Apparently, James Comey, while he was still FBI Director, told the attorney general that he did not want to be left alone with the president. According to current and former law enforcement officials, Comey confronted Attorney General Jeff Sessions with the request not to be with Trump alone. Comey believed that Sessions should protect the FBI from White House influence and that private interactions between the director and the president were inappropriate. But Sessions apparently could not guarantee that the president would not try to talk with Comey alone again, the officials said.
What seemed to unravel Comey about his interaction with the president was the request to end the investigation into the former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, who had just been fired by the president. Comey shared his concern about the president’s request with a few close advisers.
This interaction between Comey and Trump will most certainly be at the center of Comey’s testimony on Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Comey will be bombarded with questions especially concerning why he kept the president’s request to finish the Flynn investigation a secret.
The Justice Department usually keeps the White House separate from criminal investigations so that they can avoid even the appearance of political meddling in law enforcement. But the president has injected himself into law enforcement issues several times. His interaction with Comey is the most controversial and the FBI director’s request to not be alone with Trump signals just how much Comey had lost trust in the president.
“You have the president of the United States talking to the director of the F.B.I., not just about any criminal investigation, but one involving his presidential campaign,” said Matthew S. Axelrod, who served in senior Justice Department roles during the Obama administration. “That is such a sharp departure from all the past traditions and rules of the road,” Axelrod said.
While Comey was FBI director, he wrote detailed memos after every major phone call or meeting with President Trump. He left the notes in files when he left the FBI. As special counsel, Mueller now has access to those memos, but the FBI has denied the request from the Senate Intelligence Committee for copies. Most believe that Comey still has copies of the notes and all ears will be listening when he testifies on Thursday. According to other sources, these memos not only describe what Trump said but also details about his tone and even where he was sitting. In one memo, the president asked Comey to pledge his loyalty, but the FBI director refused.
It was two weeks later that Trump asked the vice president and the attorney general to leave the oval office so that he could talk to Comey privately. It was in this meeting that the president said to Comey according to one of his memos, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Why Comey didn’t immediately share this with the Justice Department is certainly going to be at the center of the questioning on Thursday. Why do you think he kept the president’s request a secret? Why do you think he asked not to be left alone again with Trump?
Credit: New York Times