By Scott Johnson | POWERLINE
Memos drafted by former FBI Director James Comey, recounting several conversations he had with President Trump before getting fired last spring, tell of a man obsessed with an intelligence dossier containing salacious allegations about his ties to Russia and securing loyalty from those who worked in his administration.
The memos were sent to Congress Thursday evening after top Republican committee chairmen demanded the Justice Department hand them over, and in short order they were shared with the media, intensifying a heated debate on the special counsel investigation and leaks.
The Washington Examiner obtained the 15 pages of redacted memos which document the seven conversations Comey had with Trump from Jan. 7, 2017, through April 11, 2017.
“The President said ‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense but that Putin had told him ‘we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world,’” Comey wrote about at one point, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Comey recalled Trump griping in January 2017 about the "serious judgment issues" of then-former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who soon after resigned under pressure and later pleaded guilty in federal court for to lying to the FBI about his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Amid banter about cracking down on leaks, Trump quipped about throwing journalists in jail, according to a February 2017 memo.
The notes were also telling about Comey himself, who claimed he once told Trump, "I don't do sneaky things, I don't leak, I don't do weasel moves."
Comey's leaking has become the center of a debate in Washington about whether he acted improperly and created unsound footing for the special counsel probe.
"Tragedy that a special counsel investigation was launched by leaking of the memos (which Comey has admitted). No basis in the memos to trigger a criminal investigation & it is to the discredit of [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein that he caved to the pressure of the media/Democrats & appointed Mueller," tweeted Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., Thursday evening.
Like DeSantis, Trump accused Comey of leaking classified information.
Despite the uproar, the memo in question in which Comey recalls Trump asking him to back off the investigation into Flynn, is marked unclassified -- a point that is lost among some Republicans, argued former Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller on MSNBC late Thursday.
Following the leak of the memos, the three Republican chairmen who led the push to secure Comey's notes, accused the former FBI director of harboring a bias against Trump, which they said was evident by his decision not to memorialize his conversations with other top officials, including former President Barack Obama, former Attorney General Lynch, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his former deputy, Andrew McCabe.
McCabe was fired last month after being found to have repeatedly "lacked candor" about the authorization of leaks to the media by a recently released Justice Department inspector general report.
Pushing back against the Republican front was Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the oversight panel. He hailed Comey's memos as providing "strong corroborating evidence of everything he said about President Trump — that the President wanted his personal loyalty, that he wanted to end the Russia investigation, and that he wanted Michael Flynn to walk."
Noting that Comey's account was corroborated by handwritten notes from another top DOJ official at the time, Dana Boente, Cummings said, “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.”
The memos' public unveiling came just days after the release of Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, which recounts his experiences working at the FBI and expands his side of the story about his relationship with Trump.
As part of the accompanying book tour and TV interview blitz, Comey sat down with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, who grilled him about the memos right after they were leaked Thursday evening.
Comey mentioned he hadn't had access to his memos in a while and couldn't recall if they mentioned anything significant that was mentioned in his book. He told Maddow that, with the leak of his memos, he was "Okay with transparency," and said he assumes the DOJ "went through the steps to make sure that it wasn't jeopardizing an ongoing investigation."
He admitted that writing these memos was not something an FBI agent would normally do, but he noted he was director and not an agent.
Comey also explained why he felt the need to write memos of his interactions with Trump, mentioning he was worried about speaking alone with the president about "things that were relating to him and to the FBI's core responsibilities" and "given the nature of the person, as I understood the president-elect, he might not tell the truth about those if it ever became an issue."
Kelly Cohen, Diana Stancy Correll, and Katie Leach contributed to this report.