Will Comey’s Testimony Damage Trump?
James Comey’s written testimony recanting his meeting with President Donald Trump regarding the Russia investigation blows a massive hole into the President’s narrative on on the matter.
The testimony, which Comey delivered Thursday in one of the most highly-anticipated Congressional hearing in decades, reads like a point-by-point dismissal of Trump’s version of events — casting Comey as wary from the get-go of a chief executive who seemed to presume too much and know too little.
In the wake of their first interaction, ever, on January 6, Comey decided that it was necessary to have written documentation time spent with Trump.
Comey’s testimony reads:
“I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) — once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months — three in person and six on the phone.”
From the day he met Trump, Comey had great intention in the back of his mind to write about Trump, a practice he had never undertaken with President Obama. Comey has only had two direct conversations with President Obama as opposed to nine with President Trump. Trump has only been in office for less than 5 months. Obama for 8 years
Comey’s opening statement did not do Trump any justice.
Comey says he was surprised to learn that a dinner invitation to him by Trump on Jan. 27 was for just the two of them.
“It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room,” Comey writes. “Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.” and that the goal of the meeting was “an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship.”
Trump, on separate occasions, made a direct request for loyalty from the FBI director.
“I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,” Trump told Comey. Later, he returned to the subject. Here’s Comey’s recollection:
“He then said, ‘I need loyalty.’ I replied, ‘You will always get honesty from me.’ He paused and then said, ‘That’s what I want, honest loyalty.’ I paused, and then said, ‘You will get that from me.'”
Comey also confirmed in his written testimony that Trump directly asked him to “let go” of the investigation into deposed national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Quoting Trump, Comey writes of the Feb. 14 meeting in the Oval Office: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
The leaked remarks made by the President is the basis for the obstruction of justice implications made by the Democratic Party. Comey also wrote on his thoughts following the meeting.
“I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December,” Comey said.
Comey distinguished in the hearing that he did not believe Trump wanted to interfere with the investigation and ask for a clear end to the Russia Probe, but told Comey that the investigation was causing tremendous strain on his ability to do his job.
Related: A timeline of the Trump-Comey relationship
April 11: Final conversation, a phone call from Trump to Comey, the president again sought to secure Comey’s loyalty, according to the former FBI Director’s re-telling.
After Comey tells Trump that he should contact the deputy Attorney General’s office regarding his repeated request to “get out” the news that he was not a target of the federal investigation, here’s how Comey remembers the president’s response:
“He said he would do that and added, ‘Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.’ I did not reply or ask him what he meant by ‘that thing.’ I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.”
Comey staring blankly at Trump, it became self-evident to him that Trump was trying to establish some rapport or with the former FBI director.
The broader picture of Comey’s testimony is that it is potentially damaging to Trump.
The conversations present a narrative that Trump is repeatedly attempting to secure Comey’s loyalty that possibly his job depends on it. Trump’s asking Comey to end the probe into Flynn, whether he was aware or not of the ramifications, is at minimum a massive breach of protocol.
The general impression coming for Trump’s aides and allies will be at best a ‘he said, he said’ scenario and at worst ‘fake news.’
Trump did not tweet during his hearing or further weighed in on his tweet about ‘secret tapes’ during his meeting with Comey.
When asked about the tapes Comey responded, “Oh Lordy, I hope there are.”
Featured Image via “Flickr.”