Tonight shows sundance at his best. He provides us with a fascinating timeline of events between the firing of James Comey and the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel. What we see from this timeline is that DAG Rod Rosenstein's appointment letter was a subterfuge. That letter claims that Mueller's mandate was simply to continue the investigation known as Crossfire Hurricane. This was supposedly about Russian interference in the 2016 election, but the reality was quite different. The reality was that Mueller was appointed in order to force President Trump from office--whether via resignation (probably preferred) or by providing grounds for impeachment. Russian "collusion" had long been known to be a fairy tale or pipe dream at best. Nevertheless, hiding the ball, as an investigative strategy for entrapping Trump, contrary to the requirements of the Special Counsel regulations can't change the regulations. Which means that the predication for initiation of the Special Counsel must be evaluated on the facial meaning of Rosenstein's letter--that Mueller was continuing Crossfire Hurricane, an "enterprise" counterintelligence investigation. If that investigation lacked predication, then so did the Team Mueller operation.
Here is a summary of the timeline that I've extracted from sundance's much longer and fuller post. I provide it in this way because I believe it speaks for itself, and because I also believe that sundance's focus on the Comey memos distracts from the larger picture to some extent. That said, however, I agree with sundance that the leaking of the memos--or portions of them--played a role in instigating the Special Counsel appointment and justifying a decision that had already been made.
Here are those seven days in May, 2016--if we omit the first day:
Tuesday May 9th:
FBI Director James Comey fired @ 5pm
Wednesday May 10th:
- DAG Rod Rosenstein called Robert Mueller to discuss the special counsel appointment @ 7:45am.
- Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe immediately began a criminal ‘obstruction’ investigation. Wednesday May 10th; he immediately enlisted Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
- A few hours after the Rosenstein-Mueller phone call James Comey’s office was being searched; the searching FBI officials know nothing about Comey's memos.
Thursday May 11th:
- The New York Times prints an article, based on information seemingly leaked by Comey and Comey's lawyer friend Daniel Richman, about a dinner conversation between the President and the FBI Director. This is the so-called “Loyalty” article re Trump asking Comey whether Comey will be loyal.
Friday May 12th:
- McCabe meets with Rosenstein to discuss the ongoing issues with the investigation and firing. Discuss appointment of Special Counsel, which McCabe strongly favors.
- Mueller meets “in person” with Rosenstein.
- FBI agents go to Comey’s house to retrieve FBI property; neither James Rybicki (Comey's chief of staff, who is present) nor Comey inform the agents about the memos.
- May 12th, is the date noted by David Archey when FBI investigators had assembled all of the Comey memos as evidence. However, no one in the FBI outside the “small group” knows about the memos.
Saturday May 13th:
- Another meeting takes place between Rosenstein and Mueller, this time with AG Jeff Sessions also involved.
Sunday May 14th:
- Comey transmitted copies of Memos 2, 4, and 6, and a partially redacted copy of Memo 7 to Patrick Fitzgerald, who was one of Comey’s personal attorneys. Fitzgerald received the email and PDF attachment from Comey @ 2:27 p.m.
Monday May 15th:
- Per McCabe, he and Rosenstein confer again about the Special Counsel approach.
- Rybicki calls the FBI official in charge of recovering FBI property from Comey to notify him of Comey’s memos. The memos were “stored” in a “reception area“, and in locked drawers in Rybicki’s office.
Tuesday May 16th:
- Comey takes photographs of both pages of Memo 4 with his personal cell phone. Comey then sent both photographs, via text message, to Richman.
- Rosenstein takes Mueller to the White House for a meeting in the Oval Office between President Trump, VP Pence, Mueller and Rosenstein. While the meeting is ongoing the NYT publishes a story re Trump asking Comey "to end Flynn investigation (NYT)." The story was based on Comey memo leaks to Richman.
- An evening meeting is held at DoJ. Tashina Gauhar takes notes. Others present: Lisa Page, Rosenstein, and McCabe. This is the meeting when Rosenstein suggests recording President Trump.
Wednesday May 17th:
- Rosenstein and McCabe give an afternoon briefing to the Intel “Gang-of-Eight” on Rosenstein's intention to appoint a Special Counsel: Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Devin Nunes, Adam Schiff, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Richard Burr and Mark Warner.
- After the meeting Rosenstein announces the appointment of Mueller.
What is clear from a review of all the related and released information is the FBI small group (McCabe, Page, Strzok, Rybicki, Baker) were hiding the ongoing FBI investigation from other FBI officials (including the SSA Whistleblower), inside the department after Comey was fired.
Sundance rightly stresses that what we see here is the immediate initiation of an obstruction investigation--on the bogus notion that Trump's exercise of his constitutional powers to fire executive officials could somehow be a criminal act. We also see an immediate reaching out to Mueller by Rosenstein. The wheels of the Special Counsel appointment process are set in motion without delay--although we can only speculate at this point as to the details of their discussions. In the meantime, right up to Mueller's appointment, Comey and his allies are leaking to assist that process, which strongly suggests that there may have been coordination between the fired Comey and the small group of plotters.