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Comey: Told Trump not personally under investigation, no attempt to interfere in Russia probe

Comey: Told Trump not personally under investigation, no attempt to interfere in Russia probe

If this is all Comey has, it’s not what Democrats had been hoping for

The official statement (pdf.) from James Comey, to be read during the hearing tomorrow, has bombshells — but they are helpful to Donald Trump. The statement is embedded in full at the bottom of this post.

Comey confirms — contrary to media reports — that he told Trump that Trump was not personally under investigation. That’s a pretty big concession considering speculation that Trump himself was under investigation.

Comey also paints a picture of Trump trying to put in a good word for Michael Flynn, but there is no suggestion that anything rising to the level of obstruction of justice was said. Also, Comey made clear that those comments did not relate to the general investigation of Russian interference in the election.

We will have additional analysis shortly.

Here are some key excerpts (mostly) in the order in which they appear, and how they relate to prior media reporting. All emphasis is added.

Trump Not Personally Under Investigation

Comey confirmed — three times in the statement — that he told Trump he was not under investigation. The fact of three such statements was in Trump’s termination letter of Comey, but the media discounted it and cited anonymous sources denying it.

January 6

“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 counter-intelligence 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.”

January 27

“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.”

March 30

“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.””

“Loyalty” – January 27 Dinner

Trump’s alleged demand for a loyalty pledge has received a lot of media attention. Comey says the issue of loyalty came up, but when you read the context, it’s clear that Comey had a predisposition not to trust Trump, and left it vague as to what Trump demanded. You have to read the whole passage, though the media certainly will pull out certain clauses to make it seem more nefarious.

“The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to. 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.

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.

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….

Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. 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.

Flynn Investigation and Russia Probe

It is clear that Comey was uncomfortable with Trump’s personal pitch for Mike Flynn, but there is nothing in Comey’s narrative to suggest a corrupting or unlawful interference.

February 14 Oval Office Meeting – “Let This Go”

This is the “let this go” discussion that was the topic of prior leaks to the media. Interestingly, Comey and his small team decided not to tell anyone else about it, not even AG Jeff Sessions. Perhaps most important, Comey says the Trump comments were only as to Flynn, not as to the Russia probe.

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.”

The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President.

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.

The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General’s role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role.

After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed. The investigation moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team members – or the Department of Justice lawyers supporting them – aware of the President’s request.

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.

March 30 Phone Call

On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He 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….

[Comey assures Trump he’s not under investigation, quoted above]

The President went on to say that if there were some “satellite” associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him.

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.”

April 11 Phone Call

“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.

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.

Assessment

The media will focus on the loyalty issue, and the suggesting of “letting this go” as to the Flynn investigation. But that all had been leaked to the media in advance, so the testimony doesn’t add much. What is significant is that there is no suggestion that Comey considered anything illegal had taken place. Additionally, there is no suggestion that Trump did anything to interfere with the overall Russian counter-intelligence investigation being conducted by the FBI.

No matter how much Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans try to spin it, this was a bad day for those who want Trump thrown out of office.

———————-

James Comey Statement to Senate Intelligence Committee June 8 2017 by Legal Insurrection on Scribd

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Comments

This is kind of sad if we lose this show, I wouldn’t mind 4 years of the media running around screaming ‘Russia!’ and making themselves look like idiots to everyone.

    Petrushka in reply to rdmdawg. | June 7, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Fortunately, the general population of democrats will never give up RussiaGate. It is their 911 Truth, Their BirthGate, Their turn in the McCarthy barrel.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to rdmdawg. | June 7, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Has Branco done a cartoon yet of the MSM, Demcrat Party, and Hillary running around crazy screeching:

    “It’s always ‘Russia, Russia, Russia!”

    ala the Brady Bunch Show quote of
    “It’s always Marcia, Marcia, Marcia?”

    mailman in reply to rdmdawg. | June 7, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    4 years? 8 more like it! 🙂

Connivin Caniff | June 7, 2017 at 2:43 pm

“I hope you can do this or that” is a precatory statement, not a command nor even a mere request. End of story.

Duh.

Now it’s time to go on the offensive:

-Indict clinton
-indict al sharpton (tax evasion)
-indict lois lerner
-grand jury re soros for sedition
-open an investigation into obama’s various treasons so the nation can see the malignant fraud that occupied the highest office
-hold hearings on the recipients of the trillions of dollars of obamas ‘stimulus’ packages
-fire every leftist loon at NPR and PBS

Better hurry up with that impeachment resolution.

CNN think they have Trump after Comeys release, I don’t see how

    Gremlin1974 in reply to gonzotx. | June 7, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    The Power of Belief?

    Because that is all they have.

    “The Big Lie” theory of Adolph Hitler. (The left’s logic is that if it worked for Hilter – or Al Gore – it’ll work for us, re Trump):

    “A propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” Hitler claimed the technique was used by “the Jews” to blame Germany’s loss in World War I on German general Erich Ludendorff, who was a prominent nationalist and antisemitic political leader in the Weimar Republic.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_lie

    Jackie in reply to gonzotx. | June 8, 2017 at 8:01 am

    It wouldn’t matter what Comey said, CNN, MSNBC, Times, Post etc. would say there was a crime. There is just Trump hatred. Zero objectivity. I am not a fan of Trump, but I find myself having to back him because he did nothing wrong.

But….RUSSIA!

Well, tomorrow hasn’t happened yet…

    And by the time tomorrow is yesterday, nobody will still be able to say for certain what Comey said in his testimony. The Republicans will say Trump was just asking for clarification in regard to the investigation, while the Dems will claim that a 70 year old overweight man threatened him like Batman with a bank robber, dangling him from the Oval Office window.

      4fun in reply to georgfelis. | June 7, 2017 at 6:52 pm

      while the Dems will claim that a 70 year old overweight man threatened him like Batman with a bank robber, dangling him from the Oval Office window.
      ———————
      I’d be ok with that.

Any thoughts on these question.

1. Does everyone agree that an Attorney general could tell FBI that he has decided to exercise prosecutorial discretion and will not prosecute target X and order the FBI to drop it’s investigation of Target X and that in general.such action by Attorney general would not be obstruction of justice.

2. Since the doj is an executive branch function and the president is the constitution’s sole unitary executive could not the president tell the attorney general and FBI that he has decided to exercise prosecutorial discretion regarding target X and target X will not be prosecuted and order FBI to stop investigation of Target X and in general this would not be obstruction of justice. In general circumstances wouldn’t this be perfectly lawful exercise of presidential executive powers?

    dmi60ex in reply to garybritt. | June 7, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Gary Britt I was not trying to downvote you just big fingers.
    The deciding factor would be whether it was a corrupt action.
    A President demanding an investigation of himself quashed may rise to that .
    What Trump did may show a situational awareness problem but not obstruction.

      So you agree that in general a president may order the exercise of prosecutorial discretion and that a specific target not be prosecuted.

      If the president has the power to order prosecutorial discretion then how could the suggestion that the FBI consider using prosecutorial discretion ever be illegal or a crime?

Because RUSSIA Gary!!!!!

Truth shall not be heard today, already CBS calling Comeys opening statement a “bombshell”

Meme for the next 3 years

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