By Mary Chastain
Congress received the memos from former FBI Director James Comey on his meetings with President Donald Trump. What I found interesting is what is not in the memos: Evidence of collusion or an attempt to obstruct the FBI.
The first meeting between the men happened on January 6, 2017. In that meeting, Comey told Trump that “the Russians allegedly had tapes involving him and prostitutes at the Presidential Suite at the Ritz Carlton in Moscow from about 2013.” You know, the infamous “golden showers” portion of the dossier. Trump replied that “there were no prostitutes, there were never prostitutes.”
Comey told Trump that media outlets like CNN and others had the information, but that “it was important that we not give them an excuse to write that the FBI has the material or” something else that is blacked out. He told Trump that the FBI was “keeping it very close-hold.”
Well, after that meeting, the dossier appeared at BuzzFeed and that the intelligence community told Trump about these allegations.
This leads us to the next meeting when Comey dined with Trump at the White House on January 28, 2017. The two men discussed leaks and Comey wrote that Trump like other presidents “would discover the entire government leaks like crazy and explained that it often comes from the first or second hop out from those actually working on the sensitive thing.”
Trump told Comey “that he needed loyalty and expected loyalty.”
Okay, so after this came out, everyone immediately said that Trump demanded loyalty from Comey. But from the sound of it, Trump meant from everyone that surrounds him. It sounds like he doesn’t want leaks to happen and protect sensitive information. Byron York explained at The Washington Examiner:
Why would Trump wonder about the FBI director’s loyalty? Perhaps because in their first meeting, the FBI director dropped the Moscow sex allegation on Trump, followed immediately by its publication in the media. It seems entirely reasonable for a president to wonder what was going on and whether the FBI director was loyal, not to the president personally, but to the confidentiality that is required in his role as head of the nation’s chief investigative agency.
A few more things. We had known earlier that Comey briefed Trump about the dossier one-on-one on January 6, 2017. But it was not until an interview Thursday with CNN’s Jake Tapper that Comey revealed the conversation was only about the Moscow sex allegation. The other parts of the dossier — about Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, allegations of collusion — Comey did not mention to the president-elect. No wonder Trump associated the dossier with the Moscow sex story.
York also mentioned that the media couldn’t believe that Trump obsessed over the supposed incident in Moscow. Now we know that is the only subject Comey briefed him on in the very first meeting. If Comey told him all about the dossier and Trump only concentrated on that hotel room incident then yes, he was obsessive. But Comey only spoke about the “golden showers.”
At the dinner, Comey wrote that Trump “thought very highly of” him, but “would understand if” he wanted to walk away. Comey said he enjoyed his job. Later on, Trump told Comey he was glad that Comey wanted to stay and heard great things about him. Trump also reiterated that he “wanted competence and independence and didn’t want the FBI involved in policy.”
Trump then said he wanted “honest loyalty” and Comey replied that he would “get that from me.” Comey even admitted in the memo that it’s quite “possible we understood that phrase differently, but I chose to understand it as consistent with what I had said throughout the conversation: I will serve the President with loyalty to the office, the country, and the truth.”
Again, it doesn’t sound like Trump wanted Comey to do as the president wanted or said. It sounds like he wanted the FBI to do what it’s meant to do.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) released a statement last night:
Former Director Comey’s memos show the President made clear he wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated. The memos also made clear the ‘cloud’ President Trump wanted lifted was not the Russian interference in the 2016 election cloud, rather it was the salacious, unsubstantiated allegations related to personal conduct leveled in the dossier.
The memos also show former Director Comey never wrote that he felt obstructed or threatened. While former Director Comey went to great lengths to set dining room scenes, discuss height requirements, describe the multiple times he felt complimented, and myriad other extraneous facts, he never once mentioned the most relevant fact of all, which was whether he felt obstructed in his investigation.
I couldn’t find anything in the memos that show Trump pushing for Comey to stop investigating former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. In fact, Comey wrote that Trump said that Flynn didn’t do anything wrong, but he had to let him go since “he misled the Vice President” and he “couldn’t have Flynn misleading the Vice President.” Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Trump once again blasted all the leaks that have happened, including call outs with officials from Mexico and Australia.
Trump did tell Comey that he hoped the former director could “let this go” concerning Flynn, but in all honesty, it just sounds like Trump aired out how he wanted it to end. It didn’t sound like he pushed Comey to investigating Flynn just how he hoped it ended.
The memos also have a lot to say about Comey. Goodlatte, Gowdy, and Nunes point out that Comey held “at least two different standards in his interactions with others.” They wrote:
He chose not to memorialize conversations with President Obama, Attorney General Lynch, Secretary Clinton, Andrew McCabe or others, but he immediately began to memorialize conversations with President Trump. It is significant former Director Comey made no effort to memorialize conversations with former Attorney General Lynch despite concerns apparently significant enough to warrant his unprecedented appropriation of the charging decision away from her and the Department of Justice in July of 2016.
These memos also lay bare the notion that former Director Comey is not motivated by animus. He was willing to work for someone he deemed morally unsuited for office, capable of lying, requiring of personal loyalty, worthy of impeachment, and sharing the traits of a mob boss. Former Director Comey was willing to overlook all of the aforementioned characteristics in order to keep his job. In his eyes, the real crime was his own firing.
Comey stressed to Trump a few times that he “was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in that traditional political sense.” He also lashed out at leakers and called the leaks terrible. He told Trump that he doesn’t “do sneaky things” or leak or “weasel moves.”
We all know that isn’t true. We all know that Comey leaked one of these memos to a friend after Trump fired him in May 2017. That friend shared it with The New York Times, which led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate alleged Russian meddling.