James Comey will testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Thursday at 10 a.m. EDT. In advance of that testimony, he wrote a statement documenting all of his interactions with Donald Trump, both before the inauguration and after Trump took office, and it is the greatest dry-snitch you have ever read in your life.
The document, which has been made available on the Senate Intelligence Committee website in pdf format, is a seven-page ode to Trump’s creepy attempts at manipulation, domination, bullying and outright obstruction of a federal investigation.
Comey’s word choice and storytelling abilities make the statement worthy of being turned into the world’s greatest tweet thread, complete with intrigue, subliminal shade and the occasional reference to his former boss, for whom Comey obviously has a high degree of respect. Think of the best #BlackTwitter fly-out story you’ve read, and this is 10,000 times better than that:
“Chairman Burr, Ranking Member Warner, members of the committee. Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today,” Comey wrote in the opening of his statement. “I was asked to testify today to describe for you my interactions with President-elect and President Trump on subjects that I understand are of interest to you. I have not included every detail from my conversations with the president, but, to the best of my recollection, I have tried to include information that may be relevant to the committee.”
In other words, he skipped the boring parts and got right to the dirt, which is what we have all been waiting for anyway.
The first meeting that is documented happened on Jan. 6 with then-President-elect Trump, other intelligence-community leaders and Trump’s new national security team at Trump Tower in New York City. The purpose of the meeting was to brief Trump and his team on the findings of an intelligence assessment of Russian efforts to interfere with the election.
After that briefing, Comey remained alone with Trump to advise him of some “personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment.”
In other words, while doing their jobs, they found out some information on the president-elect that could be embarrassing, and rather than put him on the Summer Jam screen, the director of national intelligence told Comey to do it privately to “minimize potential embarrassment to the president-elect.” As Comey wrote:
Although we agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBI’s leadership and I were concerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new president came into office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counterintelligence investigation of his personal conduct.
It is important to understand that FBI counterintelligence investigations are different than the more-commonly-known criminal investigative work. The bureau’s goal in a counterintelligence investigation is to understand the technical and human methods that hostile foreign powers are using to influence the United States or to steal our secrets. The FBI uses that understanding to disrupt those efforts. Sometimes disruption takes the form of alerting a person who is targeted for recruitment or influence by the foreign power. Sometimes it involves hardening a computer system that is being attacked. Sometimes it involves “turning” the recruited person into a double-agent, or publicly calling out the behavior with sanctions or expulsions of embassy-based intelligence officers. On occasion, criminal prosecution is used to disrupt intelligence activities.
You realize Comey is saying that they thought it was possible the Russians were trying to turn Trump, right?
Because the nature of the hostile foreign nation is well known, counterintelligence investigations tend to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to be witting or unwitting agents of that foreign power. When the FBI develops reason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will “open an investigation” on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more about the nature of any relationship with the foreign power so it can be disrupted.
In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI’s leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counterintelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.
This relates to Trump’s assertion in the Comey-firing letter that he had been assured that he was not under investigation, but it also shows that there had been, since before the inauguration, some suspicion that Trump had some funky business going on with the Russians, and the FBI was aware of it.
Comey wrote that after that Jan. 6 meeting, only his first time meeting with Trump, he felt it was important to document the conversation in the form of a memo, which he says he started typing on an FBI laptop as soon as he got in the car after leaving Trump Tower.
The shade comes in when he says that in all the time he worked for President Barack Obama, he never felt compelled to document such conversations—like, ever.
Comey’s next meeting with Trump was on Jan. 27 for a dinner. He said the president told him that initially, he was going to invite Comey’s entire family, but then changed his mind and made it a one-on-one dinner with just the two of them.
Although Comey had already previously been asked by Trump whether or not he would stay on as FBI director (he says he told Trump that he would), Trump again asked him at the dinner if he wanted to stay in his job. Comey recounted:
He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.
My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch.
Your president is a piece of work. Did he really do the whole, “Other people want this job, so whatchu wanna do?” to the director of the FBI? Yes. Yes, he did:
I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the president.
This is Comey letting your president know that he was not here for the bullshit and would not be playing your president’s reindeer games. Of course, your president couldn’t really accept that answer, and so:
A few moments later, the president said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.
At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some presidents have decided that because “problems” come from Justice, they should try to hold the department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.
At that point, Trump backed off, likely realizing he would not be able to turn Comey the way the Russians had turned him (allegedly, of course), and instead began heaping praise on Comey in the way one does when one is trying to backpedal from saying something in a conversation that one regrets. Alas, because the president is the epitome of childish stubbornness, he again attempted to press Comey about his expected loyalty:
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.
I told you this was good. I legit LOL’d at this part. Moving on ...
You know how someone gets accused of something that they are more than likely guilty of, and instead of addressing that particular issue head-on, they deflect by instead attacking the accuser? Of course you do, because Trump does it every single day on Twitter. Apparently he did it at the Jan. 27 dinner as well, and Comey documented it for our entertainment and our enjoyment:
During the dinner, the president returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them. He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen. I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it.
I can just see Trump’s confused face as he contemplated this.
As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.
Yes, Comey. Come through with that tea, honey. We have been waiting for it!
On Valentine’s Day, there was another meeting in the Oval Office that included the vice president, deputy director of the CIA, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, secretary of Homeland Security, attorney general, Comey and, of all people, Jared Kushner.
The president called the meeting to an end and indicated that he wanted to speak with Comey alone. Comey says that everyone got up and left, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner lingered in the room. Uh-oh. Trump had to tell them both, “Nah, it’s cool, just let me holler at my boy real quick,” before they would get out and leave him and Comey alone:
When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the president began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned 5 the previous day. The president began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the vice president. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn flat-out lied, but I already talked about that in a previous post.
The president then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information—a concern I shared and still share. After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him. The president waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed.
The president then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the vice president. He then said, “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.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”
And there it is. The first instance of Trump outright asking Comey to stop the investigation into Flynn’s contacts with the Russians.
Comey says he then left the room, making his “way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the vice president” in the hallway:
I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. 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. I did not understand the president to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.
In other words, Comey is dropping hints that there is something to Flynn’s departure and the controversy surrounding his phone calls.
Comey said that he and others in FBI leadership decided not to tell Sessions, the deputy AG, or the investigative team about the Feb. 14 conversation or the president’s request, and the investigation “moved ahead at full speed” unencumbered by your president’s bullshit.
Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the president’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the attorney general to prevent any future direct communication between the president and me. I told the AG that what had just happened—him being asked to leave while the FBI director, who reports to the AG, remained behind—was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply. For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the president broached the FBI’s potential investigation of General Flynn.
Did Sessions already know what Trump was going to ask Comey? After all, according to Comey’s description of the events, he seemed reluctant to leave the room even after being asked by the president. Is Sessions also complicit in this? Either way, this is a subtweet-ass way of implicating Sessions in his president’s corruption.
Which is hilarious, considering that rumor has it that Sessions offered to quit his job.
Let me just pause and say that it’s hard for me not to read each of these dated entries and start off with “Dear Diary,” because it honestly reads like Comey’s journal of all the horrible things the president did to him while he was FBI director. Think of the Burn Book in Mean Girls, and that is what this statement is, only highly professional and well written in a way that lets you know he’s dissing the fuck out of everyone involved without him uttering one negative word.
I want to be James Comey’s writing style when I grow up.
On March 30, Trump called Comey at the FBI and described the Russia investigation as a “cloud” that “was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country.”
He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to “lift the cloud.” I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.
In other words, “Please baby, please baby, baby, baby, baby, please stop this investigation!”
Then the president asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week—at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the deputy attorney general until we briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, “We need to get that fact out.” (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)”
Bitch, they were on to something! Why would you be worried about having to correct a statement about not having an open case on the president if there was nothing for his crooked ass to worry about? Come through, James Comey.
Trump then tried to clean it up by saying that if some of his homies were doing something wrong, it would be good to find out, but that he himself had done nothing wrong, and he hoped Comey would find a way to get the word out that he was not being investigated.
He finished by stressing “the cloud” that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.
Immediately after that conversation, I called acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia-related matters), to report the substance of the call from the president, and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the president called me again two weeks later.
Comey’s last conversation with Trump happened April 11.
On the morning of April 11, the president called me and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the acting deputy attorney general, but I had not heard back. He replied that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the acting deputy attorney general. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.
Your president was getting antsy, it would seem. Was his suggestion that he call the acting deputy attorney general himself an attempt at a veiled threat? Either way, Comey set him straight by letting him know that was the proper chain of command anyway. It’s like Comey was telling him, “Whatever, man. Just stop calling me, my G.”
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.
That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.
That was Donald Trump doing his very best Smokey from Friday: “He said he gon’ kill bofa us! Let’s stick together!”
We all know that Comey was fired less than a month after that last conversation, and we all suspected that it had a lot to do with the Russia investigation. The statement gives us the confirmation we needed that our suspicions were all true.
Listen. On Wednesday night I went to Trader Joe’s and got all my favorite snacks because at 10 a.m. EDT on Thursday, I will be glued to my television watching the proceedings and sipping on all the tea I know Comey is going to spill once the senators start questioning him.
Feel free to come into the comments and chat with me about what’s going on.
Let’s watch it as a family.