The Comey Question

james-comey Jun 13, 2017

Why did Comey want a special prosecutor?

That’s the question to which I keep coming back.

From AG Sessions’ testimony today (I transcribed this short section):

COTTON: Do you know why Mr. Comey mistrusted President Trump from their first meeting on January 6th? He stated last week that he did but didn’t state anything from that meeting that caused him to have such mistrust.

SESSIONS: I’m not able to speculate on that.

That echos a question I had after reading through Mr. Comey’s testimony. Here’s a compilation of parts of his testimony last week (archive):

WARNER: I want to go through a number of the meetings that you referenced in your testimony, and let’s start with the January 6th meeting in Trump Tower, where you went up with a series of officials to brief the President-elect on the Russia investigation. My understanding is you remained afterwards to brief him, on again, “Some personally sensitive aspects of the information you relayed.” Now you said after that briefing you felt compelled to document that conversation that you actually started documenting it as soon as you got into the car.
. . .
COMEY: A combination of things. I think the circumstances, the subject matter, and the person I was interacting with. Circumstances, first, I was alone with the president of the United States, or the president-elect, soon to be president. The subject matter I was talking about matters that touch on the FBI’s core responsibility, and that relate to the president, president-elect personally, and then the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting so I thought it important to document. That combination of things I had never experienced before, but had led me to believe I got to write it down and write it down in a very detailed way.

RUBIO: The president’s wishes were known to them, certainly by the next day when he had a press conference with the prime minister. Going back, the three requests were, number one, be loyal. Number two, let the Mike Flynn thing go. He is a good guy, been treated unfairly. Number three, can you please tell the American people what these leaders in congress already know, which you already know and what you told me three times, that I’m not under personally under investigation.

COMEY: That’s right.

KING: Back to Mr. Flynn. Would the — would closing out the Flynn investigation have impeded the overall Russian investigation?

COMEY: No. Well, unlikely, except to the extent — there is always a possibility if you have a criminal case against someone and squeeze them, flip them and they give you information about something else. But I saw the two as touching each other but separate.

COMEY: I asked — the president tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I better hope there’s not tapes. I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night because it didn’t dawn on me originally, that there might be corroboration for our conversation. There might a tape. My judgment was, I need to get that out into the public square. I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. I asked a close friend to do it.

So, to reiterate:

  1. Mr. Comey decided the first meeting to keep a record of every conversation with President Trump. Because of the “FBI’s core responsibility” and the “nature of the person.”
  2. Mr. Comey told President Trump 3 times that he wasn’t under investigation.
  3. Mr. Flynn wasn’t an integral part of the Russia investigation.
  4. Mr. Comey leaked information to the NYT through a surrogate. This was because he wanted a special counsel.

There’s more random stuff from this testimony. The issue wasn’t big enough for Mr. Comey to open an investigation within the FBI. President Trump’s only “interference” was with Mr. Flynn. And, even that was a bit tepid, at best. So, why did Mr. Comey want to provoke a special counsel?

I’m still left wondering if the primary reason Mr. Comey wanted a special counsel was simply that he didn’t like President Trump.