WASHINGTON — In his memos documenting conversations with President Donald Trump, former FBI Director James Comey recounts Trump’s “serious reservations” about then-national security adviser Michael Flynn as well as the President’s concerns about media leaks and Trump’s recollection of Russian President Vladimir Putin telling him that Russia had the “most beautiful hookers in the world.”
The Comey memos provided to Congress on Thursday and obtained by CNN include documentation of seven conversations he had with Trump from January 7, 2017, through April 11, 2017. Four of the notes are classified and have been partially redacted, and three of them are unclassified.
The contemporaneous notes that Comey compiled have already had a major impact: They helped lead to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel, formed the basis of Trump’s constant criticism that Comey is “a leaker” and sparked accusations that Comey provided classified information to a friend.
But the 15 pages that are now public recounting those conversations also provide a glimpse into how Comey and Trump tried to interact and coexist despite what the President described as the “cloud” of the Russia probe, before Comey was fired on May 9, 2017.
The memos were sent to Congress by the Justice Department under pressure from House Republicans, who argue they show why Comey — now in the midst of a high-profile book tour — is not credible and that the memos undercut any possible obstruction of justice case Mueller would pursue against the President for firing Comey.
Late Thursday, Trump tweeted: “James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?”
There are several recurring themes through the conversations: Trump frequently brings up leaks to the media and they discuss trying to find the source of the leaks. Trump also at least twice brought up the “golden showers thing” and said he was concerned even if there was a small chance his wife had thought it was true.
In the January 7 memo, Comey writes that Trump interjected, “there were no prostitutes; there were never prostitutes” about his 2013 trip to Moscow.
In his January 27 conversation with Trump, Comey recounted, in a memo written the next day, that Trump said “the hookers thing is nonsense,” but then later said that “Putin had told him, ‘we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.'”
Comey also writes that the President said on January 27 he had “serious reservations” about Flynn, who soon left the administration and later pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian officials.
Trump explained that his reservations about Flynn’s judgment by discussing a story about a toast to British Prime Minister Theresa May and someone else who Flynn had said called before her after Trump was inaugurated, but Flynn had not told the President.
“In telling the story, the President pointed his fingers at his head and said ‘the guy has serious judgment issues,'” Comey writes. “I did not comment at any point during this topic and there was no mention or acknowledgment of any FBI interest or contact with General Flynn.”
The unclassified memos include the now-famous conversation Trump had with Comey where he told Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”
“I replied by saying, ‘I agree he is a good guy,’ but said no more,” Comey writes.
In the February 8 memo, Comey also recounts a conversation with then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, where he says that Priebus asked him whether it was a “private conversation,” and asked Comey, “Do you have a FISA order on Mike Flynn?”
Comey said that he answered Priebus’ question, but first told him that it was “the kind of question that had to be asked and answered through established channels.”
Trump is also focused on loyalty, as Comey has said in congressional testimony and his book. In their final April 11 conversation, Comey writes that Trump told him: “I have been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing, you know.”
Comey said that he assumed Trump was referring to his previous pledge for loyalty before his inauguration, where Comey responded he would provide “honesty,” and Trump responded, “honest loyalty.”
Trump’s complaints about the “cloud” hanging over him thanks to the Russia investigation were also included in the memos. Comey recounted in his March 30 memo that Trump said he thought he would have won a Obamacare repeal vote if not for the cloud over Russia.
In the same conversation, Trump also suggested he would sue Christopher Steele, the British ex-intelligence officer who wrote the dossier, although he never did so.
The memos provide more detail about Comey’s conversations with Trump regarding the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. As he recounted in his book, Comey writes that Trump referenced “Comey One, Comey Two and Comey Three” when talking about different developments in the investigation during the campaign.
Comey also recounts how he criticized Trump over his answer during the campaign where Trump suggested the US was as guilty as Russia when it came to killings.
“‘You think my answer was good, right?’ I said the answer was fine. Except the part about the killers, because we aren’t the kind of killers that Putin is,” Comey wrote in the February 8 memo. “When I said this, the President paused noticeably. I don’t know what to make of it, but he clearly noticed I had directly criticized him.”
Provided to Congress
The Justice Department sent the redacted version of the memos on Thursday after three Republican House chairmen — Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy and Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes — demanded last week they be provided to Congress.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a response Monday that some lawmakers had already been given access last year. But after Goodlatte threatened to issue a subpoena, DOJ relented, citing “unusual events occurring since the previous limited disclosure.”
The unredacted, classified version of the memos will be made available to Congress to view in a secure setting on Friday, DOJ said.
In a joint statement, Goodlatte, Gowdy and Nunes said the memos “lay bare the notion that former Director Comey is not motivated by animus.” The memos show that the “cloud” Trump told Comey he wanted lifted referred to the salacious and unproven allegations in the opposition research dossier, they say.
“As we have consistently said, rather than making a criminal case for obstruction or interference with an ongoing investigation, these memos would be Defense Exhibit A should such a charge be made,” the chairmen said.
But Democrats see it differently. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said in a statement that the memos show that “Trump’s interference was a blatant effort to deny justice, and Director Comey was right to document it as it happened — in real time.”