Instant leaks as feds deliver Comey memos to Congress

Bowing to demands from Republicans in the House, the Justice Department on Thursday night gave lawmakers memos written by former FBI Director James Comey after meetings and phone calls with President Donald Trump, with the resulting leaks only amplifying Comey’s story that Mr. Trump had pressed him repeatedly about the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

And in classic Washington fashion – the memos were leaked almost immediately to news organizations.

You can read the set of memos from Comey – written soon after meetings directly with the President, or after phone calls with Mr. Trump.

There had been concerns that sharing the memos with Congress might cause problems for the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller – but press reports on Thursday night indicated otherwise, and a reading of the materials did not reveal a new treasure trove of information.

And more than anything, they only seemed to bring the focus more on President Trump.

Here are ten things we learned from the memos written by the former FBI Director.

1. Trump praises Comey at first meeting at Trump Tower. Before the former FBI Director could get to the subject of the Steele Dossier, the two men had some chit chat one-on-one. Comey said the President-Elect complimented the FBI chief on how he had handled the difficult situation involving the Hillary Clinton email investigation. “He said I was repeatedly put in impossible positions,” Comey recounted, quoting Trump as saying, “they hated you for what you did later, but what choice did you have?” Comey said the President-Elect said ‘he hoped I planned to stay on.’

2. Comey moves into the Steele Dossier. With other top officials out of the room at Trump Tower, Comey then described briefing the President-Elect on the contents of the Steele Dossier, expressing concerns that it could soon leak in the media. “I said, the Russians allegedly had tapes of him and prostitutes,” Comey wrote, saying that Mr. Trump said, “there were no prostitutes.” Comey said he told the President-Elect that the FBI was not investigating these stories, but that “our job was to protect the President from efforts to coerce him.”

3. The late January “loyalty” dinner. After President Trump had been sworn into office, he invited Comey to the White House for dinner – just the two of them – telling Comey that even Chief of Staff Reince Priebus did not know of their sit down. Comey said he told Trump, “I was not on anybody’s side politically.” After a detailed discussion of the impact of the Clinton email investigation on the campaign – in which they disagreed on whether there was a case against Hillary Clinton, Comey said the President made a clear point. “He replied that he needed loyalty and expected loyalty.”

4. Comey relates Trump displeasure with Flynn. One interesting side story from the late January dinner was when Comey related how the President had been angry with his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for evidently not informing the President that another world leader had called after the inauguration. “In telling the story, the President pointed his fingers at his head and said “the guy has serious judgment issues.”” Comey then notes that he never gave Mr. Trump any indication of the FBI interest in Flynn – or the fact that agents had interviewed Flynn just a day before about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador to the United States.

5. A meeting with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. One memo from Comey detailed a meeting with the President’s Chief of Staff, who asked the FBI Director if there was an investigation going on into the President’s National Security Adviser. “Do you have a FISA order on Mike Flynn?” Comey quoted Priebus as asking. Later, their conversation went over the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and Comey’s late announcement which roiled the campaign. “At some point I added that it also wasn’t my fault that Huma Abedin forwarded emails to Anthony Weiner.”

6. Golden showers, hookers, and Putin. After meeting with Priebus, Comey was taken by the Oval Office for a quick visit with the President. There, Mr. Trump complained about leaks of his phone calls with foreign leaders, and again vented his frustration about details from the Steele Dossier. “The President brought up the “Golden Showers thing” and said it really bothered him,” Comey recounted. “The President said ‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense but that Putin had told ‘we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.'”

7. Trump presses Comey on Michael Flynn. In portions of the memos which had already been leaked, Comey describes how a broader meeting on homeland security ended, and then others left him one-on-one with Mr. Trump. “He began by saying he wanted to ‘talk about Mike Flynn,'” Comey recounts, adding later that the President said he had ‘other concerns’ about Flynn, but was aggravated about the leaks concerning his former National Security Adviser. But the President then returned to Flynn. “I hope you can let this go,” was how Comey remembered what the President had said in this February 14, 2017 meeting.

8. Trump urges Comey to ‘lift the cloud.’ Again, these details had been leaked previously, as Comey recounted a phone conversation in which the President complained about the Russia investigation, saying at one point that he would have won a health care vote in the House if not for the controversy over the Trump-Russia probe about the 2016 elections. Comey noted the President again returned to an issue that clearly aggravated him – “can you imagine me, hookers?” Comey’s memo also seems to say that the President was going to file a lawsuit against former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who had assembled the dossier. No such suit was ever filed.

9. More about loyalty to the President. In an April 2017 phone call, Comey says the President pressed him to publicly confirm that he (Mr. Trump) is not under investigation related to Russian interference in the 2016 election. “He spoke for a bit about why it was so important,” Comey recounted, saying the President feared it was overshadowing the work of his new administration. “They keep bringing up the Russia thing as an excuse for losing the election,” Comey wrote. Then Comey said the President pressed him again. “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing you know,” Comey quoted Mr. Trump. In a footnote to his own memo, Comey seems perplexed as to what the President was referring to.

10. The release may on spur more questions. Republicans in the House had been pressing for the release of these memos from Comey for months, convinced that they would show wrongdoing by the former FBI Director. Instead, the full memos added more context to what was going on during the first few months of the Trump Administration with regards to the Russia investigation, and seemed to give more hints about what the FBI knew of the Steele Dossier, and how Trump officials were worried about who was being investigated.

11. Comey tells Trump he doesn’t leak. And then he did. One cannot miss the irony of one part of the Comey memos, in which the former FBI Director tells Trump that he doesn’t leak. “I said I don’t do sneaky things,” Comey wrote about their late January 2017 dinner. “I don’t leak. I don’t do weasel moves.” Obviously, after Comey was fired in May, he did leak portions of these memos, through a friend of his, who gave them to the New York Times. Critics of Comey were having a field day with exactly that.

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