James Comey keeps his receipts. When the Bush administration pursued a warrantless wiretapping program that struck him as unconstitutional, he made sure to keep a written record of his dissent for posterity.
And when Donald Trump asked him to consider ending both the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn — and the First Ammendment as we’ve known it — Comey dutifully did the same. As the New York Times reports:
President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo that Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.
“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.
…Mr. Comey had been in the Oval Office that day with other senior national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When the meeting ended, Mr. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.
Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.”
The White House disputes this account. (But, then, the White House disputes a lot of things.)
Trump’s decision to fire Comey last week sparked widespread concerns that the president intended to undermine the independence of federal law enforcement, so as to kill the ongoing investigation into his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russian hackers. Those concerns were exacerbated by the president’s subsequent decision to say, in a nationally televised interview, “In fact when I decided to just [fire Comey], I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’”
Flynn lost his White House gig after news leaked that he had surreptitiously discussed sanctions relief with Russia’s ambassador while president Obama was still in office, and then (reportedly) lied to Vice-President Pence about it. Since then, the House Oversight Committee has concluded that Flynn’s acceptance of payments from the Turkish and Russian governments was likely illegal.
According to the Times, Comey kept a paper record of every time the president improperly attempted to influence an investigation.
The report published Tuesday is based on a partial transcript of (just) one of those memos.