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James Comey memos: Putin 'told Donald Trump that Russia had world's most beautiful hookers'

Sacked FBI director also reveals he and the president discussed jailing journalists

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
,Jon Sharman
Friday 20 April 2018 03:12 BST
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James Comey says Donald Trump responded to Steele dossier allegations by asking: 'Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?'

Vladimir Putin told Donald Trump that Russia had “some of the most beautiful hookers in the world”, according to memos written by sacked FBI director James Comey.

Mr Trump relayed the boast to Mr Comey in February last year after bringing up “the golden showers thing” – the claim in a political dossier that he had engaged with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel – and denouncing it as “nonsense”, Mr Comey wrote in the note.

The Justice Department handed over a cache of memos to Congress on Thursday and they were swiftly leaked.

After Mr Trump fired Mr Comey, the ousted director turned to these documents to corroborate his account that the president had demanded his loyalty and urged him to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his interactions with the Russian ambassador.

In explaining the purpose of creating the memos, which have been also been provided to special counsel Robert Mueller, Mr Comey has said he “knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened” to defend not only himself but the FBI as well.

Late on Thursday night, Mr Trump tweeted that the memos “show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION”.

The documents contain a number of revelations from behind the scenes in the early days of the Trump administration.

The president questioned Michael Flynn’s judgment

Two weeks before Mr Flynn was fired for misleading the White House about his interactions with former Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, Mr Trump already had doubts about the former general.

In a 28 January, 2017 memo, Mr Comey wrote that Mr Trump expressed “serious reservations” about Mr Flynn’s judgment. He said Mr Trump recounted a story in which Mr Flynn revealed that an unnamed foreign leader’s congratulatory phone call had gone unreturned for six days. Angered by the oversight, Mr Trump “pointed his fingers at his head and said ‘the guy has serious judgment issues’”, Mr Comey wrote.

The documents also reveal that days before Mr Flynn’s firing, then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked Mr Comey if the general’s communications were being monitored under a secret surveillance warrant.

“Do you have a FISA order on Mike Flynn?” Mr Priebus asked, according to the memos, referring to an order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Mr Comey said he “paused for a few seconds and then said that I would answer here, but that this illustrated the kind of question that had to be asked and answered through established channels”.

His response is redacted on the unclassified memos.

Mr Trump was worried about salacious allegations

A dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, which alleged the existence of tapes of Mr Trump engaging in sexual acts with prostitutes in Russia, was clearly on Mr Trump’s mind. The president has dismissed the dossier’s contents as false.

The president repeatedly rejected the allegations as false, Mr Comey wrote, but also appeared to be concerned about the fallout. “He said it bothered him if his wife thought there was even a 1 per cent chance it was true in any respect,” Mr Comey wrote.

In response to Mr Trump suggesting that he have the FBI investigate the matter, Mr Comey said he warned the president against creating “a narrative that we were investigating him”.

President and FBI director discussed jailing journalists for reporting on leaked information

Mr Comey recounts a February encounter with Mr Trump in which the president “wrapped up our conversation by returning to the issue of finding leakers”.

The investigator had told Mr Trump he was “eager to find leakers and would like to nail one to the door as a message. I said something about it being difficult and he replied that we need to go after the reporters, and referred to the fact that 10 or 15 years ago we put them in jail to find out what they know, and it worked”, a memo showed.

After Mr Trump suggested he speak to the attorney general about cracking down on leakers and journalists, Mr Comey says he “said something about the value of putting a head on a pike as a message. He replied by saying it may involve putting reporters in jail”.

Then Mr Comey wrote that the president said: “They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend, and they are ready to talk.” Mr Comey added in the memo: “I laughed as I walked to the door Reince Priebus had opened.”

Donald Trump branded a 'disgraced demagogue' by former CIA director John Brennan over sacking of Andrew McCabe

The president was already wary of Andrew McCabe

Formerly the deputy director of the FBI, Mr McCabe was fired days before he qualified for a full government pension. A report by the Justice Department’s inspector general had found Mr McCabe had “lacked candor” in talking about having authorised disclosures to the media.

By the time he was fired last month, Mr McCabe had become a magnet for the president’s contempt. Mr Trump blistered the senior law enforcement official on Twitter, blasting his handling of an investigation into former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s email server and highlighting campaign donations to Mr McCabe’s wife from a Clinton ally. For his part, Mr McCabe has called his firing part of a sweeping campaign to discredit the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference.

Mr McCabe is a recurring topic in the memos. Mr Comey describes Mr Trump referring to “your guy McCabe”, asking if Mr McCabe “has a problem with me” and if Mr McCabe is “going to be okay”. Mr Comey said he reassured the president of Mr McCabe’s professionalism.

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