James Comey has finally published the book on his time with Donald Trump – showing the White House in some of its most revealing and damaging hours.

The fired FBI director gives an incredibly personal and critical account of the president, including the size of his hands and his panicked reaction to the dossier that claimed there existed a video depicting him engaging in lewd behaviour with sex workers.

The book was intended to be released next week. But with parts of it leaking over the last few hours, its contents are now becoming public – and the world is finally learning deep secrets about two of the most powerful people in the world.

Live Updates

7 hours ago

Ready? We’re going to dive in!
 

 

7 hours ago

This is the second time that we’ve live blogged the release of an explosive Trump book, by the way. I’ve a feeling, the way the White House is going, that it won’t be the last either.
 
You can read the results of last time – of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury – here.
 
This time is much the same: explosive, long-awaited book, filled with shocking claims; an angry and critical reaction from Donald Trump.
 
Now let’s see if it’s got some of the same bizarre intrigue!

6 hours ago

Just some notes before we start: I’m going to focus, here, on the Trump bits. If that’s all done quickly then we’ll head into some of the other stuff.
 
This isn’t only a book about Trump, though. Far from it. Comey discusses his early life, his work for previous presidents Clinton and Obama, and his personal philosophy about leadership and ethics.
 
But that’s not what anyone’s here for. Let’s read about Trump’s reaction to the “pee tape” – and more!

6 hours ago

Heading straight into our first mention of Trump. It comes on page 187 – and can you guess what it’s about? It’s about:
 
Emails. (I reckon I’m going to be writing that a word a lot.)
 
Trump hasn’t actually arrived in the story yet. He just appears in a flash-forward: Comey is actually talking about the decision to announce that it wasn’t recommending charges over the handling of Clinton’s emails. But, he notes, Donald Trump would later suggest that he had “saved her” by holding this press conference.
 
He says he didn’t mean to do that. Nor did he mean to “save him” with the announcements on emails that would come later. We get a peek at some of the kind of ethical principles that Comey is going to be leaning a lot in this book, I think: “The goal was to tell the truth and demonstrate what higher loyalty – to the institutions of justice – looks like”.
 
He concludes this chapter with a note that makes it sound like Comey is as weary of hearing the words “her emails” as we are.
 
“We had tasted the poison of our political system, and I had taken all the hits I anticipated, but I also felt great relief because the FBI and I were finished with Hillary Clinton and her emails.
 
“If only.”

6 hours ago

Next chapter, and into the other great refrain of this book and of life:
 
The Russians.
 
The Clinton email case wasn’t actually Comey’s big concern during this summer 2016, he says – it was actually trying to understand “what the Russians were up to”. The intelligence community thought they were trying to influence the election, and they were busy attempting to work out how. In three ways, they reckoned:
 
  1. Undermining confidence in America and its election process, so that it wouldn’t be an inspiration to the rest of the world.
  2. Hurt Hillary Clinton, maybe for personal reasons. Putin didn’t like her because he blamed her for demonstrations in Moscow in December 2011. He thought he’d been personally attacked.
  3. “Help Donald Trump win”. Comey suggests that they like him because he “had been saying favourable things about the Russian government and Putin had shown a long-standing appreciation for business leaders who cut deals rather than stand on principle”.

6 hours ago

Why didn’t Comey say that he and the rest of the establishment suspected the Russians were up to something? Doing so would help “inoculate” the public, he admits.
 
But it would also help do the job of number one, below – helping to undermine the election before it had even happened.
 
Obama thought the same, and resisted the idea. His team thought Trump wasn’t going to win – Obama himself said that Putin had “backed the wrong horse”, says Comey – and so there wasn’t any point.
 
(Later on, the administration did say something. But the FBI’s name wasn’t on it – because “adding the FBI’s name would change nothing and be inconsistent with the way we hoped to operate on the eve of an election”, says Comey.)

6 hours ago

We’re into the first of what Comey’s critics would say was his big mistakes: the decision to announce right before the election that something more had happened with Hillary Clinton’s emails. Here’s how he tells it:
 
Someone mentioned in passing that Anthony Weiner had a laptop that might have something to do with Clinton’s emails. He doesn’t remember the conversation because such a suggestion didn’t make sense. Soon after he was asked for a meeting with his team, who told him that actually there were hundreds of thousands of emails from Clinton’s personal domain. It had messages they had been looking for for years – early messages that had since been deleted, and which could possibly contain some confirmation she’d been told not to use her own server, or something else incriminating. His team asked for a warrant, he said yes – and one of the most important parts of Comey’s life and the US election began.

6 hours ago

Once that had all happened, he writes that he was faced with two choices. He could tell people the investigation had begun – into a candidate who would be fighting an election in a few weeks – or not. As we know now, he decided to speak out – but it’s a lot less clear why he did, given it might have knocked Clinton’s campaign in such a way that she lost the election.
 
He said he saw the two options as “speak” and “conceal”. He didn’t want to conceal – something that would be misleading because he’d told the public the investigation was over. So he decided to speak.
 
(Here I’m going to butt in: doesn’t the FBI conceal all sorts of stuff, all the time? He wasn’t even actively concealing anything – just making a decision not to unconceal it. But hey ho – I’m not the FBI director, I’m just your humble book reader. Make your own mind up as we go.)

6 hours ago

Some shocking revelations to come, if my cat is anything to go by.
 
 

6 hours ago

Some more cat pictures, if that’s what you’re here for:
 

 

6 hours ago

Here’s his basic argument for why he had to tell everyone the investigation was open, even when the FBI didn’t actually know what it was looking for let alone had found. You won’t be surprised to find out it comes down to abstract principles and ideals:
 
“Even with a dozen perspectives, we kept coming back to the same place: the credibility of the institutions of justice was at stake. Assuming, as nearly everyone did, that Hillary Clinton would be elected president of the United States in less than two weeks, what would happen to the FBI, the Justice Department, or her own presidency if it later was revealed, after the fact that she was still a subject of an FBI investigation?”
 
He said one of his lawyers asked him whether he considered that what he was about to do might get Trump elected. He goes on and on about how great question it was, how thankful he was to get it – and how he couldn’t really think about that. If he did then it would be getting involved with politics, he said.
 
And so he sent out an email – to politicians, to staff – telling them what they were up to. The rest is history (and we’re going to dig into it).

6 hours ago

Comey is describing the attacks he got in the media and from Clinton supporters for that disclosure. And then one gesture of kindness, which he describes at slightly strange length – and which came from Loretta Lynch, who was then Attorney General. It’s worth quoting in full:
 
I walked into the room first. I turned and waited as the attorney general closed the door. She then turned, lowered her head, and walked toward me with arms out wide. This was awkward in a number of respects. Perhaps mostly because I am about eighteen inches taller than Loretta Lynch. When our bodies came together, her face went into my solar plexus as she wrapped her arms around me. I reached down and press both forearms, also awkwardly, against her back.
 
‘I thought you needed a hug,’ she said as we separated. She was probably right. Although I’m not a hugger by nature, I felt physically beaten after the last few days. I also probably looked that way.

6 hours ago

[A little intervention from me. Comey’s style is a little strange, as evidenced in bits like that. Sometimes he sounds a little like he’s writing a police report; others he sounds like a particularly idealistic politician, talking about principles so abstract they’re almost meaningless. It’s all very well put together, but sometimes a little strange and so far it’s hard to see if he feels like he’s just narrating, or making excuses, or putting together a guide or manifesto about morality.]

6 hours ago

We’re just going through how he felt after he made the disclosure about the Weiner emails. And he gives us another opportunity to puzzle over his character and his style, as he talks about Jim Clapper (“Jim Clapper was the leader I admired most in government. His bald head and grouchy deep voice…”). He’s talking about how he’d have a meeting every quarter with Clapper, where he’d have a wine and the man who was sort of his boss would have a vodka martini with two olives. They’d talk about leadership. (Comey is obsessed with leadership.) Then comes this strange admission, which he seems to think is OK:
 
To seal our friendship, I regifted to him a tie my brother-in-law had given me. It was solid red and decorated with little martini glasses. Because we considered ourselves people of integrity, I disclosed it was a regift as I handed him the tie.
 
Is that OK? I mean, it just sounds awkward. I guess regifting is fine but do you really need to flag it up? Comey seems bizarrely obsessed with principles and has little concern for practicality – especially for a man leading an organisation that has usually justified its more questionable practices by talking about common sense and fudges.

5 hours ago

Comey is chewing over what he thinks he did in the email case. He says that he didn’t mean to be influenced by his belief that Clinton would won, but accepts that might have happened unconsciously; he’d be very upset to think he had any impact on the result, because he has spent his life working for institutions he believed to be apolitical. But he pays attention to the criticism, so long as it is “thoughtful” or convincing in its “logic or factual presentation.
 
The stuff that gets me most is the claim that I am in love with my own righteousness, my own virtue. I have long worried about my ego. I am proud of the fact that I try to do the right thing. I am proud of the fact that I try to be truthful and transparent. I do think my way is better than that of the lying partisans who crowd our public life today. But there is danger that all that pride can make me blind and closed off to other views of what the right thing is.
 
This passage – contained within an explanation of his decisions that is in itself contained about halfway through the book – probably explains a whole lot of it, and of what he did.

5 hours ago

Here’s the conclusion of that chewing over of what he did wrong: nothing. Or at least that’s how it seems.
The 2016 presidential election was like no other for the FBI, and even knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it differently, but I can imagine good and principled people in my shoes making different choices about some things. I think different choices would have resulted in greater damage to our country’s institutions of justice, but I’m not certain of that. I pray no future FBI director is forced to find out.

5 hours ago

The chapter concludes with a chat with Obama. The president tells Comey that he appointed him because of his “integrity and ability”, and that nothing in what had happened changed that. Comey tells the president that he hated the last year, that he was trying to do the right thing, that his wife will miss him, and Comey says that “I. dread the next four years”.
 
And then the election is done with. We’re into the Trump era.

5 hours ago

We’re launched into New York, on 6 January, 2017 – two weeks before the inauguration, long after Trump has been elected. Comey is sneaking into Trump tower with other members of the intelligence community, ready to brief the president-elect on what spies have learnt about Russian interference in the election.
 
The four agencies had joined in the assessment, which was both stunning and straightforward: Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an extensive effort to influence the 2016 presidential election. That effort, which came through cyber activity, social media, and Russian state media, had a variety of goals: undermining public faith in the American democratic process, denigrating Hillary Clinton and harming her electability and potential presidency, and helping Donald Trump get elected.

5 hours ago

(A brief departure from Comey here to explain that he first gave this information – which includes the infamous Steele dossier, which I expect we’re getting to very soon – to Obama, in the White House. They talk about the fact that Comey will head to meet with Trump about it soon. And he ends by talking about the fact that the White House was stocked with apples as snacks, on the tables, and his daughter had asked him to get one of these presidential apples. “I scooped an apple. Nobody stopped me. I photographed it in the car and texted the picture to my daughter, delivering the product that evening She let me taste a slice. Not plastic.”
 
OK.)

5 hours ago

And back to Trump Tower. Comey is meeting the president-elect himself, for the very first time. And it is worth quoting in full, despite the fact that you’ve no doubt read summaries of this bit already:
He appeared shorter than he seemed on a debate stage with Hillary Clinton. Otherwise, as I looked at the president-elect, I was struck that he looked exactly the same in person as on television, which surprised me because people most often look different in person. His suit jacket was open and his tie too long, as usual. His face appeared slightly orange, with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coiffed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his. I remember wondering how long it must take him in the morning to get that done. As he extended his hand, I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.
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