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June 10, 2017

Loyalty: Questions Not Asked

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 2:32 pm

AFP_PD7D0In his prepared Statement for the Record:  Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, June 8, 2017, former FBI Director James Comey recounted a private conversation between President Trump and him over dinner on January 27, 2017.  President Trump used the word “loyalty” several times in talking with Comey.

With absolute predictability the national skews media jumped on the word “loyalty” and its context as attributed to  President Trump and concluded that the President was demanding Comey’s loyalty as a condition of Comey’s keeping his job as Director of the FBI.

Loyalty to what or to whom?  To the Constitution?  To the President of the United States?  To Donald J. Trump?

Nowhere does Comey’s statement reflect that he (Comey) asked this question:  “Mr. President, you’ve mentioned ‘loyalty’ several times tonight.   As President of the United States, what exactly are your expectations for my loyalty as Director of the FBI?  What are your expectations how I will demonstrate the loyalty you describe?”

The questions would have been respectful and reasonable to identify and help resolve any misunderstandings between the President and Comey.   It was irresponsible for Comey not to ask them, especially since in his prepared statement, Comey says, “…, it is possible we understrood the phrase ‘honest loyalty’ differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further.  The term — honest loyalty — had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.”

How did Comey know that Comey’s own explanations had made clear what the President should expect?    How did he know how the President interpreted his explanations?  The answer is that Comey didn’t know.  Comey was afraid to ask the President questions to make sure he understood what the President meant by “loyalty.”  Comey wanted the “awkward conversation” to end.  Comey rationalized that seeking precision and clarity wouldn’t be productive.

In his subsequent sworn personal testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Comey wished that he had been stronger in his conversations with the President.

So do we.   The President and the nation deserved better than James Comey delivered.

 

 

1 Comment »

  1. Perhaps the “loyalty” that President Trump was seeking was for Comey to not “leak” information to the press? If so, Comey showed his true colors by “leaking” information about his privileged conversations with President Trump.

    As early as January 6th, Alex Emmons wrote that President-elect Trump wanted the “leaks” stopped:

    https://theintercept.com/2017/01/06/trump-already-demanding-leak-investigation-and-hes-not-even-president-yet/

    Alex Emmons Story on January 6, 2017, 3:43 p.m.
    PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP isn’t waiting until his inauguration to push for investigations of leaks to the press — an indication that he’ll emulate and possibly surpass President Obama’s practice of criminalizing disclosures to the media.

    Trump on Friday urged Congress to investigate leaks of “top secret intelligence shared with NBC,” in a tweet:

    Donald J. Trump
    ✔@realDonaldTrump
    I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it.
    8:51 AM – 6 Jan 2017

    Comment by Tributary — June 12, 2017 @ 3:32 pm

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