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Here Are All The Very Different Reasons The White House Has Given For Trump Firing Comey

♬ You're giving me a million reasons to let you go ♬

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Updated on

1. Comey poorly handled the Clinton email investigation.

Kevin Lamarque / AP

In a memo prepared for the president and used by the White House to justify James Comey's firing as FBI director, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein heavily criticized Comey's behavior during the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email server when she was secretary of state.

"I cannot defend the Director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton's emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken," Rosenstein wrote.

Rosenstein said Comey was wrong to hold a July 5 press conference last year in which he publicly announced the bureau would not bring charges against Clinton. Rosenstein said that should have been handled by then-attorney general Loretta Lynch and that Comey had broken Justice Department protocols. (Comey later said Lynch had compromised herself publicly by meeting with Bill Clinton on an airplane tarmac.)

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday accused Comey of "atrocities in circumventing the chain of command in the Department of Justice."

Rosenstein also said the Comey press conference was wrong because it released "derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation."

"The Director laid out his version of the facts for the news media as if it were a closing argument, but without a trial," Rosenstein wrote. "It is a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do."

Rosenstein also said Comey had been wrong to release an Oct. 28 letter, just days out from the election, announcing the Clinton email investigation would be reopened due to the discovery of emails on the computer of Anthony Weiner, the husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin. "When federal agents and prosecutors quietly open a criminal investigation, we are not concealing anything," Rosenstein said, disagreeing with Comey that not speaking out would have been tantamount to concealing important information.

"The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong," Rosenstein wrote of events that happened six months before Comey was ultimately fired and which Trump, as a candidate, celebrated.

2. Comey had lost the public's trust.

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"The FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them," Rosenstein wrote in his memo.

This argument was also repeated by President Trump in his letter of dismissal to Comey: "It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission," Trump wrote.

3. Comey had lost the confidence of the "rank and file of the FBI."

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"Most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director," Sanders told reporters Wednesday.

This was contradicted by the new acting director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, during Senate testimony on Thursday. He said Sanders' comments were "not accurate."

"I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI, and still does to this day," McCabe said.

Asked about McCabe's comments at her Thursday press briefing, Sanders said, "I can speak to my own personal experience. I've heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president's decision."

"I've certainly heard from a large number of individuals, and that's just myself — and I don't even know that many people in the FBI," she said.

Sanders declined to specify exactly how many FBI officials she had spoken with.

4. Trump was acting on the advice of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

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In his letter to Comey, President Trump said he had accepted the recommendation of Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire him as FBI director.

Rosenstein's memo never explicitly called on Trump to fire Comey — in fact, it said "the decision should not be taken lightly." It did, however, paint a very critical picture of Comey's leadership and concluded, "Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions."

Sanders said Wednesday that Rosenstein decided on his own volition to review Comey's performance and was not directed to do so by Trump. This runs counter to what Senator Dianne Feinstein said Trump told her when he called to say he was sacking Comey.

Sanders also said Rosenstein and Sessions came to the president with concerns, and that the president then accepted Rosenstein's recommendation. She described it as "the final piece that moved the president to make that quick and decisive action."

The deputy press secretary said Trump had already "lost confidence in Comey from the day he was elected." This contradicts statements press secretary Sean Spicer previously gave reporters that the president had full confidence in Comey.

On Thursday, Trump said he was "going to fire regardless" of Rosenstein's recommendation.

Sanders then changed tune again, telling reporters that Rosenstein's memo only “further solidified” the decision.

5. Comey was not doing "a good job."

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In his first public comments on Comey's firing, Trump told reporters he sacked the FBI chief "because he wasn't doing a good job. Very simply, he was not doing a good job."

6. Comey failed to stop leaks coming out of the FBI.

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"How important was the FBI director’s failure to stop the leaks coming out of the FBI to the president? How important was that?" a reporter asked Sanders during Wednesday's briefing.

"I think that's probably one of the many factors," she responded. "You can't deny...that that wasn’t a problem. And so I think that was just another one of the many reasons that he no longer had the confidence of the president or the rest of the FBI."

7. Comey had to correct testimony he gave about Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner.

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Comey told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3 that "hundreds of thousands of emails" were forwarded from Abedin to Weiner's computer as part of efforts to print documents.

However, on Tuesday, the morning Comey was fired, the FBI wrote to the ranking members of the committee to "supplement" his testimony.

Officials said they believed that most of the emails ended up on Weiner's computer when Abedin backed up her phone, and only a "small number" were manually forwarded to Weiner.

Speaking Wednesday, Sanders referred in passing to "the corrections that had to take place over the last... 48 hours."

"Those are all big problems and another, I think, kind of final piece that pushed the president to make the decision that he did," she said.

Sanders also said Thursday that "after watching Director Comey's testimony last Wednesday, the president was strongly inclined to remove him."

10. The FBI is "in turmoil."

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"The FBI has been in turmoil," Trump told NBC. "You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn't recovered from that."

11. Trump was mad about "the Russia thing."

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Despite repeated White House denials that Trump's firing of Comey was in anyway connected to the FBI's investigation of possible Russian ties to the president's campaign, Trump himself said Thursday that he was indeed thinking of the Russia probe.

"I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it," Trump told NBC News. "And in fact, when I decided to do it I said to myself, '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.'"

Trump repeatedly told NBC that he had no connection to Russia and neither he, nor his campaign, colluded with the Russian government during the presidential election. In fact, he added, he wants the investigation "speeded up."

"Look, I have nothing to do with it," Trump said. "This was set up by the Democrats. There is no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians."

David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.

Contact David Mack at david.mack@buzzfeed.com.

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