The Justice Department on Thursday complied with a congressional request to send them copies of the memos that former FBI Director James Comey wrote about his interactions with President Trump, at least one of which Comey subsequently had a friend leak to the New York Times last year after his firing.
The memos, which Comey has said he wrote to document the interactions in case Trump lied about them later, include private conversations in which the president admits he believes his then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn "has serious judgment issues."
Trump fired Flynn a month after making the comments to Comey early last year after White House officials determined that he misled them about his Russian contacts during the transition period following Trump’s surprise election.
One memo also recalls in detail Trump's repeated request for Comey's loyalty and his expressed desire for the swift conclusion of the Russia investigation. Comey wrote that Trump told him in that context that "he needed loyalty and expected loyalty," according to one of the memos.
In response, Comey wrote that he did not "reply or even nod or change my facial expression," which he believed left Trump unsettled because the president returned to the same point later in the conversation.
Comey also expanded on his earlier assertions that Trump was deeply concerned about the salacious information accusing him of cavorting with prostitutes in a Russian hotel, an allegation in the so-called "Steele Dossier" funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The Washington Free Beacon employed Fusion GPS for political opposition research during the presidential primary campaign but had no involvement in the Steele dossier.
"There were no prostitutes," Comey recalls Trump repeating to him.
In addition, Comey recalls how Trump quizzed him about former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s political leanings and whether he would resent Trump's campaign statements questioning his role in the Hillary Clinton email investigation. While campaigning, Trump openly questioned the propriety of McCabe playing a leading role in the Clinton email probe because of his wife's run for Democratic state Senate in Virginia and the hundreds of thousands of dollars she received from groups affiliated with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of the Clintons.
Those donations came at the same time McCabe was involved in helping lead the Clinton email investigation.
Comey tried to assure Trump that McCabe is a "true professional and had no problem at all."
"I then explained what FBI people were like, that whatever there [sic] personal views, they strip them away when they step into their bureau roles and actually hold ‘political people' in slight contempt, without regard to party," Comey recalled explaining to the president.
On a separate occasion, Comey responded to Trump's concerns about McCabe by noting, "If he had to do it all over again, I’m sure he would urge his wife not to run."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe last month after the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility and the Office of Inspector General had found that McCabe made an unauthorized disclosure to the media and "lacked candor—including under oath—on multiple occasions," according to the Justice Department.
Ironically, in one of the memos, Comey recalls how he stressed, during a late January 2017 dinner with Trump that he didn't "leak, I don’t do weasel moves," but that he was also not on "anybody's side politically and could not be counted on in that traditional political sense."
Trump then asked him if the FBI leaks, to which Comey responded, "Of course in an organization of 36,000 we were going to have some of that," but stressed that the agency "leaks far less than people often say."
Comey would go on to orchestrate the leak of at least one of the memos to the New York Times.
The Justice Department provided the memos to several members of Congress Thursday after the chairmen of three relevant committees last week threatened to subpoena the documents. Congress swiftly leaked the memos, and the Associated Press posted them online.
Republican Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Devin Nunes, and Trey Gowdy—the committee chairmen who demanded the memos' release to Congress—Thursday night issued a joint statement arguing that the memos reveal Comey as a partisan who was most concerned about protecting himself.
The chairmen said the memos also show that Comey never felt "obstructed or threatened" in his work even as he went to "great lengths to set dining room scenes, discuss height requirements, describe the multiple times he felt complimented, and myriad other extraneous facts."
The chairmen also argued that the memos show Comey had two different standards for his interactions with high-ranking administration officials.
"He chose not to memorialize conversations with President Obama, [former] Attorney General Lynch, Secretary Clinton, [former FBI Deputy Director] Andrew McCabe or others, but he immediately began to memorialize conversations with President Trump," they said in their statement.
The chairmen also took issue with Comey’s decision to orchestrate a leak of at least one of the memos, through a friend, to the New York Times after his firing.
"Former Director Comey leaked at least one of these memos for the stated purpose of spurring the appointment of Special Counsel, yet he took no steps to spur the appointment of Special Counsel when he had significant concerns about the objectivity of the Department of Justice under Attorney General Loretta Lynch," the lawmakers wrote.
"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," they concluded.
Assistant Attorney Stephen Boyd wrote a letter prefacing the memos noting that the department had send a redacted unclassified version of the memos and would subsequently send the classified versions.
Boyd said that the department had "consulted relevant parties" and had determined that releasing the memos would not adversely impact any ongoing investigations, including Special Counsel Robert Meuller’s ongoing probe into ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Comey told CNN Thursday that he’s "fine" with the Justice Department’s decision to hand over his memos to members of Congress.
"I think what folks will see if they get to see the memos, is [that] I've been consistent since the very beginning, right after my encounters with President Trump, and I'm consistent in the book and tried to be transparent in the book as well," he said.