**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
TRUMP PICKS A BAD TIME FOR A MELTDOWN
Well, that escalated quickly…
Your ears are probably still ringing from the high-decibel screaming that has dominated the past 22 hours. The freak-out has been so intense on both sides that you know there must be something there. But what, exactly?
First, we should understand that President Trump was not only within his constitutional authority to fire former FBI Director James Comey, but also that the arguments made by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for Comey’s ouster make a persuasive case for the move.
But, the world will never know how many licks it would take to get to the center of that particular Tootsie Pop because the White House and the president managed to perform a face-plant of historic proportions.
We are told in multiple reports that an angry Trump had been stewing for many days over Comey and the limelight-loving FBI director’s recent comments about the ongoing investigation into Trump’s campaign for potential collusion with the Kremlin to poison Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
Certainly Trump’s social media activity of late is in keeping with this description from Politico “he would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said.” Another source close to the president described the commander in chief as “increasingly isolated in recent days. Frustrated, avoiding major public appearances.”
If you believe in your heart that Trump is guilty of colluding with Russia, this would all be evidence of a spiral of self-loathing and destructive behavior as it all came crashing down. Sounds good for a “Law & Order” episode, but maybe some in the press may be getting a little carried away.
It may just be that Trump is frustrated because even after stuffing a package of cuts to ObamaCare down the throats of House Republicans and an all-out media blitz to frame his first months in office as a success, the going is still pretty tough for America’s 45th president.
One thing that is not in doubt is that the managerial and leadership efforts on display in the past day were dreadful:
- The letter Trump sent undercutting his own rationale for firing Comey by mentioning the Russia probe.
- The comically bad timing of firing Comey the evening before Trump was to meet with Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S.
- The lack of coherent message or available messengers after the news broke.
- The failure to adequately brief senior Republicans and members of key committees about the move.
- And, maybe most of all, the petty, vengeful-seeming way in which Comey was notified.
Again, Trump had every right and reason to cashier Comey. Even if doing so was in contradiction to Trump’s prior praise to the celebrity-law man for having hobbled Clinton’s presidency, it was still within bounds.
Picture a version of the White House where the president trusts his subordinates and gives them with real responsibilities.
After informing his chief of staff and bringing the right advisors into the mix, Trump would have settled on a strategy to execute in the coming days so that it would have been met with more murmurs than shouts.
But we have so far not gotten to see a White House like that. Instead, we are being treated to a reprise of Trump’s late-summer doldrums of 2016 when his candidacy foundered and the candidate seemed angry and lost.
The difference now is that the stakes are far higher.
Flag on the play? - Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
“Donald Trump has surrounded himself with sycophants and amateurs who are either unwilling or unable to tell him no. He lacks a David-Gergen-like figure who is wise to the ways of Washington and has the stature to speak up when the president says he wants to fire an FBI director who is overseeing the counterintelligence investigation into whether his associates coordinated with Moscow. Without such a person, Trump just walked headlong into a political buzz saw.” – James Hohmann in the WaPo.
“There is no reason to believe Trump’s version of the facts and many reasons to believe he is lying. How can I be so confident? First, it’s important to remember just how often Trump lies. … Second, Trump previously praised Comey for reopening the Clinton email investigation, which was the core of Trump’s rationale for the firing, as Igor Volsky noted. Third, Trump claimed that he was merely following up on a Justice Department recommendation and released a letter from the department to bolster his case. Yet the timing doesn’t make sense…” – David Leonhardt in the NYT.
“Will the next FBI director truly be free to pursue the investigation that Comey began? Will a bureau already riven by political divisions and back-biting truly regain confidence and public trust? Can the Justice Department oversee the Russia matter? Already, congressional pressure is building for an independent counsel — which is the most sensible way to restore a measure of public confidence after this debacle.” – David Ignatius in the WaPo.
“If, like my friend, you are convinced that Trump is guilty and that we are just waiting for the smoking gun, you will work backwards from that point and conclude that Trump is obviously getting in the way of the investigation, and that this is obviously Watergate. If you aren’t sure that there is a big scandal looming, you’re likely to be circumspect and happy to watch it play out as a process.” – Charles Cook in National Review.
HOW IT’S PLAYING
“President Trump abruptly fires FBI Director James Comey” - Denver Post
“Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey throws Russia probe into chaos” - Miami Herald
“Trump firing Comey shrouds Russia probe in doubt, turmoil” - St. Louis Post Dispatch
“Trump puts U.S. presidency into perilous area” - Detroit News
“Chuck Grassley on Comey firing: ‘Suck it up and move on’” - Des Moines Register
Trump net job-approval rating: -8.6 points
Change from one week ago: -0.6 points
AUDIBLE: BUT THANKS FOR ASKING
“I am going to play hockey. With the hockey fans. I invite you to do the same.” – Russian strongman Vladimir Putin speaking through a translator in response to a question from CBS News about the firing of James Comey as Putin was about to enter the rink for one of the occasional hockey games staged for him.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“How can someone be INSURED against a ‘pre-existing’ condition? You pay insurance to guard against financial loss in the event that some particular thing happens. If it has already happened and you get cash.....that's a handout. As it relates to health, a pre-existing condition has nothing to do with health INSURANCE, and everything to do with health CARE? Grateful you kindly explain.” – Eric de Verteuil, West Moorings, Trinidad
[Ed. note: An excellent question, M. de Verteuil! What American politicians are currently discussing isn’t really insurance, at all. The United States has been moving, in a bi-partisan fashion toward a third-party payer system in which insurance companies, acting as part of a highly regulated cartel act as go-betweens for almost all medical care and services. It’s super expensive and probably wasteful. But, Americans want both a free-market system AND a system that provides coverage for everyone. To achieve at least the sensation of that, the federal government is creating a system in which the role fulfilled by government bureaucracies in other Western countries is outsourced to big insurance companies. You can call the outcome neither liberal nor conservative. Like the designated-hitter rule in the American League or those chalky mints at the hostess stand at restaurants, it’s not what anyone really wants but its sure going to stick around.]
“Your ‘monologue’ on Afghanistan being the ‘graveyard of empires’ is timely. For a country with relatively little in the way of legally trade-able commodities and resources, one wonders why so many venture forth into its tangled web of clans. In any case, I think President Trump has two examples to draw on: General Petraeus, the architect of the Iraq war surge, and President John F. Kennedy. Petraeus was a voice in the wilderness of those wanting to cut and run from Iraq; JFK (and his brother Bobby), chastened by the failure of the Bay of Pigs, were hesitant to follow the advice of hawks like Curtis LeMay. Which selection will President Trump make? We know it matters, but the ‘longest war’ has not been on the average American's radar since the killing of bin Laden. Yet our enemies’ resolve will not waver if the US leaves AF in a vacuum (which we know nature abhors).” – Jeff Smith, Statesboro, Ga.
[Ed. note: Finding the right setting between reckless disregard and complete occupation is the hard part I would imagine, Sergeant. What makes it even more challenging is that domestic political considerations figure heavily into the choice. Americans demand to be kept perfectly safe but have no appetite for the ordeal of war. Candidates for office are only too happy to oblige them when they are making campaign promises, only to discover the, ahem, hard choices that await them in office.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“If that was so offensive to the Trump Administration, what you would have done is in the transition, you would have spoken with Comey and said ‘we are going to let you go.’ That’s when a president could very easily make a decision to have a change. That not unprecedented. But to fire him summarily with no warning in the middle of May because of something that happened in July is almost inexplicable.” – Charles
Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.