Former FBI director James Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” doesn’t hit bookstores until next week, but its contents are becoming known after copies were leaked Thursday.
Among those who got their hands on the tell-all is Rachel Maddow, who read several excerpts live on her MSNBC show Thursday night.
In addition to elaborating on the widely-reported detail that Trump was obsessed about the salacious dossier complied by former MI6 operative Christopher Steele, Comey also takes great pains to imply Trump is shady.
Here are three take-aways from the book, as excerpted on “The Rachel Maddow Show.”
1) Trump was more worried about the optics of Russian interference in the 2016 election than the geopolitical implications.
As Comey tells it, soon after the election he and several other people met with Trump’s transition team for a briefing with then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about Russian meddling in the election.
However, in Comey’s account Trump asked only one question, “which was more of a statement: ‘But you found there was no impact on the result, right?'”
Clapper, Comey said, explained to Trump that intelligence analysts had not investigated whether or not the meddling impacted the election result, and could only say that “we found no evidence of alteration of the vote count.”
Comey then said he was taken aback by the fact that “they were about to lead a country that had been attacked by a foreign adversary, but they had no questions about what the future Russian threat might be, nor did they ask how the United States might prepare itself to meet that threat.”
According to Comey, Trump and his team “shifted immediately” into “a strategy session about messaging on Russia. About how they could spin what we just told them.”
Comey says Reince Preibus described a hypothetical press statement “as if we weren’t there,” and that Priebus, Mike Pence, Sean Spicer and Trump “debated how to present these findings for maximum political advantage.”
“They were keen to emphasize that… the Russians hadn’t elected Trump,” according to Comey.
2) Comey suggests Trump and his team were trying to make him (and other non political appointees) complicit in their activities.
Comey says in his book that he’d attended many intelligence briefings with Trump’s predecessors, and that George W. Bush and Barack Obama had never discussed “communications and political strategy in front of intelligence community leaders.”
“I tried to tell myself that maybe this was because Trump and his team had little experience on these matters — Trump, of course, had no experience whatsoever.”
Comey then goes on to say that the whole thing began to remind him of “New York Mafia social clubs… in the 1980s and 1990s. Comey then talks about how Mafia members distinguish between “a ‘friend of yours,’ meaning someone outside the family, and… a ‘friend of ours,’ meaning an official member of the family.”
“Holy crap,” Comey says he thought. “they are trying to make each of us an ‘amica nostra’ — friend of ours. To draw us in. The president-elect was trying to make us all part of the same family and that Team Trump had made it a ‘thing of ours.'”
3) Yes, Trump is very concerned about That Tape (You know the one we mean).
According to Comey, Trump was very concerned about the claim from the Steele dossier that Russia has blackmail material on him. Specifically, video of him with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room filmed in 2013, that has infamously come to be known as the “pee dossier”.
According to Comey, after the national security briefing ended, Trump took him aside for a private chat during which Comey attempted to broach the subject of the tape (though, he said, he avoided mentioning the urinary details).
Trump, Comey says, immediately protested that it wasn’t true. “I explained I wasn’t saying the FBI believed the allegations,” Comey writes. His intent was to make sure Trump knew the claims were becoming public “to protect the presidency from any kind of coercion, whether or not the allegations were true.”
Trump again “strongly denied” the claim, and according to Comey asked “rhetorically, I assumed, whether he seemed like a guy who needed the services of prostitutes.”