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Story highlights

Trump has reversed himself, again, on exactly why he fired former FBI Director James Comey

What we are witnessing is a rare political feat: The flip, flop, re-flip

(CNN) —  

On Thursday in a joint news conference with Colombian President Juan Manual Santos, President Donald Trump reversed himself, again, on exactly why he fired former FBI Director James Comey.

“Director Comey was very unpopular with most people,” said Trump. “I actually thought when I made that decision – and I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein.”

Er, OK.

Here’s the thing: A week before – to the day! – Trump sat down with NBC’s Lester Holt and said this:

“I was going to fire Comey – my decision. There is no good time to do it, by the way. I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.”

And that, of course, ran directly counter to the argument Vice President Mike Pence, White House press secretary Sean Spicer and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway were making last week: That Trump acted after receiving the Rosenstein memo laying out the case for why Comey should be let go.

And then, on Thursday in a closed briefing for Senators, several Democrats – Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Dick Durbin (Ill.) among them – said that Rosenstein said he knew Trump was firing Comey even before he wrote the memo.

What we are witnessing is a rare political feat: The flip, flop, re-flip and, possible, re-flop. (It’s sort of like the Triple Lindy.)

The reason for the political acrobatics? Because neither Trump nor the White House want to say – or think it is politic to say – the real reason why Trump fired Comey: Because he didn’t like him.

Where might that distaste have arisen?

It could have been Comey’s ongoing push to get to the bottom of how Russia sought to meddle in the 2016 election and whether any Trump campaign officials colluded with them.

It could have been the reported loyalty pledge Trump sought from Comey in a late January dinner that Comey refused to give.

It could have been Trump’s ongoing frustration with the fact that Comey didn’t bring an indictment against Hillary Clinton despite the fact that many Republicans believed there was ample evidence to do so.

It could have been that Trump didn’t like Comey’s flair for the dramatic. (He referred to the fired FBI director as a “showboat” in the Holt interview.)

It could have been that Comey was an Obama pick, not a Trump one.

It could have been all of those things, a combination of some of them or none of them.

The point is still the same. Trump didn’t like him.

Which, actually, might have been a semi-defensible reason to let Comey go. Trump could have easily said that he decided to part ways with Comey because the FBI director had just grown too political for his liking in the 2016 campaign and that a fresh start was the best thing for the law enforcement community and the country.

Instead, Trump and his senior officials tried to lay it all at the feet of Rosenstein. Then Trump, always wanting to be seen as decisive, took credit himself. And now, apparently, back to Rosenstein.

None of those explanations made that much sense because, well, they weren’t the real reason. The real reason was that Trump didn’t like Comey and/or was sick of him.