The Justice Department on Thursday sent Congress copies of the memos that former FBI Director James B. Comey wrote on his interactions with President Trump, moving to head off a looming subpoena from Capitol Hill.
The memos show Mr. Trump, during a private dinner with Mr. Comey, complaining about his then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, saying “the guy has serious judgment issues.”
Mr. Trump also asked Mr. Comey for his loyalty and said he wanted the Russia investigation brought to an end, the memos show. Mr. Trump told him “he needed loyalty and expected loyalty,” Mr. Comey recalled.
Mr. Comey said he “did not reply or even nod or change my facial expression, which [Mr. Trump] noted because we came back to it later.”
Mr. Trump also disputed the salacious information contained in the so-called “Steele Dossier,” compiled on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
“There were no prostitutes. There were never prostitutes,” Mr. Trump said in response to one of the dossier’s accusations.
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All told, 15 pages were sent to Congress — and then quickly leaked online. Of the 15 pages, 10 contain classified or secret information that has been redacted, either because they reveal intelligence information or foreign relations information.
Copies of redacted versions of the memos were sent to multiple House and Senate committees. Unredacted versions with the classified information included will be sent Friday by secure means, Mr. Boyd said.
Mr. Comey testified to Congress last year that he specifically avoided classified information in some of the memos so the content could be used. “My thinking was if I write in such a way that won’t include anything that trigger classification, that will make it easier to discuss within FBI and government,” he said then.
But that only applied to some of the seven memos. On one of them, Mr. Comey himself wrote a note saying he was marking it at the “Secret” classification level because of the information.
Some of Mr. Comey’s critics have said he could face legal troubles over the memos, since he leaked some of them to a professor friend who then leaked contents to The New York Times.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, who was one of those who received the memos Thursday, said the documents could clear Mr. Comey. He said a key memo that Mr. Comey’s friend shared with The New York Times, which was released as part of the batch, “is clearly marked ‘UNCLASSIFIED.’”
SEE ALSO: James Comey memos show awareness of Andrew McCabe conflict
But Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, gave a different version of events earlier this year. He said Mr. Comey wrote seven memos, four of them were classified, and four were given to the friend. That, Mr. Grassley said, means “at least one” of the memos the former director gave to his friend was classified.
Two of the four classified memos are labeled at the “Secret” level and two are labeled “Confidential.”
Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy — committee chairmen who prompted the memos’ release — said they exposed Mr. Comey as a partisan brawler. Mr. Comey never wrote in the memos that he felt hindered in his work, they said.
“While former Director Comey went to great lengths to set dining room scenes, discuss height requirements, describe the multiple times he felt complimented, and myriad other extraneous facts, he never once mentioned the most relevant fact of all, which was whether he felt obstructed in his investigation,” the chairmen said in a joint statement.
They also said it was “significant” that Mr. Comey immediately began tracking his conversations with Mr. Trump, but never took that step with his then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe or Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, about whom he had expressed concerns as politically tainted.
They also said Mr. Comey’s “animus” toward the president is laid bare.
“He was willing to work for someone he deemed morally unsuited for office, capable of lying, requiring of personal loyalty, worthy of impeachment, and sharing the traits of a mob boss. Former Director Comey was willing to overlook all of the aforementioned characteristics in order to keep his job. In his eyes, the real crime was his own firing,” the three Republicans concluded.
But Mr. Cumming said Thursday night that the memos back up what Mr. Comey has said — that the president wanted the Russia investigation to end, and that he wanted Mr. Comey’s loyalty.
“President Trump’s interference was a blatant effort to deny justice, and Director Comey was right to document it as it happened — in real time,” Mr. Cummings said.
Congress had asked for the memos earlier this week but Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said more time was needed for the redactions.
Mr. Comey said he wrote the memos because he was concerned about his interactions with Mr. Trump and wanted contemporaneous records. After he was fired last May, he gave those memos to a friend who works as a law professor at Columbia University. The friend leaked the memos to The New York Times, which were the basis for a story on the difficult relationship between Mr. Comey and the president.
Appearing on CNN on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Comey said he was “OK” with the memos being released.
The memos are viewed as an important part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Mr. Mueller is looking into whether Mr. Comey’s firing was an attempt to undermine an investigation into Russian meddling.
The memos were released to head off a looming subpoena from Mr. Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Also this week, a group of conservative lawyers asked the Justice Department to bring charges against Mr. Comey along with other Obama administration officials who were part of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails.
The Justice Department handed over the Comey memos faster than other recent Congressional document requests.
Last week, it handed over document related to the Clinton email investigation to the House Intelligence Committee after Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican, threatened to impeach Mr. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray over the delay.
The Justice Department said it was slow to comply because of the volume of documents and number of reductions needed.
The Judiciary panel is still awaiting nearly 1.2 million documents from the Justice Department relating to the FBI’s decision not to charge Mrs. Clinton in the email probe and the application to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at email@example.com.
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