turned over,” he said. “I doubt if there are, but we need to clear the air.”

  • On Monday evening, The Washington Post published a bombshell report saying Trump disclosed “highly classified information” during a meeting with Russian officials.

    While the move was likely not illegal ― the president has the authority to do so ― the move was met with swift criticism from both sides of the aisle.

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the news was “disturbing” and House Speaker Paul Ryan said he hoped for “a full explanation of the facts.”

    Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the news was “a slap in the face to the intel community” and “inexcusable.”

    The White House sent out national security adviser H.R. McMaster to dispute the report. Russia later in the week also denied that Trump handed over classified information.

Tuesday, May 16

  • On Tuesday morning, Trump reversed his administration’s previous denial of the explosive Washington Post report.

    The president addressed the allegations on Twitter, saying he had the “absolute right” to share information with the Russians. He also tweeted that he was still looking to determine who leaked information to the press.

  • Later on Tuesday, CNN revealed that the White House had previously asked the network not to report certain details of intelligence reports that Trump would eventually give to the Russians.

    According to CNN’s Jake Tapper, reporter Evan Perez knew where the information, which pertained to the Islamic State’s plans to sneak bombs on to commercial flights, came from. Tapper said that officials asked Perez not to reveal the location due to concerns that it would jeopardize the safety of informants. Despite those concerns, Trump told the Russians.

    “It’s the same city,” Tapper said. “It’s the same city that CNN was cautioned not to report.”

  • On Tuesday evening, The New York Times reported that Trump had asked Comey to stop investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

    “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” the president told Comey, according to a memo the director wrote that was obtained by the Times. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

    The White House denied the events described in the note, saying the president “never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation.”

    The report stoked deeper criticism throughout Washington. McCain said the news was “not good for the country” and said it was reaching “Watergate size and scale.”

    House Oversight Committee Chair Chaffetz said he was ready to subpoena Comey’s memo, saying he needed to see it “sooner rather than later.” 

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