Fired FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee this morning that he began taking contemporaneous notes of his conversations with President Donald Trump because, after an initial Jan. 6 meeting before Trump took office, “I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting.”
Comey also addressed Trump’s May 12 tweet, shortly after firing Comey, that “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
Said Comey today: “I’ve seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who dined with Trump at the White House on Tuesday night, got a five-minute round of questions with Comey and first zeroed in on Comey’s account of Trump asking him to drop an investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Comey called it “disturbing” that the president would raise the matter. While Trump expressed it as a mere “hope” that investigators would “let this go,” Comey said: “I took it as a direction. This is the president of the United States with me alone saying ‘I hope’ this.”
Rubio followed up on that conversation.
“At the time, did you say anything to the president about ‘That is not an appropriate request’ or did you tell the White House counsel that it’s not an appropriate request, someone needs to go tell the president that he can’t do these things?” Rubio asked.
“I didn’t, no,” Comey replied
“Why?” Rubio asked.
“I don’t know,” Comey responded. “I think the circumstances were such that I was a bit stunned, didn’t have the presence of mind and, I don’t know, I don’t want to make it sound like I’m Captain Courageous. I don’t know, if I would have had the presence of mind, I would have said to the president, ‘Sir, that’s wrong.’ I don’t know whether I would have. But in the moment, it didn’t come to my mind. What came to my mind was ‘Be careful what you say,’ and so I said I agree Flynn is a good guy.”
Rubio also pressed Comey to clarify that he perceived Trump’s “let this go” request as being limited to Flynn and not the broader investigation of Russian meddling.
“So in essence the president agreed with your statement that it would be great to have an investigation if all the facts came out and you found nothing. He agreed that that would be ideal, but ‘this cloud is still messing up my ability to do the rest of my agenda.’ Is that an accurate assessment?” Rubio asked.
“Yes, sir,” Comey agreed. “He actually went farther than that. He said ‘And if some of my satellites did something wrong, it would be good to find that out.'”
Rubio said Trump’s requests of Comey boiled down to three things. He wanted the FBI chief’s “loyalty,” wanted him to drop the investigation of Flynn and wanted Comey to publicly declare that Trump himself wasn’t the target of an investigation.
Comey had given that assurance privately to the president and to a so-called “Gang of Eight” congressional leaders.
“This investigation is full of leaks left and right,” Rubio said. “We’ve learned more from the newspapers sometimes than we do from our open hearings for sure. Did you ever wonder why, of all the things in this investigation, the only thing that’s never been leaked is the fact that the president was not personally under investigation, despite the fact that both Democrats and Republicans in the leadership of Congress knew that and have known that for weeks?”
Said Comey: “I don’t know. I find matters that are briefed to the Gang of Eight are pretty tightly held in my experience.”