Former FBI Director James Comey documented his conversations with President Trump in seven memos (15 pages in all) produced in redacted form by the Department of Justice to Congress last week. I am embedding them below. I want to offer a few, mostly obvious notes and queries on the memos. I think they warrant your attention. Except as part of the perpetual Trump hatefest on CNN and MSNBC, insufficient attention has been paid to the memos. I urge you to take a look and draw your own conclusions.
1. These memos were requested by Congress last year and should have been released long ago. Why were they kept under wraps for so long? I haven’t seen a good explanation.
2. I think that President Trump has fairly observed the Comey memos demonstrate “NO COLLUSION” and “NO OBSTRUCTION.” The New York Times’s Michael Schmidt mostly overlooks this aspect of the memos, for example, in his six takeaways. By contrast, Politifact argues expressly to the contrary while giving Trump a Pants on Fire rating. I rate Politifact Pants Full of It.
3. One of the headings of Schmidt’s six takeaways asserts that the Steele Dossier’s allegations were corroborated. That is not quite right. Comey makes the assertion in the context of his justification for briefing Trump on the dossier’s most lurid story. Comey asserts: “I explained that the analysts from all three agencies agreed it was relevant and that portions of the material were corroborated by other intelligence.” Portions of the material were corroborated — that’s it. What portions? Comey hasn’t said and we don’t know, although he has testified under oath that the dossier was “salacious and unverified.” (Politifact argues with this point as well.) I think the “corroboration” to which Comey was referring is the intelligence assessment that Russia sought to interfere with the presidential election. Big whoop.
4. Comey’s reference to “corroboration” reflects Comey papering the record to justify himself. It is the weasel defending his weaselly actions. Mollie Hemingway establishes this point to my satisfaction in “Comey dossier memos indicate briefing of Trump was a setup.” Incidentally, did Comey know that the dossier was procured and paid for by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign? We know that he didn’t tell Trump that it was.
5. The memos convict Comey in his own words. He quotes himself telling Trump: “I don’t do sneaky things, I don’t leak, I don’t do weasel moves.” Yet Comey turned over four of the memos to his Columbia Law School friend Daniel Richman to be leaked to the New York Times. He is sneaky, he leaks, he does weasel moves.
6. Comey characterizes the memos as his personal property. Yet they were prepared on the clock in his capacity as FBI Director to memorialize conversations held with the president in his official capacity. If those memos are his personal property, I’ll eat my hat.
7. Four of the memos are marked classified. Comey may have turned over classified information to Richman. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Department of Justice Inspector General is probing Comey’s conduct on this point. Neither the facts nor the law is clear to me on this point. See the excellent columns by Jonathan Turley (the column needs some editing) and Eric Felten.
8. When he testified before Congress under oath, Comey failed to name Richman. He simply described him as his friend on the faculty at Columbia Law School — the friend to whom he had given a memo to be leaked to the Times and arouse a furor that would lead to the appointment of a Special Counsel. I infer that Richman was not representing Comey at the time that Comey gave him the memos to be leaked to the Times. Why didn’t Comey leak the memo(s) himself? We still don’t know.
9. Richman has since turned up as one of the attorney’s representing Comey in his dealings with the Special Counsel. Hillary Clinton taught the old dog some new tricks. Nobody here but us chickens!
10. Is the president entitled to the confidentiality of conversations with the senior officers of his administration? I think he is. Comey does not. Comey is unconstrained by the rules that govern mere mortals.