Following explosive reports that former FBI Director James Comey documented a request by President Trump to end an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, members of Congress are now seeking records kept by the former director about his communications with the president.
Given Mr. Comey’s penchant for documenting what he considered to be controversial conversations or requests, there might be a lot to turn over.
The New York Times report cited a memo written by Mr. Comey that said the president asked him during an Oval Office meeting on Feb. 14 to kill the Flynn investigation. The article went on to state that it wasn’t the only interaction between the president and Mr. Comey that the former director felt compelled to memorialize.
Mr. Comey “created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president,” the report states.
The practice of documenting such interactions is hardly a new tactic for Mr. Comey.
As the Justice Department’s deputy attorney general, Mr. Comey in 2005 used emails to his chief of staff to document his objections the Bush administration’s use of certain torture tactics. While Mr. Comey acknowledged in the emails that he approved one 2005 legal opinion which asserted the harsh interrogation techniques were lawful, he tried to raise concerns he had over a second opinion with then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
“I told him it would come back to haunt him and the department,” Mr. Comey wrote in the email of the attorney general.
The episode came to light in 2009 when The New York Times obtained the emails.
So it came as no surprise that Mr. Comey, who was fired last week, had similarly documented concerns with the Trump administration, said Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman under Attorney General Eric Holder.
“I thought it was a very instructive lesson about Jim Comey,” Mr. Miller told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC of the 2009 email story.
Referencing Mr. Trump’s reported requests that Mr. Comey pledge loyalty or confirm that the president was not under FBI investigation, Mr. Miller said it was only a forgone conclusion that the meticulous former FBI director would have documented those interactions as well.
“Both of those are incredibly inappropriate things for the president to do,” Mr. Miller told MSNBC. “Seemed like a natural conclusion to draw that Jim Comey would have memorialized this somehow in case he ever needed it.”
Both the House Oversight Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee have now asked for copies of Mr. Comey’s memos. The House committee limited its request to “all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the president.”
The Senate committee went a step further, requesting all memos by Mr. Comey “memorializing interactions he had with Presidents Trump and Obama, Attorneys General Sessions and Lynch, and Deputy Attorneys General Rosenstein, Boente and Yates regarding the investigations of Trump associates’ alleged connections with Russia or the Clinton email investigation.”
It’s unknown how far back the former FBI director’s note-taking habit spans, but Mr. Comey certainly isn’t the first FBI director to do so.
A set of FBI Director Robert Mueller’s own notes on meetings and notable interactions came to light in 2007, confirming a controversial account given by Mr. Comey about another standoff with the Bush administration.
As Mr. Comey testified to Congress, he had in 2004 refused as deputy attorney general to reauthorize the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program. With the program’s reauthorization deadline looming, White House officials sought to go over Mr. Comey’s head and rushed to the hospital bed of ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft to try and get him to sign off on the program. Mr. Comey beat them to the hospital and stood next to the attorney general as he refused to do so.
Mr. Mueller was among those summoned to the hospital that night. While he arrived too late too witness the exchange, he wrote that Mr. Ashcroft was “feeble, barely articulate, clearly stressed.”
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