In the months leading up to FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate intelligence committee, President Donald Trump and his staff dismissed several New York Times reports about the two men’s interactions as “fake news.”
Trump tweeted last month that unnamed sources cited in the articles likely “don’t exist” and are “made up by fake news writers.”
But Comey’s planned testimony, which was made public on Wednesday, appears to confirm the credibility of the Times’ reports. (Just for the record, fabricating sources and quotes is arguably the single biggest sin a journalist can commit, and something only the most foolish reporters try to get away with.)
Trump’s confidants have shifted their narrative following the testimony’s release. Before, the Trump camp simply dismissed as inaccurate any news reports that described the president’s bizarre behavior. Now, the line is that, OK, maybe these things did actually happen ― but look, Trump is a novice politician who doesn’t know any better.
“What you’re seeing is a president who is now, very publicly, learning about the way people react to what he considers to be normal New York City conversation,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace on Wednesday.
Here are just a few interactions the Times reported on after speaking with anonymous sources that turned out to be true.
Trump asked Comey for loyalty.
The Times reported on May 11 that Trump demanded Comey’s loyalty during a one-on-one dinner at the White House in January, citing two people who’d heard the former FBI director’s account of the interaction.
Trump denied making the request when questioned by Fox News host Jeanine Pirro the following day.
“I didn’t ask that question,” Trump said ― though he argued that even if he had, it wouldn’t have been “inappropriate.”
“I don’t think it would be a bad question to ask,” said Trump. “It depends on how you define loyalty.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House deputy press secretary, told the Times that its description of the dinner wasn’t accurate.
Trump “would never even suggest the expectation of personal loyalty, only loyalty to our country and its great people,” Sanders said.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer also denied that the interaction took place.
But according to Comey’s planned testimony, Trump did make the request ― and it was “awkward.”
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. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.
Trump asked Comey to dinner ― not the other way around.
In an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt on May 11, Trump claimed that Comey invited him to dinner to discuss his role at the FBI.
“I had dinner with him,” Trump said. “He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on.”
“Dinner was arranged,” he added. “I think he asked for the dinner. And he wanted to stay on as the FBI head, and I said, ‘I’ll consider it. We’ll see what happens.’”
But according to the Times’ May 11 report, it was Trump who “summoned” Comey for dinner at the White House.
Only seven days after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president, James B. Comey has told associates, the F.B.I. director was summoned to the White House for a one-on-one dinner with the new commander in chief.
Comey’s testimony confirms this:
The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.
It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room.
Trump asked Comey to end the Michael Flynn investigation.
The Times reported on May 16 that Trump asked Comey to end the FBI investigation into Michael Flynn, based on parts of a memo “one of Mr. Comey’s associates” read to reporters.
In a statement to the Times, the White House claimed the report’s version of events was “not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey”:
While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn.
The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations.
But Comey made it clear in his planned testimony that Trump appeared to request that the FBI “drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December.”
The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “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.”