January 18, 2019

5 Things to Know About the Comey Memos

Former FBI Director James Comey had a series of memos containing notes from conversations he had with President Trump and certain members of his staff. On April 19, the Department of Justice released them all – 15 total – to congressional leaders and they are all now public, albeit with certain words redacted. Here are five things you need to know from them.

1. Comey admits to briefing Trump about the infamous Steele dossier due to media pressure. The memos detail how Comey told Trump that news organizations like CNN had the dossier in their possession but hadn’t published them yet because they “were looking for a news hook.” Comey added that it was necessary to tell Trump about the dossier in order to prevent the media from writing about how “the FBI has the material” and “that we were keeping it close-hold.” A few days later, CNN broke the news about the dossier with the hook that Comey had briefed Trump about it. The dossier contained wildly graphic and lurid allegations that Trump was being blackmailed by the Kremlin with footage of him with Russian prostitutes. These allegations have yet to be verified.

2. Was there a FISA court order against Mike Flynn? In Comey’s recollection of a conversation he had with then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Priebus asked him point-blank if there was a FISA order against Flynn. Comey’s answer was redacted.

3. Did Comey ever do anything about the leakers? Trump was furious that phone conversations he had with the leaders of Mexico and Australia were leaked the media. Comey agreed that the leaks were “terrible” and he was “eager to find leakers and would like to nail one to the door as a message.” Trump later brought up the leaks again and Comey “said something about the value of putting a head on a pike as a message.” Trump then said that reporters should be jailed over the leaks.

“They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend and they’re ready talk,” Trump said, prompting Comey to laugh.

Given Comey’s repeated insistence he wanted to find the leakers, it’s worth asking Comey if he ever actually found them and did anything about them.

4. Trump repeatedly asked Comey about then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and each time Comey defended him. Trump was concerned that McCabe held a vendetta against him for Trump criticizing him over McCabe’s wife taking money from a PAC aligned with then-Virigina Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), a longtime ally of the Clintons. Comey insisted that McCabe didn’t hold a grudge over the criticism and that McCabe was “an honorable person.” McCabe is currently facing a criminal referral over unauthorized leaks to the media and allegedly lying about it.

5. The memos provide a little more context on Trump asking Comey to let Flynn go. Trump did rail against Flynn for failing to tell him that Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first leader to call him after he won the election, which resulted in Trump toasting British Prime Minister Theresa May to being the first foreign leader to call and Flynn had to correct him. Trump added that he had “other concerns” about Flynn and felt like he had to fire him after Flynn purportedly misled Vice President Mike Pence over a phone call he had with the Russians during the transition phase. However, Trump claimed that Flynn hadn’t done anything in his phone call with the Russians and he hoped that Comey would let Flynn go since Flynn had “been through a lot.”

Trump and congressional Republicans did a victory lap over the released memos:

Trump critics like David Frum argued that the Comey memos validated Comey’s beef with Trump.

The memos can be read in full here.