Why Trump should be very afraid of James Comey’s memos

Four days ago, President Trump threatened former FBI director James B. Comey. He dangled the prospect that there were tapes of their conversations, suggesting he might use them if Comey leaked information to the press.

James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

 

 

It turns out Comey has his own records of those conversations. And that should make Trump very worried.

The Washington Post has confirmed the existence of contemporaneous notes from February in which Comey wrote that Trump had asked him to close the investigation into Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and instead focus more on leaks to reporters. The White House is denying the account.

Here's the gist:

“I hope you can let this go,’’ Trump said, according to the Comey notes, which were described by associates. Comey’s written account of the meeting is two pages long and highly detailed, the associates said. The details of Comey’s notes of the meeting were first reported by the New York Times.

Officials have previously said that Trump and his senior staff have been pressing the FBI to prioritize leak investigations over the bureau’s ongoing probe into possible coordination between Russian officials and Trump associates. On Tuesday, people close to the matter said Comey kept detailed notes of his multiple conversations with Trump.

That last sentence should strike fear into the White House. This one story is significant enough and will lead to more allegations of Trump obstructing justice. Those allegations are already very much in the news thanks to Trump firing Comey — the man leading an investigation into his campaign's alleged ties to Russia — last week.

But the possible existence of a trove of Comey memos may be the real story here. Comey is known to be a pretty meticulous keeper of notes, and CNN's Jake Tapper just reported that Comey kept extensive notes of his conversations with Trump for the precise reason that they made him uneasy — presumably because of Trump making requests such as the Flynn one that crossed a line for Comey.

And the reason Trump tweeted what he did about Comey four days ago is because the New York Times had just reported Trump sought a loyalty pledge from Comey at a dinner shortly after Trump's inauguration. It's difficult not to presume that Comey has notes about this meeting, too.

Former top Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller pretty much called it on all of this about a week ago:

One thing I learned at DOJ about Comey: he leaves a protective paper trail whenever he deems something inappropriate happened. Stay tuned. https://twitter.com/jonathanvswan/status/862846617069780992 

 

 

As the New York Times notes, these memos “are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.” The Times pointed to that famous incident back during the George W. Bush administration when Comey testified that there had been a race to reach the bedside of an ill Attorney General John Ashcroft as the FBI and senior White House officials fought over warrantless wiretapping. When the White House disputed Comey's version, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller's contemporaneous notes were used as confirmation.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, is already calling for Comey's notes to be subpoenaed. If they do see the light of day, we could have a whole lot of stories like the one about the loyalty pledge and Trump asking Comey to shut down the Flynn investigation.

Update: And Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is also talking about subpoenas.

Chaffetz:"I do have ability to unilaterally issue subpoena if need be hopefully if memo exists they will turn it over voluntarily & swiftly"

 

 

The reason we've learned about the Flynn memo appears to be because Comey shared it with others who are providing its details to the news media now. Perhaps other memos weren't shared with others, or not with people who would leak their details to the press. And if those other memos do come to light and show similar exchanges with Trump, that's going to be very difficult for the White House to combat in the court of public opinion.

That's because the notes will have been written before Trump fired Comey, and before Comey had an ax to grind. At that point, the White House would basically have to argue that Comey created a fictitious paper trail without a clear motivation.

There are a lot of ifs and assumptions in the above. We don't know how extensive Comey's notes are, how many of these situations there may have been with Trump or what will come to light. But the prospect of those memos seeing the light of day has to be frightening for a White House that is already taking on water.

 

And for a president who issued a pretty outlandish threat last week, it's a remarkable turn of events.

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Comments (22)

  1. stevehayes13

    The Washington Post and the New York Times – newspapers that have a long and consistent history of promoting disinformation in the interests of the elite. Here’s a funny thing. How come the didn’t publish the memorandum – oh, they did not have it; they have not seen it; an anonymous source claims it exists and says it says so and so. This isn’t news; it is rumour-mongering for the purpose of character assassination.

    May 17, 2017
    1. tjtooter

      your argument is irrational, steve. try again. comey has a reputation for taking meticulous notes and congress wants to see them. you can’t just write off the NYT and WP because you don’t like their spin on current events.

      May 17, 2017
      1. stevehayes13

        I am not being irrational. They reported on this using the source as I described, as you must know if you have read their reports. And I am not writing them off because I do not like their spin. The list of their unethical behaviour is extensive. One example, the Washington Post recently labelled two hundred independent news sites and bloggers as agents of Putin on the basis of nothing more than anonymous sources.

        May 17, 2017
        1. tjtooter

          yes you are. you’re trying to refute the argument by challenging the fitness of the organization presenting the argument , slamming the post, when the story came from the times, in sort of a combination ad hominem and straw man fallacy argument.

          comey took notes. congress wants to see them. it is believed that an obstruction of justice charge can arise from them.

          http://www.politicususa.com/2017/05/16/comey-notes-show-donald-trump-fired-fbi-director.html

          http://www.startribune.com/comey-memo-said-trump-asked-him-to-drop-flynn-investigation-in-february/422624974/

          The documentation of Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and FBI investigation into links between Trump’s associates and Russia.

          Late Tuesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the FBI turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings” of discussions between Trump and Comey.

          Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence an ongoing investigation. An FBI agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

          Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior FBI officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.

          Then-FBI Director James Comey speaks to the Anti-Defamation League National Leadership Summit in Washington earlier this month. The White House is disputing a report that President Donald Trump asked Comey to shut down an investigation into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn.

          SUSAN WALSH, ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE
          Then-FBI Director James Comey speaks to the Anti-Defamation League National Leadership Summit in Washington earlier this month. The White House is disputing a report that President Donald Trump asked Comey to shut down an investigation into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn.
          More
          “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

          Trump told Comey that Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.

          Comey did not say anything to Trump about curtailing the investigation, only replying: “I agree he is a good guy.”

          In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.

          “While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that Gen. Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving Gen. Flynn,” the statement said. “This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

          Members of Congress from both parties escalated calls for Comey to appear before them after Tuesday’s disclosure.

          May 17, 2017
          1. wirelessguru1

            The NYT is fake news.
            WAKE UP!

            May 17, 2017
          2. wirelessguru1

            Look, until we all see the damn notes you are just speculating.
            Can you grasp that simple concept!?

            May 17, 2017
            1. tjtooter

              get a grip. there was a call to impeachment this morning in the house.

              . http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-impeachment-latest-democrat-house-floor-al-green-a7740881.html

              May 17, 2017
            2. wirelessguru1

              That’s just a coup attempt by the demonrats like you who work for the Deep State. YOU wake up and get a grip!

              May 17, 2017
          3. stevehayes13

            And none of your sources have seen the alleged memo. By the way, logical fallacies are not in themselves irrational. And I did not commit any logical fallacies. I simply pointed to their history of disinformation and pointed out that they had not seen the alleged memo. I might further add that if Comey now wishes to claim Trump attempted to obstruct justice, he would be accusing himself of committing perjury before Congress.

            May 18, 2017
            1. This comment has been deleted
            2. tjtooter

              i wasn’t aware that the WP had recently sold to somebody connected to the CIA until you started to kick up a fuss about it.

              what this comes down to is whether the memo exists and if it says what it is alleged to say.

              /// According to a memo written by Comey after the February meeting, the president told Comey “I hope you can let this go.”

              Asked by The Hill if the details in the memo would merit impeachment if they’re true, Amash replied: “Yes.” ///

              http://thehill.com/homenews/house/333803-first-republicans-talk-impeachment-for-trump

              May 18, 2017
      2. wirelessguru1

        Steve is a fool but he is not irrational.
        In contrast you are irrational and way too emotional (like the demonrat snowflakes) based on the many years that I (God) have been researching your mind program here.

        May 17, 2017
        1. tjtooter

          you’re simply not sane, neo. you babble, bubbeh, and get seriously excited whenever anybody calls you out for being full of shit or bat shit crazy. .

          May 17, 2017
          1. wirelessguru1

            No way! You are not sane and that’s why you keep on getting banned from the other web sites. Wake up and stop projecting to Me (God).
            +1 (Neo)

            May 17, 2017
            1. tjtooter

              i think you’re going to change your tune dramatically right now or disappear from my sight forever. it’s very distressing to see a person as messed up as you babbling .

              May 17, 2017
            2. wirelessguru1

              Look, if you are “distressing to see a messed up person babbling” then YOU should stop babbling!

              May 17, 2017
  2. wirelessguru1

    Comey’s memos are going to destroy the Deep State and not Trump! Wake up!!!

    May 17, 2017
    1. tjtooter

      to your delusional world view? thanks, but i think not.

      May 17, 2017
      1. wirelessguru1

        Sorry, but it is your world view that is completely delusional not mine.
        Look, The Deep State, ruling elites and the demonrats are EVIL.
        WAKE UP!

        May 17, 2017
  3. GoldenPig2012

    Don’t be afraid if you are sure of your “rightness”. That’s it, that’s all. I think Trump needs to go away, quickly. But………..he’s the president and he must live and deal with what he does. Just like the rest of us.

    May 17, 2017
    1. tjtooter

      if he does go away, it is most likely going to be in the way nixon went. there will be so much wrongdoing and chaos within his administration, he’ll resign. there has never been a president removed by impeachment. both johnson and clinton were acquitted.

      http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-how-impeachment-works—-and-why-trump-is-safe-for-now-2017-05-17

      Here’s how impeachment works — and why Trump is safe for now
      Published: May 18, 2017 5:06 a.m. ET

      480

      Removing any official, let alone a U.S. president, is rare and hard

      By
      JEFFRY
      BARTASH
      REPORTER

      Getty Images
      Richard Nixon was the last Republican president to face the threat of impeachment. Could President Donald Trump be next?
      WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The nation’s capital is abuzz with talk of impeachment, but President Donald Trump can probably thank the Founding Fathers, and political realism, that his job is safe — for now.

      Impeachment is exceedingly rare. Congress has initiated a mere 62 impeachment proceedings in U.S. history, with 19 cases going to trial and just eight federal officials being convicted.

      Only two presidents, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton some 130 years later, have been impeached. Both were acquitted. No member of the Senate or House has ever been removed via impeachment.

      Richard Nixon is the only high U.S. official who probably would have been removed from office, but he resigned in 1974 after the Watergate scandal when it became clear his presidency was doomed.

      ‘The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.’
      U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 4
      Although the founders wanted a way to remove “obnoxious” federal officials, as Ben Franklin put it, they did not make the process easy.

      First, the House of Representatives has to authorize proceedings. Then a majority is required to impeach.

      Next the Senate is empowered to conduct a trial, with the chief justice of the Supreme Court acting as the presiding officer.

      Two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 senators, are required to convict. That’s a high hurdle for almost any significant bill, let alone impeachment.

      Read: Trump impeachment? Bookies odds increasingly point to an early exit

      Then there’s the political equation.

      Republicans control both chambers of Congress. They are unlikely to pursue impeachment against Trump without overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing in light of how much damage it would do to their own party.

      Indeed, the only time a party controlling Congress sought to impeach a president in its own ranks was in 1868, when Andrew Johnson warred with “radical” Republicans over how to treat the defeated Southern states after the Civil War. In the cases of Nixon and Clinton, the opposition party controlled Congress.

      “The allegations against Donald Trump are not legal issues per se,” said Greg Valliere, chief global strategist at Horizon Investments. “Rather it’s all about the number of votes he can muster in the House and Senate — where, we believe, he has enough support to prevail.”

      Read: No matter what, Trump won’t have record for the shortest term in office

      Trump is under fire amid allegations he tried to persuade former FBI chief James Comey to drop an investigation of Michael Flynn, who briefly served as Trump’s national-security adviser before departing in mid-February.

      Trump fired Comey last week in a controversial move that has raised questions about whether he was trying to obstruct a federal probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election.

      “I think it’s reaching the point where it’s of Watergate size and scale,” said Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona.

      Yet House Speaker Paul Ryan appeared to downplay the Comey report. “It is obvious there are some people out there who want to harm the president,” he said, though adding that members of Congress are “going to follow the facts wherever they may lead.”

      Another potential tool of removal is the 25th amendment, but it’s never been used. The amendment, adopted in 1967, creates a mechanism for Congress to oust a president if supermajorities in the House and Senate conclude a commander in chief is mentally or physically unfit for the job.

      Here’s a snapshot of other impeachment efforts against U.S. presidents:

      Andrew Johnson
      The Republican-controlled House voted on March 2, 1868, to impeach President Andrew Johnson after he resisted efforts to impose strict conditions on the re-entry of defeated Southern states. The Southern-born Johnson had been a lifelong Democrat before joining with Abraham Lincoln on a so-called union ticket in 1864. (Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865.)

      Foes accused Johnson of violating a controversial and short-lived 1867 law, known as the Tenure of Office Act, meant to prevent him from firing cabinet members without Senate approval.

      Johnson was acquitted on four charges in May 1868 by a single vote. He later ran for and won a Senate seat, as a Democrat, in his adopted home state of Tennessee.

      Richard Nixon
      After Johnson, the House did not launch impeachment proceedings against another president for more than 100 years. Republican Richard Nixon was accused of obstruction of justice in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

      The process began in the House on Feb. 6, 1974, and led to the president’s resignation on Aug. 9 before an impeachment vote could be held.

      Although Democrats controlled the House and Senate, Nixon had lost support of top Republicans. Historians believe he would have been the first president to be removed had he clung to office.

      Bill Clinton
      The only other president to face impeachment was Democrat Bill Clinton. The Republican-led House voted on Dec. 19, 1998, to impeach the president on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. The charges stemmed from false testimony about Monica Lewinsky in a sexual-harassment lawsuit filed by another woman.

      After a trial in the Senate, Clinton was easily acquitted on Feb. 12, 1999, in a pair of votes.

      May 18, 2017
      1. GoldenPig2012

        Anything is a possibility in this country, it’s part of why I love it.

        May 18, 2017
        1. tjtooter

          the atlantic just posted an opinion piece with four possible scenarios . resignation, impeachment, rebound or just plod along.

          https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/05/how-will-the-trump-presidency-end/527055/

          May 18, 2017