On Wednesday, the day before he was set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, former FBI director James Comey’s prepared remarks were posted online. In them, he details several of his interactions with President Trump, and besides confirming a lot of what’s been reported about their relationship, Comey’s seven-page chronicle of bad dinner dates and awkward conversations makes hiding in curtains to avoid the guy seem like a totally rational choice. Here are the cringiest moments he describes.
First, Comey writes that the president totally conned him into a one-on-one dinner date:
The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.
It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.
And they just couldn’t get the conversation to flow …
A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.
Later, Comey had to invent a whole new concept to be allowed to leave the room:
He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.”
“It is possible we understood the phrase ‘honest loyalty’ differently,” he acknowledged, “but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term had helped end a very awkward conversation.” Fair.
Weeks later, on Valentine’s Day, the president held a counterterrorism briefing in the Oval Office. When it was over, Comey tried to leave with everyone else, but Trump “[told] them all that he wanted to speak with me alone.” When his other advisers had left, Trump brought up Flynn:
The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “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.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”
After the meeting, Trump called Comey twice more — the last time was on April 11, when Comey told him to talk to the Attorney General.
He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.”
I guess we’ll never know.