It turned out to be just the two of them

Comey’s statement is out.

He first met Trump on January 6 “to brief him and his new national security team on the findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election.” He calls the details salacious so I guess that’s the stuff about the water games in the hotel bed purportedly once slept in by the Obamas.

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.

He then explains that it’s important to understand that intelligence investigations aren’t primarily about prosecution, they’re about discovering methods and personnel and about disrupting efforts by hostile foreign powers to fuck us up. [not his exact wording]

Comey and the gang discussed whether he should assure Trump they weren’t investigating him, and decided he should if circumstances warranted. Comey decided they did so he did.

I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) – once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.

Quiet, but pointed.

Then there was that dinner. Trump called him at lunchtime one day and said come to dinner tonight, just you, I’ll invite you and the whole family 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.

Does that sound awkward enough? Especially when you remember that it’s not normal or appropriate for presidents to be all buddy-buddy with FBI directors? Not to mention when you remember that it’s Trump.

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.

That’s a nice way of putting it – an effort to create some sort of patronage relationship. It’s so Trump.

I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my tenyear 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.


He then explained to Trump “why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House.” Naturally (though Comey doesn’t say so) this had no effect whatever.

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.

It’s old news, but it’s still gobsmacking that Trump thinks he gets to demand loyalty from people who work for all of us. It’s still staggering that Trump apparently thinks of everyone in the executive branch as basically his employee, who has to do whatever Trump commands. It’s still nauseating that he always always always thinks it’s all about him.

There’s more, but that’s enough to digest for now.

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