WASHINGTON — A series of explosive memos prepared by former FBI director James Comey about his troubling encounters with President Trump were released Thursday and closely tracked Comey's description of them in congressional testimony and in a new book Comey has authored.
The memos, provided to Congress late Thursday, also had previously been provided to Justice special counsel Robert Mueller to assist his investigation into Trump's possible attempts to obstruct the probe of Russia's interference in the 2016 elections. They detail the president's alleged demands for loyalty from the former director and his requests for Comey to shut down its investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his pre-inaugural contacts with Russia ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn is now cooperating with Mueller's investigators.
Among the disclosures in the memos is a Feb. 8, 2017, encounter in which Trump confronted Comey about the contents of a dossier prepared by a former British intelligence agent purportedly describing Trump's involvement with prostitutes during a 2013 visit in Moscow.
"The president brought up the 'Golden Shower Thing' and said it really bothered him if his wife had any doubt about it," Comey said, recounting the conversation. "The president said that 'the hookers thing' is nonsense but that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin had told him 'we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.'"
Comey said that he did not know when Trump had spoken with Putin, but the timing of the account suggested that it was shortly after the dossier was made public in early January 2017, just before Trump's inauguration.
At that same Feb. 8 meeting, which Comey also described in an interview with USA TODAY, Comey also recounted having seriously crossed Trump when he challenged the president's comments to Fox News that Russia and America were similar in that both harbored "killers."
"I don't know what to make of it, but (Trump) clearly noticed I had directly challenged him," Comey said in the memo.
At that point, Comey indicated in the USA TODAY interview, that he may have gone from potential ally to enemy of the president.
Trump tweeted that the released memos "show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION."
Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd notified the chairs of at least six congressional committees that it was providing both redacted and un-redacted versions of the documents.
"In light of the unusual events ... the department consulted relevant parties and concluded that the release of the memoranda at this time would not adversely impact any ongoing investigation or other confidentiality interests of the executive branch," Boyd wrote.
The release comes as Comey, who was abruptly dismissed by Trump last year, is in the midst of a tour promoting a book, Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, in which he details the encounters memorialized in the memos.
Comey provided extensive testimony about the contents of the memos last year before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Discussing the memos' transfer to Congress in a Thursday interview with MSNBC, Comey said he favored "transparency."
The former FBI director said he began memorializing his meetings and telephone contacts with the president from their first meeting, shortly before Trump's inauguration.
Comey, who served three presidents, said he took the unusual action because he feared Trump would "lie" about their interactions.
In an interview with USA TODAY published earlier this week, Comey said Trump was "morally unfit" to be president and believed that it was possible that Russia held compromising information on the president.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said late Thursday that Comey's memos "provide 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."
"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," Cummings said in a statement.
The congressman added that the memos are also "corroborated by contemporaneous handwritten notes from top Justice Department official Dana Boente." Boente is a former acting attorney general who now serves as the FBI's general counsel.
Cummings also notes that the memo that Comey gave to a friend to read to the press about his Feb. 14, 2017, memo is marked as "unclassified." Comey's critics have accused him of leaking classified information when he shared that memo.
The chairmen of the three House committees that requested the documents from the Justice Department said late Thursday they were glad Comey's memos are finally being made public.
"These memos are significant for both what is in them and what is not," said a statement from Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif.
"Former Director Comey's memos show the President made clear he wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated," the chairmen said. "The memos also made clear the 'cloud' President Trump wanted lifted was not the Russian interference in the 2016 election cloud, rather it was the salacious, unsubstantiated allegations related to personal conduct leveled in the dossier."
The dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and paid for by Democratic political committees, included unsubstantiated allegations that Trump interacted with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room.
"The memos also show former Director Comey never wrote that he felt obstructed or threatened," the Republican congressmen wrote.
The chairmen said the memos underscore that Comey had different standards in dealing with Trump than he did with others.
He chose not to memorialize conversations with President Obama, Attorney General Lynch, Secretary Clinton, Andrew McCabe or others, but "he immediately began to memorialize conversations with President Trump," they said.