President Trump is a selfish liar, and a vain one. Those traits, together, can cause chaos, as they did on Thursday, when, in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump undermined his own alibi for firing the F.B.I. director, James Comey
- Vice-President Mike Pence and other dependents repeated this story all day Wednesday, with Pence portraying the President as solemnly resolved to follow the best advice he had, and
- Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, throwing in some smears of Comey, who she said had committed “atrocities” while at the F.B.I. and was disliked by its rank and file.
.. But, when Holt asked him about heeding Sessions and Rosenstein, Trump seemed to bristle. Could Holt think that he, Trump, needed to hear what anyone had to say—that he had his mind changed by subordinates?
.. “when I decided to just do it”—that is, to fire Comey: “I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story; it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.” His aides, needless to say, had spent the day saying that Comey’s firing had nothing to do with Russia.
.. Instead, it leaves open the possibility that some sort of public confession in which Comey would “admit his errors” might be an alternative, in terms of restoring “trust.”
.. Instead, in both the letter that Trump sent to Comey and in his interview with Holt, Trump claimed that he got something else from Comey: an assurance that he was not under investigation. Trump doesn’t bother to conceal that he regarded such an assurance as something of a condition of employment.
.. Trump would rather raise the possibility that he’d had an improper, if not actually illegal, conversation with Comey than leave anyone with the impression that he couldn’t instruct the people who worked for him to do anything he desired.
.. Trump seems to treat the idea of being investigated the same way that he regards the idea of losing money. He is not personally being investigated; he never personally declared bankruptcy—only some of his various businesses did.
.. McCabe added that he personally regarded serving with Comey as the honor of his life. Sanders countered that many F.B.I. officers of her acquaintance had told her the opposite, which she treated as definitive despite adding, with a note of pleased and oblivious self-contradiction, “And I don’t even know that many people in the F.B.I.!”
.. She answered questions about the propriety of the Trump-Comey dinner by seeming to cite lawyers she’d seen comment on television.
.. In a way, she is the perfect Trump spokesperson. Her incoherent answers revolved around the greatness of Trump and the perfidy of his enemies.