"I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation," President Donald Trump wrote in a letter to James B. Comey, director of the FBI. "I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau."
That sentence was the political bomb that caused the media, pundits, and many Americans to scratch their heads. Would Comey really give the President such assurances? Many people were dubious, saying it was unlikely to have occurred in the way the President described. “We typically do not answer that question,” acting director of the F.B.I., Andrew G. McCabe recently said. The Justice Department allows officials to inform people whether they are or are not being investigated. Typically prosecutors, not members of the FBI, have those types of discussions.
This morning, the Senate Intelligence Committee published Comey’s prepared testimony which he'll deliver Thursday morning... and politicos are delving into it like the next best-selling novel. There are some interesting tidbits in the document. For example, it reveals that Comey apparently had anticipated that Trump might ask him directly during their conversations if Trump was the subject of any investigations. Comey prepared for what could be an awkward conversation by getting advice from others on "how to delicately sidestep the question." Former officials told the New York Times that they didn't know how Comey ultimately handled the conversation.
Now we know.
According to the NYT, Comey confirms Trump's story. "'During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance,' Comey wrote in his prepared remarks. Subsequent assurance came during phone calls on March 30 and April 11." Here's the pertinent part of the written remarks:
I explained [to Trump] that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, “We need to get that fact out.” (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)
Comey's testimony has become the Superbowl of politics, as reporters wait with bated breath for the political drama that's about to unfurl. However, when President Trump was asked about the upcoming testimony, he simply smiled and said, "I wish him luck.”
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