Comey and Trump: What a strange series of encounters


Have you read James Comey’s prepared remarks for the start of tomorrow’s hearing? (You can read them over at the NYT site.)

Basically, the statement consists of Comey’s bare-bones account of his uncomfortable interactions with Donald Trump in the months leading up to his firing.

Some bits and pieces:

  • He notes that he decided from the start that he would keep detailed notes on these encounters, starting with writing them on a laptop in his car outside Trump Tower immediately after their first meeting.comey mug
  • That was NOT anything he had felt compelled to do working for Barack Obama.
  • In his years working for Obama, he had only met with the president alone twice — the second time just for the president to say goodbye before leaving office — and never spoken with him alone on the phone. But “I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.” And each one he tells about seems to have made him quite uncomfortable.
  • Even as Comey tried to sidestep the question, Trump asked him repeatedly for his fealty at a private dinner on Jan. 27: “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.” As Comey relates, “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.”
  • When, on Valentine’s Day, Trump asked Comey to back off Mike Flynn, saying “He is a good guy and has been through a lot,” Comey again tried to get through the conversation without compromising himself or his investigation: “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.'”
  • In a conversation on April 11 that sounds like something from “The Sopranos,” Trump appears to make another appeal for loyalty, saying “I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” Comey, with typical understatement, simply notes: “I did not reply or ask him what he meant by ‘that thing.'”

Comey is sparing in his observations, but is clearly disconcerted by these conversations with a boss who has no understanding whatsoever of boundaries or propriety. It’s like reading the account of a very careful, methodical professional who feels trapped in bizarre situations with some volatile, outlandish creature who cannot be expected to act according to the normal patterns of civilized human behavior, like Jabba the Hutt or Baron Harkonnen.

When the account ends with “That was the last time I spoke with President Trump,” one imagines a huge sigh of relief.

Comey doesn’t make value judgments, except for dryly indicating that he had never felt the need to keep a record of his conversations with a president before. But the whole account sounds like a man holding himself back from saying, “WTF?”

2 thoughts on “Comey and Trump: What a strange series of encounters

  1. Mark Stewart

    My second favorite part – after the demand for loyalty – was the way Trump said unprompted that he had not been with “hookers in Russia” as so described in the Dossier. That set off post-Bill Clinton alarm bells to me. There was just something in the narrowness of the protestation that was off – and remarkable. Like that was the best he could do to refute the allegations in the Dossier, even with someone he believed he had a “thing” with/between – or was trying to insinuate there was such a “thing”? Or also that maybe the liaison had happened but he didn’t believe they were “hookers” or that maybe it didn’t happen “in Russia” specifically (like Ukraine or Belarus or NYC)?

    It was just bizarre – and apparent that this Dossier is in fact a major distraction for Trump personally; as if his need to seek assurances he is not under investigation is related to this Dossier maybe first and foremost?

    The other thing it says to me is that the FBI may not be investigating Trump at this point, because the FBI pursues crimes committed in the United States, but the fact that Comey has chosen to include these details of his interactions with Trump around the Dossier – with more specificity than he seems to give to other topics within his testimony (other than the President’s pressure about loyalty and the Michael Flynn requests) – would lead me to presume that these references to something not considered criminal/actionable by the FBI do, in fact, deserve investigation by appropriate bodies in other non-criminal areas; in Comey’s professional estimation. It feels like Comey is practically screaming listen as much to what I do NOT say as to what I do say in this testimony!

    1. bud

      I’m not sure we should read a whole lot into these dossier comments. This could mean anything or nothing. I think it’s likely the whole hookers story is absolutely true. I also think it likely it is a pants on fire lie. Trump is such a uniquely bizarre individual that trying to interpret his words is really an exercise in futility.

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