With James Comey set to testify to Congress about the on-going Russia investigation, his communications with Donald Trump, and I’m sure a whole host of other issues, today is certain to be extremely eventful. Things got a bit of a jump start on Wednesday when a transcript of a prepared statement Comey plans to read in front of Congress was released.
To say this was must-read material would be an understatement. There’s definitely a lot of really good information, but I wanted to run down five extremely damning takeaways that stuck out to me after reading what Comey wrote.
1. Comey immediately seemed to view Trump as someone who wasn’t ethical or trustworthy: Literally right after his first meeting with Trump, on January 6th, he said this:
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.
One meeting — that’s all it took for Comey to sit in his vehicle and immediately begin documenting what he and Trump had discussed privately. Something he had never done before, he felt compelled to do after one private discussion with Trump.
That’s a big red flag when the vibe the head of the FBI got from the “president-elect” after just one meeting was so negative, he felt the need to document what the two discussed.
2. Donald Trump behaved like some sort of mafia boss: Not only did Trump apparently lure Comey to a private dinner under the false pretense that more people would be in attendance, but he passively aggressively threatened his job security very much like you’d expect from some sort of mafia thug.
First he asked him if he liked his job, a clear setup for Trump to segue into his little spiel about how much he values “loyalty,” telling Comey, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”
As Comey wrote about that exchange:
Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. 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.” As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term — honest loyalty — had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.
Shift a few details about this dinner around, and it could pass for something you’d see in some Martin Scorsese flick about an organized crime boss.
3. Like most criminals, Trump made sure most of his discussions with Comey were private, where no one else could witness what he was saying: If there’s one common theme throughout most of Comey’s talks with Trump, it’s that the “president” made sure no one else was around to hear what he was saying.
One such occurrence, when Trump essentially told him to “let go” of the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn, prompted Comey to immediately prepare an unclassified memo he then discussed with senior leadership at the bureau.
When the head of the FBI is made to feel so uncomfortable about an interaction with a “president” that he awkwardly hurries out of a meeting, drafts a memo, and immediately discusses what took place with senior officials — that’s fairly alarming.
4. Donald Trump is obsessed with the FBI officially declaring that he’s not personally under investigation, which is part of what makes me think he’s guilty: One of the main things Trump repeatedly pressed Comey to do was release some sort of statement declaring that Trump, himself, was not personally the target of any active investigation.
That’s why I think he’s wanting Flynn left alone so badly. I truly believe Trump knows that he’s a major player in all of this and that, if he were to divulge everything he knew, that information could at least implicate Trump as someone who knew what was going on and possibly even encouraged it.
That’s just my opinion. However, when I read this, combined with Trump’s rather hostile behavior about these Russian investigations, you start to connect the dots. He seems like someone who’s scared that people are going to find out the truth about what took place between his campaign and Russia, but also believes that he handled it in such a way that, no matter what, he can claim he didn’t “personally” do anything wrong.
Trump’s smart enough to set up some sort of distance and attempt at plausible deniability between himself and whatever his associates might have been doing — but dumb enough to think that several people around him could possibly go down for all of this and he’d walk away unscathed.
5. Trump fired Comey because he wouldn’t do what he wanted him to do: No matter how anyone might spin this, it’s clear Trump became frustrated after months of trying to get Comey to prove his “loyalty” by giving into his demands. Once Trump realized Comey wasn’t going to be pressured or bullied into doing what he wanted him to do, since he had the power to get rid of him, that’s exactly what he did.
Trump went from praising Comey, telling him how highly everyone he knew spoke about him — to firing him a few weeks later. And the only thing that “changed” between the first meeting and the day Comey was fired was that Trump finally realized he was never going to give in to his demands.
Looking at what Comey documented from his first meeting with Trump to the final phone call, it seems rather obvious what happened. After repeatedly trying to pressure Comey to make public statements he wasn’t comfortable making, and essentially asking him to put an end to an active investigation into his former national security advisor, once Trump realized Comey wasn’t going to do what he wanted, that’s when he fired him.
While there’s still no way to say with any absolute certainty what happened, and who all was involved, nearly everything about Donald Trump’s behavior and how he’s responded to these investigations indicates there’s a lot of information he’s desperately hoping never becomes public knowledge.