13.4.18

5 eye-popping revelations from James Comey’s book excerpts

Trump was obsessed with the “pee tape,” and more.

Former FBI Director James Comey excoriates President Donald Trump in the first excerpts released from his new book, A Higher Loyalty. Comey describes Trump’s presidency as a “forest fire,” likens the president to a mob boss, and says Trump pressured him more than once to investigate the “pee tape” in previews of the tell-all, which will be released April 17.

Comey does not hold back. Excerpts of the book were published Thursday by the Washington Post, which bluntly says “each chapter can be interpreted as an elaborate trolling of Trump, starting with the title, ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ a subtle reference to the loyalty pledge that Trump sought and did not receive from Comey.”

The book is not just an indictment of Trump and his leadership; Comey also defends his decision to send, less than two weeks before the election, a letter to Congress explaining that the FBI was examining possible new Hillary Clinton emails (which Comey critics argue cost her the election). Here are the five most eye-popping details we’ve learned so far. And let us just say: lordy.

1) Trump was obsessed with the so-called “pee tape”

Comey said he first met Trump in person at an intelligence briefing before the inauguration, which is also where he first briefed Trump about the Steele dossier. The memo, compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and published by BuzzFeed in January 2017, alleges evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Comey writes that Trump was focused on one particularly sordid detail from the dossier: an allegation that a blackmail tape exists of Trump asking prostitutes to pee on a bed in a room the Obamas stayed in at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow. Per the Washington Post:

The president-elect quickly interrupted the FBI director. According to Comey’s account in a new memoir, Trump “strongly denied the allegations, asking — rhetorically, I assumed — whether he seemed like a guy who needed the service of prostitutes. He then began discussing cases where women had accused him of sexual assault, a subject I had not raised. He mentioned a number of women, and seemed to have memorized their allegations.”

The January 2017 conversation at Trump Tower in Manhattan “teetered toward disaster” — until “I pulled the tool from my bag: ‘We are not investigating you, sir.’ That seemed to quiet him,” Comey writes.

Comey said Trump followed up with him after the meeting in a phone call on January 11, saying the “pee tape” couldn’t be real because he’s a germaphobe. “There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me,” Comey recounts Trump saying. “No way.”

Trump complained the allegations were painful to his wife, Melania Trump, and that the logistics didn’t make sense, according to the Post:

The president-elect argued that it could not be true because he had not stayed overnight in Moscow but had only used the hotel room to change his clothes. And after Trump explained that he would never allow people to urinate near him, Comey recalls laughing.

“I decided not to tell him that the activity alleged did not seem to require either an overnight stay or even being in proximity to the participants,” Comey writes. “In fact, though I didn’t know for sure, I imagined the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow was large enough for a germaphobe to be at a safe distance from the activity.”

Comey said Trump brought it up again during their unusual one-on-one dinner on January 27 at which Trump tried to demand loyalty of the then-FBI director:

And then Trump brought up “the golden showers thing,” Comey writes. The president told him that “it bothered him if there was ‘even a one percent chance’ his wife, Melania, thought it was true.” Comey writes that Trump told him to consider having the FBI investigate the prostitutes’ allegation to “prove it was a lie.”

And again on a March 30 call:

“For about the fourth time, he argued that the golden showers thing wasn’t true, asking yet again, ‘Can you imagine me, hookers?’” Comey writes of their March 30, 2017, call. “In an apparent play for my sympathy, he added that he has a beautiful wife and the whole thing has been very painful for her. He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud.’”

2) Comey has some things to say about Jeff Sessions

Comey has documented in contemporaneous memos his interactions with Trump, but in his book, he goes into even more astonishing detail. He describes confronting Attorney General Jeff Sessions about leaving him alone with the president. Here’s how Sessions responded, according to Comey:

Sessions just cast his eyes down at the table, and they darted quickly back and forth, side to side. He said nothing. I read in his posture and face a message that he would not be able to help me.

3) Comey is airing his Trump grievances. Like, really airing them.

Comey said he can’t make a judgment on whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice — but he’s not a fan of what he witnessed during his tenure. “I have one perspective on the behavior I saw, which, while disturbing and violating basic norms of ethical leadership, may fall short of being illegal,” Comey writes.

That’s tame compared to some of his other assessments of Trump:

  • “His face appeared slightly orange with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coifed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his.”
  • “As he extended his hand. I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.”
  • “I stared at the soft white pouches under his expressionless blue eyes. I remember thinking in that moment that the president doesn’t understand the FBI’s role in American life.”

4) Comey says the Trump administration reminded him of his days prosecuting the mob

“The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control,” Comey writes. “The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”

5) Comey defends his handling of the Clinton email investigation — and makes it seem as if everyone else has absolved him too

Comey apologizes to Hillary Clinton, nodding to her own takedown of him in her book What Happened. “I have read she has felt anger toward me personally, and I’m sorry for that,” he writes. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t do a better job explaining to her and her supporters why I made the decisions I made.”

Comey also says President Barack Obama reassured him after the election about his decision to send the letter about Clinton, according to the Post:

Comey writes that Obama sat alone with him in the Oval Office in late November and told him, “I picked you to be FBI director because of your integrity and your ability. I want you to know that nothing — nothing — has happened in the last year to change my view.”

On the verge of tears, Comey told Obama, “Boy, were those words I needed to hear . . . I’m just trying to do the right thing.”

“I know,” Obama said. “I know.”

source: vox

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