It’s obvious from the way Trump acts that he thinks he’s been made by electoral fiat into an emperor rather than a servant of the American people. It’s also obvious he has no regard for the rule of law unless it is completely dedicated to imposing the goals of his authoritarianism. This week has been a memorial to Trumps ongoing incompetence culminating [we hope] in the public testimony of former FBI Director, James Comey on Thursday. Comey’s prepared testimony has been released and it is a page turner.
A few excerpts:
“The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge of the material and its imminent release from the President-Elect; and (2) to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could blunt
any such effort with a defensive briefing.
The Director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portion of the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the material implicated the FBI’s counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I would do it alone to minimize potential embarrassment to the President-Elect. Although we agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBI’s leadership and I were concerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new President came into office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence investigation of his personal conduct… “
So the Intelligence Community [IC] was doing Trump a solid. They could have let the story spin up in all the sound and fury Hillary’s oppo research team could muster, but they did what they felt was the right thing for an incoming President. Their role then seemed to take a curious turn on January 27.
The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.
It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks. 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. At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because “problems” come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.
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. 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.
As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.
So, there are two instances where Comey protected the President from his own incompetence. The first, the “defensive briefing” about the “golden shower” tapes, and second the suggestion that any further investigation might lead to a corroboration of the entire contents of the Steele Dossier, leading to results the President might not appreciate in the final analysis. His reward? Being fired. This is what anyone can expect from dealing with Donald Trump. He’s an amoral malignant narcissist with delusions of grandeur. I expect that sort of behavior from him. I expect more from the people around him who are responsible to the Public Trust. We can see a clear pattern of enabling Trump’s lawlessness in the close circle of appointees in power at the White House. They ameliorate his lies, abet his toxic and racist policies and look the other way while he and his family loot the taxpayers money.
James Comey should be fired for failing to make it abundantly clear his independent role in the government in upholding the law. He was tainted and untrustworthy from the first briefing. The corruption has seeped so far into US politics, there are no longer any checks and balances or accountability to the people.
Frankly, I’m at a loss to know what the way back is and it makes me sad that I’ve seen this great country come to this sorry state of affairs in my lifetime.
edit: The full Comey statement can be found here.