By Steve Neavling
Just two days after Donald Trump was inaugurated as president of the United States in January, the bombastic billionaire blew a playful kiss at FBI Director James Comey and the two bro-braced in an awkward exchange that appeared to suggest the powerful pair had buried the hatchet.
But that wouldn’t be the case. Comey, who was three years into his 10-year term, was not backing down from an investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged collaboration with Russian operatives to influence the presidential election.
Two days before the FBI director was set to testify about the investigation in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee today, Trump abruptly fired Comey, prompting dumbfounded Democrats and some Republicans to question whether the president was trying to disrupt a federal investigation into his inner circle. Some called Trump’s actions “Nixonian.”
Here’s a look at the rocky, often toxic relationship between the fiery political newcomer and an FBI director who was trying to reestablish his reputation as an independent investigator who operated without regard to politics. The timeline created by Tickle the Wire also raises serious questions about Trump’s insistence that he fired Comey because of his handling of the Clinton investigation.
A timeline of the love-hate relationship between the two powerful men:
July 5, 2016: Comey announced he was not recommending criminal charges against Clinton.
“The system is rigged,” Trump tweeted. “General Petraeus got in trouble for far less. Very very unfair! As usual, bad judgment.”
Oct. 13, 2016: Trump suggested on Twitter that Comey was hiding critical evidence in the Clinton investigation.
“Hillary Clinton is guilty, of all the things that Director Comey stated at his press conference and congressional hearings, and far more. He stated many things, but it’s far more and he knows that. And yet, after reading all of these items, where she’s so guilty, he let her off the hook,” Trump said at a campaign event in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Oct. 27, 2016: Just two weeks later, Trump suggested with no evidence that Comey and the FBI were up to something nefarious.
“He made a mistake, or whatever,” Trump told ABC News. “I don’t even call it a mistake. I think something happened. Look, something happened.”
Trump added that “there’s something going on.”
Trump on FBI director Comey: “He made a mistake….I don’t even call it a mistake. I think something happened. Look, something happened.” pic.twitter.com/lJuWVFRkAR 
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) October 27, 2016 
Oct. 31, 2016: Trump’s attitude toward Comey took another big shift after the FBI director told Congress in a letter that the FBI was investigating new Clinton emails just two weeks before the presidential election.
“I have to give the FBI credit,” Comey said at a rally in Grand Rapids, Mi., on Oct. 31. “that was so bad what happened originally, and it took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made, in light of the kind of opposition he had, where they’re trying to protect her from criminal prosecution, you know that. It took a lot of guts, I really disagreed with him, I was not his fan. But I’ll tell you what he did, he brought back his reputation — he brought it back.”
Nov 6, 2016: On the eve of the election, Comey announced that a review of a new batch of Clinton emails produced nothing of legal substance.
“They went through 650,000 emails in eight days – yeah right,” Trump told supporters in North Carolina. “So sad what’s going on.”
Jan. 22, 2016: Two days after a chipper Trump was inaugurated, he once again wildly shifted his rhetoric, blew Comey a kiss and hugged the FBI director in what appeared to be an uncharacteristic act of reconciliation by the new president.
“He’s become more famous than me,” Trump said of Comey to a crowd at a reception.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 22, 2017 
Feb. 24, 2017: Trump blasts the FBI for failing to prevent national security “leakers” from revealing to the media that the president tried to persuade the FBI to publicly refute the allegations that his campaign had ties to Russia, despite the ongoing investigation.
“The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time. They can’t even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW,” Trump tweeted.
A Tickle the Wire analysis found that Trump has complained about the Russia investigation more than 40 times since the November election, often blaming the “fake news” and the intelligence community.
April 12, 2017: Trump expressed some confidence in Comey in an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo.
“It’s not too late, but, you know, I have confidence in him. We’ll see what happens. You know, it’s going to be interesting,” Trump said, adding, “We’ll see what happens.”
May 2, 2017: In a stark demonstration of Trump’s quick, unpredictable temperament, the president less than a month later called Comey “the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton,” even though the president himself suggested that he wasn’t interested in pursuing charges against Clinton.
“FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds! The phony Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?” Trump wrote in a tweet, speaking about himself in the third person.
May 9, 2017: Trump fires Comey on the advice of the attorney general and deputy attorney general.
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau,” Trump wrote in Comey’s dismissal letter.
Letters from Trump, Sessions, and Rosenstein on James Comey pic.twitter.com/msc7QBV3xL 
— Allan Smith (@akarl_smith) May 9, 2017 
May 10, 2017: In typical fashion, Trump cast blame on Democrats and “Fake News” in yet another name-calling tweet.
“Dems have been complaining for months & months about Dir. Comey. Now that he has been fired they PRETEND to be aggrieved. Phony hypocrites!” Trump tweeted.
Senate Intelligence Committee is meeting today to discuss the Trump-Russia investigation. Check back for details.