Just a week into his presidency, Donald Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to a private dinner at the White House where he demanded Comey’s loyalty, according to a rather jaw-dropping report in The New York Times.
According to the Times, Comey declined to give him loyalty – only promising the president honesty – and the former FBI director believes it was that moment which set in motion a chain of events that led to his firing this week.
More from the report:
The conversation that night in January, Mr. Comey now believes, was a harbinger of his downfall this week as head of the F.B.I., according to two people who have heard his account of the dinner.
As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.
Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense.
Like just about every damning detail in this scandalous saga, the Trump people are flatly denying it – though, if the past is prologue, it will soon be revealed as truth.
More from the report:
The White House on Wednesday said this account is not correct. And Mr. Trump, in an interview on Thursday with NBC, described a far different dinner conversation with Mr. Comey in which the director asked to have the meeting and the question of loyalty never came up. It was not clear whether he was talking about the same meal, but they are believed to have had only one dinner together.
By Mr. Comey’s account, his answer to Mr. Trump’s initial question apparently did not satisfy the president, the associates said. Later in the dinner, Mr. Trump again said to Mr. Comey that he needed his loyalty.
Mr. Comey again replied that he would give him “honesty” and did not pledge his loyalty, according to the account of the conversation.
The reported private dinner between Comey and the president is alarming for several major reasons.
First and foremost, as The New York Times noted in its story, it suggests that Trump has no idea what the relationship traditionally is between the president and the FBI. A president asking a sitting FBI director – a person supposed to be apolitical – to pledge his loyalty undercuts the
Even more troubling than Trump’s ignorance is that this suggests Trump is fearful of what the FBI may find, so he is asking not for fairness or independence, but loyalty. Comey declined to do so, and he paid the price.
The firing appears to be the first step in Trump’s long-term goal of turning the FBI into an extension of his own political operation – and a short-term effort to put a stop to the runaway train known as the Russia investigation.