The news that President Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey came so suddenly and so unexpectedly that Comey himself didn’t believe it at first.
Comey was in Los Angeles for a speaking engagement when the news broke. According to the New York Times, he thought it was a prank:
Mr. Comey was addressing a group of F.B.I. employees in Los Angeles when a television in the background flashed the news that he had been fired.
In response, Mr. Comey laughed, saying he thought it was a fairly funny prank.
Then his staff started scurrying around in the background and told Mr. Comey that he should step into a nearby office… Shortly thereafter, a letter from Mr. Trump was delivered to the F.B.I.’s headquarters, just seven blocks from the White House.
The Times’s report is the latest piece of evidence that although Comey was, according to the Justice Department’s rationale, fired for something he did months ago, the decision itself happened so quickly that virtually no one had any warning.
The FBI didn’t know in advance:
NBC News: Multiple senior FBI and Justice officials say there was NO knowledge of Trump's announcement ahead of the release by White House.— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) May 9, 2017
CNN Justice Correspondent on-air now saying his phone currently blowing up with texts from FBI sources asking him if the Comey news is true— Asawin Suebsaeng (@swin24) May 9, 2017
Neither did Congress:
“President Trump called me at 5:30 p.m. and indicated he would be removing Director Comey, saying the FBI needed a change,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. The White House announced Comey’s firing less than 20 minutes later.
Top Republicans were also caught off guard:
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, asked how he learned the #Comey news: "On my iPhone while I was having a meeting...it was a surprise."— Emma Loop (@LoopEmma) May 9, 2017
All of this makes the timing seem unusual, to say the least. The Justice Department, according to a memo dated Tuesday and attached to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s letter, fired Comey because of the way he handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails during the campaign. But there haven’t been any major developments in that investigation for months. So why the big rush on Tuesday?