Take a deep breath and gather your skepticism.
Given all the suspicion raised by President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, let’s consider what the dismissal does not necessarily mean.
The firing does not necessarily mean that the FBI probe of possible, supposed or alleged Trump campaign wrongdoing will die under a new director — even if you assume the new appointee owes some fealty to the president.
Nor is an investigation, with or without Comey, necessarily guaranteed to result in a clear criminal case of collusion between the Trump camp and Russian operatives’ efforts to defeat Hillary Clinton. Many Democrats seem to take it on faith that such a case is there to be made.
An open probe can lead to a dead end or up an unexpected alley. This week it was confirmed that U.S. officials issued grand jury subpoenas seeking business records of associates of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Or say you dismiss as twisted and far-fetched the official claim that Trump & Co. were motivated by Comey’s handling of Clinton emails.
That doesn’t necessarily mean, as some might suppose, that Trump took this action because he worried that criminal charges were coming his way.
Perhaps Trump was just peeved that a Trump-Russia narrative was still in the news. Or vexed that Comey confirmed the investigation before the Senate. Or embarrassed that the director blew up his false claim that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped.’ ”
Maybe Comey’s bungling of facts in Senate testimony about reopening the Clinton email case was just the right prompt for Trump to get his aides to fire Comey sooner rather than later.
Maybe, though not necessarily, Attorney General Jeff Sessions disliked Comey for reasons to which we’re not privy — perhaps involving independence and autonomy.
Maybe leaked information loomed largest for Trump & Co., though not necessarily.
Nor will Comey’s dismissal necessarily go down in history as bearing any resemblance to President Richard Nixon’s 1973 “Saturday night massacre.”
The Nixon Library tweeted Tuesday: “FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the Director of the FBI #FBIDirector #notNixonian.” Nixon actually ordered the firing of independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, which led to the resignations of his attorney general and deputy attorney general.
FBI directors are nominated and confirmed for 10-year terms. But as demonstrated by Comey’s departure three years into his term, that doesn’t keep presidents from legally firing them.