Behind closed doors

The Times reported yesterday that Trump is feeling all happy and fighty about the Comey hearing.

President Trump dipped in and out of the small dining room off the Oval Office on Thursday to monitor a television as James B. Comey, the ousted F.B.I. director, told a tortured tale — and to insist to his huddled legal team, “I was right.”

Many Democrats and some legal analysts predicted big trouble for the president after Mr. Comey’s blow-by-blow description to the Senate Intelligence Committee of Mr. Trump’s efforts to steer the investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, behavior they think amounted to obstruction of justice.

But Mr. Trump and many of his aides believe that Mr. Comey’s unexpected admission that he leaked details of private Oval Office discussions to the news media, along with questions he raised about the conduct of Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama’s second attorney general, has given them fresh ammunition for a political counterattack that Mr. Trump badly wants to wage.

Set aside the Loretta Lynch part. I’m interested in the other one. I’m interested in this “admission that he leaked details of private Oval Office discussions to the news media.” How is it an admission? How is it leaking? How were the details private?

Trump forced Comey into those “private” discussions.

First he sprang a surprise same-day dinner invitation on him, by calling him at lunchtime and saying “Are you free for dinner?” Comey didn’t feel able to decline. Trump also tricked him by not saying it would be just the two of them. Comey did not willingly and cheerfully agree to a private dinner with Trump in January.

And then he forced a private Oval Office discussion on him by telling everyone but Comey to leave after a meeting. Comey in no way consented to the privacy of that discussion, and later implored the Attorney General never to let it happen again.

So how does Comey have any obligation to keep those forcibly-private discussions private? It doesn’t work that way. If you kidnap someone, you don’t get any expectation of “privacy” for your shared discussions.

And another thing. Does that sound at all familiar, that invitation to dinner that the underling doesn’t feel able to decline? Does it sound at all like generations of male bosses who invite the female underling for a drink after work? Does it sound at all like priests who get that one choirboy to stay behind after the others have gone home?

The fact that Trump made his Oval Office conversation with Comey private is the very thing Comey cited as the chief reason for taking Trump’s “I hope” as a directive, even though he agreed to RubioRisch’s point that Trump didn’t say “I order you to drop the investigation.” The privacy itself is a smoking gun. It could be a bit stupid for Trump and his people to make a big fuss about the “private” Oval Office discussions that Comey never wanted to have.

Privacy has been a wall concealing abuse of children and women since forever. Mustn’t betray the family secrets! Must be loyal! An exhibitionist narcissist like Trump has only one use for privacy, and that’s nothing to do with executive privilege.

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