[Trump] had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, two advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn’t disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said.
But the fallout seemed to take the White House by surprise. Trump made a round of calls around 5 p.m., asking for support from senators. White House officials believed it would be a “win-win” because Republicans and Democrats alike had had problems with the FBI director, one person briefed on the administration’s deliberations said.
Instead, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told him he was making a big mistake — and Trump seemed “taken aback,” according to a person familiar with the call.
By Tuesday night, aides were using TV appearances to spin the firing as a simple bureaucratic matter and call for an end to the investigation. “It’s time to move on,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, said on Fox News.
Trump received letters from Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, calling for Comey’s dismissal, on Tuesday, a spokesman said. The president then decided to fire the FBI director based on the recommendations and moved quickly. The spokesman said Trump did not ask for the letters in advance, and that White House officials had no idea they were coming.
While shock dominated much of the FBI and the White House, the mood at Roger Stone’s house in Florida was one of elation. Several Stone allies and friends said Stone, a Trump associate who has been frequently mentioned in the investigation, encouraged the president to fire Comey in conversations in recent weeks.
On Twitter, Stone signaled praise for the move by posting an image of Trump from “The Apprentice” saying, “You’re fired.”
The scrums of reporters haranguing senators over Comey reached new highs on Wednesday, creating unwieldy crowds and exasperated senators who kept getting asked the same question. But inside the GOP lunch, the discussion was almost entirely related to repealing Obamacare, a topic that's difficult enough for Republicans to tackle, senators said. The only mention was a short recitation by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of his position that there should be no special prosecutor investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.
But now there is renewed focus on the Senate’s slow-moving Russia investigations, the GOP’s resistance to calling for a special prosecutor or select committee and now, the confirmation of a new FBI director, all of which will consume precious time and political capital.
During a factory tour and a business roundtable in Columbus, Ohio Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s pitch for tax reform kept getting interrupted by reporters asking questions about the Comey firing. Ryan’s team specifically designed the tour to launch House Republicans' push to rewrite the tax code. But while he was speaking to local business leaders, Ryan's Twitter account was lighting up about his lack of response to Comey’s ousting.
And some Republicans fret that all the public attention on Comey is going to bleed into their legislative efforts. Asked whether Comey’s dismissal could affect the Senate’s work, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine replied: “I think it already has.”
Senate Democrats wielded their limited procedural leverage on Wednesday and cancelled all hearings after 11:30 a.m., halting much of the Senate’s work for the day. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) came to the Senate floor to declare the episode “another low.”
Republicans don’t believe Democrats can keep objecting to hearings devoted to national security and foreign policy, but Democrats wouldn’t rule out further actions to scuttle the Senate’s daily agenda. And they said that until Republicans agree to an independent investigation, working on bipartisan legislation — which is most of the Senate’s business other than party-line efforts on health care and taxes — will be extremely difficult.
“His agenda was on life support already. He just pulled the plug himself,” said a senior Democratic aide of Trump.
After Sanders finished her briefing Wednesday, top aides huddled in Trump’s office. After that meeting, one White House official described the past 24 hours inside the Trump White House like this: “Total chaos — even by our standards.”