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James Comey literally thought his firing was a joke

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Dylan Scott covers health care for Vox. He has reported on health policy for more than 10 years, writing for Governing magazine, Talking Points Memo and STAT before joining Vox in 2017.

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:

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:

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?

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