The Comey memos: What they reveal
“If you didn’t know better, you’d think House Republicans were trying to sink President Trump,” said Jennifer Rubin in WashingtonPost.com. After months of pressure, GOP lawmakers last week forced the Department of Justice to hand over “the James Comey memos”—the former FBI director’s contemporaneous accounts of his interactions with the president. Republicans thought obtaining and leaking the memos would somehow “be helpful to Trump.” Instead, the memos only prove Comey was telling the truth all along. He details Trump’s demands for “loyalty” and his request that the FBI drop its investigation into then–national security adviser Michael Flynn. He also says the president was obsessed about the “pee tape” described in the Steele dossier, insisting it couldn’t exist because he was a “germaphobe.” This really is an embarrassing own goal for “Trump’s allies in Congress,” said David Graham in TheAtlantic.com. The memos—written before Comey was fired—bolster his credibility and damage Trump’s, which could prove crucial when special counsel Robert Mueller releases his findings.
I’m not so sure, said Byron York in the Washington Examiner. The memos show that Comey told Trump about the “golden showers” allegation during their first meeting together—whereupon the salacious story almost immediately appeared in the media. Could it be that the president thought Comey was trying to blackmail him? When Trump later asked Comey for “loyalty,” perhaps he was asking for Comey to assure him of “the confidentiality” an FBI director must provide. Comey’s memos actually undermine the former G-man’s story, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. He assured Trump he wasn’t a leaker, yet later leaked some of his memos so they’d wind up in the press. Comey also admits Trump “urged” him to investigate the pee-tape allegation, to prove it was untrue—undermining the argument that he was pressuring Comey to obstruct justice.
Oh, please, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. To believe Trump wasn’t demanding personal loyalty from Comey, you have to ignore the fact that he has publicly stated many times that he thinks the Justice Department “should be a weapon to protect the president’s interests.” And if Trump’s request for loyalty was “merely an innocuous request,” why has he spent a year denying he ever used that word with Comey? In floating alibis Trump himself “never thought to use,” the president’s defenders really are trying too hard.