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.