And it needs to be asked about by Democrats in tomorrow’s hearing. Comey’s direct testimony can be found here (or near anywhere). It obviously has been carefully crafted and edited. Re-reading it, I realize that it very strongly suggests that Comey’s initial alarm and distrust about Trump — the instance that originally sparked him to write down their conversations — concerns a different, as yet undisclosed matter. But it is right there and upfront, begging to be asked about during Comey’s testimony.
Read Comey’s testimony and it begins with a meeting with President-Elect Trump on January 6th, which required, in part, Comey to advise Trump about the infamous Russian dossier. After the meeting, Comey abruptly and somewhat alarmingly reveals his urgency and need to document what he just heard from Trump:
I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past.
For all of us steeped in this Russian-obstruction of justice saga, it is natural to read this as involving the same thing and, in particular, as involving the Russian investigation detailed in Comey’s subsequent testimony and Trump conversation memos. But . . . go back and read this section of his testimony. There is no suggestion that this memo was inspired by anything to do with the Russian investigation that we are discussing now.
Instead, Comey does not identify at all what is the specific problem encountered during this meeting. He describes the “January 6 Briefing” as called for by the FBI and the Inteligence Community. Comey attends with other high level intelligence officers, the FBI decides that Comey should also meet separately and alone with Trump, there is no description of Trump saying, doing or asking anything that is objectionable, Comey is described as anticipating Trump’s questions and having prepared an official response for them, and Comey admits to volunteering information about Trump’s role in the Russian investigation without Trump asking the question. In short, there is no disclosed or identified criticism — implied or otherwise — concerning Trump’s conduct at this meeting.
Indeed, unlike the rest of his testimony, Comey does not detail any statements by Trump on any matter, and only refers briefly to “President-Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing” (again, alone with Comey). Then, out of the blue, Comey writes this in his testimony:
I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting.
There simply is no explanation in the preceding paragraphs as to why Comey is running out of the Trump Tower to type down his conversation with Trump in the backseat of an FBI car — and, specifically, there is no suggestion that Trump said or did anything relevant in this meeting to the current inquiry regarding the Russian/Trump campaign investigation. Instead, the episode appears to be included to explain why Comey started writing memos after every meeting with Trump without disclosing what it is that Trump said.
This curious omission, obviously, could be hugely important. I hope that the Democratic members are aware of this glaring question that demands to be asked: “Mr. Comey, what did Mr. Trump say or do at your January 6 Briefing that so greatly alarmed you and made you begin to memorialize every conversation with President Trump since then?”