The New York Times reported Tuesday evening that President Donald Trump had a private conversation with former FBI director James Comey in which the president allegedly expressed his “hope” that Comey would “let go” of the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn had reportedly resigned the day before.
It turns out that Comey documented the conversation in a memorandum, “part of a paper trail” he reportedly created to release later to tell his side of the story in the event things went awry — which, as the world now knows, it did. (The White House has rejected Comey’s version of the conversation, which took place in the Oval Office.)
The Times identifies its source as “one of Mr. Comey’s associates,” who did not provide a copy of the memo but read it aloud on the telephone. The Drudge Report calls the story “Comey’s revenge,” and thus it would seem to be.
If anything justifies President Trump’s decision to fire Comey, it would be this effort to leak details of their private conversations to the media with the obvious intention of causing the maximum political damage to the president.
But this dagger is a rather dull blade. It lacks any apparent “quid pro quo” — a sense that Trump was offering something to Comey in exchange for dropping the investigation. Trump had already suggested in January that he would keep Comey on in his job as FBI director; the conversation in the memorandum happened in February.
Moreover, the Times seems to oversell the story, interpreting the word “hope” as a request. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the Comey memo is accurate, what Trump says — “I hope you can let this go … I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go … He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” — is never actually framed as a request at all. Yet the Times calls it a “request” and an effort to interfere in the investigation.
That is a rather liberal (pun intended) spin on Trump’s words.
Democrats, predictably, are pouncing on the story. But so far, is just the latest hysterical episode in their effort to deny the legitimacy of the November election.
If this is the best that Comey’s “paper trail” can produce, his “revenge” may backfire, at least in political terms.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.