Comey: "We simply looked at each other in silence."

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has made available [pdf] James Comey's prepared opening statement ahead of his testimony tomorrow. It's quite an extraordinary document, not because there is shocking new information in it (to the contrary, most of it is already known to one degree or another), but because of what it lays out so clearly: A United States president's utter contempt for the rule of law.

I encourage you to take the time to read the whole thing (it's not an enormous document), but here are some highlights [Content Note: Derogatory term for sex workers]:
A few moments later, the President said, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." I didn't move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence.
Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, "I need loyalty." I replied, "You will always get honesty from me." He paused and then
said, "That's what I want, honest loyalty." I paused, and then said, "You will get that from me." As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase "honest loyalty" differently, but I decided it wouldn't be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.
On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as "a cloud" that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to "lift the cloud."
I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel. He said he would do that and added, "Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know." I did not reply or ask him what he meant by "that thing." I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended. That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.
Laura Rozen speculates that "that thing" refers to Comey's announcement 11 days before the election regarding the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails, which almost certainly contributed to Trump's win. Sounds plausible.

The entire statement is essentially Comey recounting how Trump behaved in an inappropriate, unethical, and coercive manner (my words, not Comey's), and how Comey tried to navigate that as professionally as possible. His strategy, according to his account, was to say as little as possible and to discourage Trump from behaving in fundamentally undemocratic ways.

And naturally Trump did not take the hint, seemingly plowing onward with increasing intensity to try to cajole Comey to sign on as a loyalist and to discourage his independence.

[CN: Fictional image of injury] I summed it up thus on Twitter:

So, now we know what Comey will say. Tomorrow, we'll find out what the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have to say. I expect there will be a lot of questions from Democrats on which Comey will demur, citing Bob Mueller's investigation, and I expect there will be a lot of questions from Republicans about leaks that have fuck-all to do with Trump's pressuring Comey.

Comey's also clearly prepared for questions from the GOP about why he didn't immediately tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Trump had asked him to drop the Flynn investigation, noting right in his opening statement that he expected Sessions would have to recuse himself from the investigation, which he ultimately did. Ouch.

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