A single event this week, the firing of FBI director James Comey, provides a bevy of alternative facts of the most consequential variety. No mere lying about the size of the inaugural crowd, this streak of evasion, distraction and mendacity from the White House and its allies cuts to the core American principles of an independent system of justice and respect for the rule of law. Here’s a sampling of the blatant falsehoods from the White House about Comey’s dismissal:


When asked Wednesday whether the firing was related to the FBI’s probe into possible connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian hacking aimed at influencing the election, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders flatly responded, “No.” When questioned, Vice President Mike Pence said, “That’s not what this is about.” White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on CNN, “This has nothing to do with Russia. Somebody must be getting $50 every time (Russia) is said on TV. … (This) has everything to do with whether the current FBI director has the president’s confidence and can faithfully execute his duties.”

Mountains of subsequent reporting say otherwise.

Politico reported that Trump didn’t like that Comey had confirmed that his campaign was under investigation and that the director was focused on probing the possible Russian connections, not the source of leaks to the press about the matter.

But we can also go straight to the source. In the days before the firing, President Trump tweeted repeatedly about the Russia investigation, including on Monday, when he wrote, “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?” In his brief letter to Comey informing him that he was fired, Trump inserted his own, unbidden Russia reference, claiming the director told him three times that he was not under investigation. (Some reports suggest this, too, isn’t exactly true.)


In March, after revelations that he had presented false testimony about his contacts with Russian officials while an adviser and surrogate for the Trump campaign, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would recuse himself from involvement in the investigation into Russian hacking.

He said he made the decision after consulting with Justice Department officials who advised “that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation.”

On Monday, by all accounts, including the evolving ones from the White House, Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein met with President Trump and discussed Comey’s fate. A day later, Sessions wrote in a letter to the president, “Based on my evaluation … I have concluded that a fresh start is needed in the leadership at the FBI. … I must recommend that you remove Director James B. Comey Jr.” If you read Rosenstein’s memo closely, you’ll note he does not actually call for Comey to be fired. Sessions does.

Quite simply, you cannot profess to be uninvolved in an investigation and then recommend that the head of it be fired, for whatever reason.


In White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s initial account, the firing was a culmination of an investigation into Comey’s fitness for the post that Rosenstein commenced upon taking the No. 2 spot at justice two weeks ago. Sanders said Rosenstein developed the memo “on his own” and not “at the direction necessarily” of the president. Vice President Pence said “When ( Rosenstein) brought the recommendation to the president that the director of the FBI should be removed, President Trump provided the kind of strong and decisive leadership the American people have become to be accustomed from him.”

That is all untrue.

Rosenstein may well have been offended by Comey’s public statements related to the Clinton investigation at the time, as friends and associates have recently suggested, but he was in fact directed by the president to provide written justification for the decision the president had already made to fire Comey, according to the Washington Post and the New York Times. And if there was any doubt about it, Trump himself confirmed in an interview with NBC News Thursday that Rosenstein had nothing to do with it. The president said he was determined to fire Comey – “a showboat,” the president said – regardless of any advice from the Justice Department.

President Trump is a master of distraction. Don’t fall for it. He was angry with Comey for pursuing and publicly acknowledging an investigation into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia, for failing to back up his cockamamie story about President Obama wiretapping him and for expressing any kind of discomfort at the notion that his actions might have had an influence on the election.

The president hid his decision behind the formerly good reputation for Rosenstein, and he did massive damage to the public’s confidence that the criminal justice system operates independently from politics. Those are the real facts of the week.