We should probably assume at this point that there’ll be a Trump-related bombshell dropped by some major paper or another around 5:30 p.m. every weekday until the end of time.
Reading this, I had two quotes in mind from the past week of Comeymania. One was from lawyer and Comey pal Benjamin Wittes: “One of the problems that Trump created for himself in removing Jim Comey is that he dramatically increased the list of things that Jim Comey is now allowed to talk about.” The other is this, from a former DOJ spokesman:
One thing I learned at DOJ about Comey: he leaves a protective paper trail whenever he deems something inappropriate happened. Stay tuned. https://t.co/sENlYyhL5B
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) May 12, 2017
And now here we are.
Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence an ongoing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations…
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”…
Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.
The White House denies it, of course. If only there were Oval Office recordings of the conversation that could prove who was telling the truth!
Here’s another nice detail:
Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.
Worth noting: The Times hasn’t actually seen a copy of the memo. One of Comey’s “associates” read it to the reporter over the phone. That seems dodgy, but you won’t have to wonder for long about “fake news” or anonymous sources here. Comey will obviously be subpoenaed by some congressional committee or another and be made to answer under oath if the Times report is accurate. So, I assume, will the people at the FBI with whom he allegedly discussed this at the time.
Why’d he keep it a secret, “even from the F.B.I. agents working on the Russia investigation” if the Times is correct? Supposedly he was worried that knowing that the president had asked the Bureau to go easy on Flynn might affect the probe, maybe spooking some agents into thinking twice about digging too deep on Flynn. And why didn’t he resign right away, withholding the reasons for his resignation if need be? The Times doesn’t ask or answer that one but I’d guess it’s because he thought his successor might be more compliant with Trump’s wishes than he was. He wanted to protect the investigation and the best way to do that was to remain in place and keep what Trump allegedly said to him to himself. For awhile.
It is nothing short of amazing that Trump would pull the trapdoor on this guy knowing that Comey had this sort of dirt on him. Either (a) this story is untrue, (b) Trump didn’t realize that leaning on him about Flynn was obstruction of justice, or (c) he did realize it but had a political death wish, or thought maybe the director of the FBI would play ball with him. Whatever the answer, if Democrats controlled the House right now there’s no doubt that subpoenas would be drafted this evening and articles of impeachment prepared, pending Comey’s confirmation that this happened. As it is, the GOP’s going to have no choice but to subpoena him themselves. If Comey and the other witnesses say the Times story is true, what then?
One more quote from the past week comes to mind as this inferno starts to roar. When a source “close to Comey” was asked about Trump hinting about tapes last week, he answered, “He hopes there are tapes. That would be perfect.” Gulp, Exit question via Ed: Why did Trump supposedly nudge Comey to go easy on Flynn when he has the power to pardon him himself?
Update: How much worse can it get?
So, it looks like the NYT doesn't have the actual memo(s). Were these leaks an effort to get congress to subpoena them?
— McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins) May 16, 2017
Update: Whichever “associate” of Comey’s read the purported memo to the NYT apparently also read it to the Financial Times.
Update: NBC also claims two sources who confirm the existence of the memo. They haven’t seen it either, though. How come? Whoever’s reading it to reporters could presumably redact the “cc” list, if that’s the concern, and send hard copies to the media.
Update: This is an … interesting view for a guy with subpoena power to hold:
What Senate Intelligence Chairman Burr told reporters a few minutes ago, when asked if he'd try to get the Comey memo. pic.twitter.com/oEfnk9VPiO
— Elana Schor (@eschor) May 16, 2017
Update: WaPo also hasn’t seen the memo but “associates” of Comey tell them it’s two pages long and “highly detailed.”
Update: Consciousness of guilt? Tapper’s source claims that Trump asked Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions to leave the room before he made his request to Comey to go easy on Flynn.
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) May 16, 2017
Update: A bad sign.
Update: Here we go. Oversight Committee chairman:
.@GOPoversight is going to get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.
— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) May 16, 2017
Remember, Chaffetz is retiring from the House next year. He has less to lose than other committee chairs from crossing Trump.