The Classified Conversation Trump Had with Comey Was Two Days after the Vault 7 Leak

The other day, I did a long post showing that Trump blabbed details about the FBI’s investigation into the theft of CIA’s hacking tools the same day that the FBI was preparing to take the first step that would alert Joshua Schulte he was FBI’s suspect, a search of his apartment. While in fact, Trump’s comments probably were broadcast after the search had commenced, he made the comments at a time when they could have tipped off Schulte.

In the post, I noted that Jim Comey had had one classified conversation about an intelligence investigation with Trump. “I had one conversation with the president that was classified where he asked about our, an ongoing intelligence investigation, it was brief and entirely professional,” Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The DOJ IG Report on Comey’s memos released today (which I’ll cover at length later) reveals that that conversation took place on March 9, 2017.

On March 9, 2017, Comey had a secure one-on-one telephone call with President Trump. Comey told the OIG that the secure telephone call was “only business,” and that there was “nothing untoward” about the call, other than it was “unusual for the President to call the Director directly.” Comey said he did not prepare a memo to document this call with the President, but said he had [Jim] Rybicki arrange a secure call to Attorney General Sessions immediately afterwards to inform the Attorney General about the telephone call from the President in an effort “to keep the Attorney General in the chain of command between [Comey] and the President.”

That means the conversation took place just two days after the March 7 initial release of the Vault 7 files. The timing makes it far more likely that that’s what they two men spoke about.

More crazy, however, is the detail that Trump initiated that call.

If Trump were calling the FBI Director for information about an investigation into a leak to WikiLeaks (at a time a long effort to get Julian Assange a pardon had already begun), that would change the import of the call significantly.

45 replies
  1. Savage Librarian says:

    Maybe one day we will learn this important lesson: Just because someone is tall, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are smart.

  2. Eureka says:

    More stunningly damning details.

    I hope Chris Hayes will be having you on to discuss your reporting on the Vault 7 entwines to Trump-WL-Russia.

    I reflect– again– on the (then-to-me) odd level of detail in e.g. the GRU indictment (well some of that was (also) elsewhere– but my point was about the level of detail that came into public purview).

    It’s as if there was more than one reason that they had to make such a strong case in attributing the hacks to Russia, beyond that the case would go untried and so would remain the principal story.

    Trump was always nattering on about “others,”…~ “China and others,” interfering in the 2016 election, and while surely “others” did interfere, as they do now, I am seeing Trump’s dissembling in a shifted significance in recent months. What were those diabolical ratfuckers *really* up to? We’re they aiming to frame or FUD another nation-state?

    More importantly, when (and why) did Trump *stop*– or taper-off in frequency– his nattering on about “others” (while continuing to take a weak and pro-Putin line about Russia)?

    And once more, I will recall the “tantalizing” hypotheticals you outlined in the gov response to Stone recently.

  3. Vicks says:

    How handy to have a “boor-with-no-self awareness” persona in your hustler toolbox.

    Do you think Trump is smooth enough to call Comey to fish and Comey not make the connection when Trump spilled (some of) the beans?

    • Americana says:

      As fascinating as I find Trump making that call to Comey, I’m equally fascinated by speculating as to who/what triggered Trump to make that call to Comey in the first place. There are so many different speculative lines one could take on the question as to why Trump called Comey, I hesitate to lay them all out.

  4. punaise says:

    seems like maybe a retread by me:

    Vault sing (Ma told ya), Vault sing (Ma told ya)
    You’ll Comey-Vault sing (Ma told ya), with me

    He sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled,
you’ll Comey-Vault sing (Ma told ya), with me

  5. orionATL says:

    you beat me to it, emptywheel. after reading your 8/27 post on presidential leaking for political gain, reading today about doj’s ex-post classification of some of comey’s notes on his conversations with trump really lit my fuse – the president can use very sensitive information for ANY purpose he pleases, but a senior fbi official who memorializes a meeting where our prez engages in blatant obstruction of justice has committed a classification offense if he takes them home and locks them in a safe (where doj cannot destroy them with a “clerical error” or computer system files cleaning).

    oh, and need i remind readers that the fbi and comey flayed candidate clinton mercilessly for the entirely inadvertent inclusion of post- evaluated “classified” info, except for some “top secret” documents, back-and-forth memos liberated by judicial watch that showed clinton’s staff trying to get a special secure phone like obama’s from the nsa – denied! (available somewhere in the emptywheel archives). bastards!

    trump is the apotheosis of the constitution-breaking president the congress has been creating for the past 80 years – executive orders (in secret), “national security” programs like “stellar wind” in secret, ignoring american and international law (torture), ignoring constitutional provision on emoluments, ignoring secutity clearences, ignoring ethics rules, ignoring budget provisions, in general ignoring at will congressional+presidential approved laws.

    the american presidency needs to be reigned in – big time!

    • orionATL says:

      oh, i forgot to include the cheney-bush abuse of government classification’s erstwhile sanctity in revealing the highly classified cia identity of valerie plame in retaliation for her husband’s criticizing cheney’s dishonest effort to claim sadaam hussein had nuclear weapons of self- destruction.

      in this matter, the nytimes distinguished itself again in its usual way. not so emptywheel.

  6. Vicks says:

    James Comey leaked those documents to his pal who took them to the press knowing exactly what he was doing and the risk he was taking.
    He saw DJT for exactly what he was, realized the potential for damage, and not for the first time, decided to take matters into his own hands.
    People are arguing that there were other ways a special counsel could have been appointed.
    Who knows?
    Comey got it done and he got it done quickly with a majority of lawmakers on board.
    Clearly Comey has a touch of the “chosen one” syndrome, but in my opinion when you tabulate all of the egotistical actions of this aging Boy Scout, history will show this last one will swing him into the positive column.
    Or maybe my “the ends justify the means” position on this matter shows my bias is contributing to the bar being lowered everywhere and this country really is going to hell.

    • PieIsDamnGood says:

      Comey got played by an FBI field office and threw an election. I don’t think he’s going to be remembered fondly. I won’t.

      • Leonard Grossman says:

        Agreed. He played “Chosen One” too often. There is a saying (I take credit for after long years as a lower level Fed lawyer) People who take pleasure in “booking” people get booked.

      • Vicks says:

        I agree that what he did was terrible and wrong, but think your claim he “threw the election” is just wild enough to classify as a disappointment looking for a scapegoat.
        Hillary’s loss was a series of unfortunate events, criminal influences, unforced errors by her campaign and a whole lot of overconfidence by both Hillary and supporters. There was also the problem of Hillary being tied with Trump for the most hated candidate in history.
        There is a lot to learn from that list and blaming Comey for her loss shows an unwillingness to do what it takes to win.
        To clarify, I am not trying to to let Comey off the hook for his actions, the dude is a jackass, my comment is addressing the other important things that need to be included in any discussion of why the democrats didn’t win in 2016

        • PieIsDamnGood says:

          You’re right. Dems have a lot to learn and she was a bad choice.

          I see Comey acting to damage Hillary and interpret that as him attempting to throw the election.

          • P J Evans says:

            Clinton was the best candidate the Dems had – and she DID win.
            So take the bashing back to wherever you got it, and leave it there.

            • bmaz says:

              Dear “PieIsDamnGood”, PJ is correct. Did Hillary Clinton have some warts? Sure. But she was also the most prepared to take office candidate ever to be on a general election ticket in modern history. You can hate on her all you want. But to say she was a bad candidate is silly. Nobody in our lifetime has ever been as prepared and experienced as she was, flaws and all.

        • Rayne says:

          List the “unforced errors.” Cite your sources. Be sure to specify how those “unforced errors” could not have been influenced by the Russian’s disinformation campaign. Do compare these “unforced errors” to the polling trend line while you’re at it, along with the effect of Comey’s public statement made the last week of the campaign.

          I’m fed up with this fact-free propaganda.

          • joel fisher says:

            Important to remember that in 2016, people–all right, a sample of one, me–felt the 2000 election with Bush winning while losing the popular vote was an aberration–hadn’t happened since 1876–in any event not likely to happen again in our lifetimes. Now, people, again, me, think 2016 is the model for the future. Should HRC have known our future? She sure had a lot of well paid people to tell her in that last, post Comey fuckover week that, indeed, her #s were not going in a good direction and Trump’s were moving him into the margin of error. Whether she spent enough time in the “blue wall” at the end is 2nd guessing at the extreme. But I will say this: whoever runs against Trump will be in the mid-west a lot; whether that’s evidence of a HRC mistake or not is debatable.

            • P J Evans says:

              Spending a lot of time in the Midwest would be a sign that they think that for some reason all those Tr*mp voters in 2016 are still reachable, despite all the evidence saying otherwise.

              • joel fisher says:

                I think the “blue wall” is still there in the Midwest. These states were all close; you are right that the Trump base is unreachable, but there are more voters out there than Trump’s base. The three states that defected to Trump all went back to the Dems in 2018. Granted, there was no Trump on a national ticket to remind them they were white and they needed to vote like it and there will be in 2020. Nevertheless, the candidate–probably Joe “Prince of Banks” Biden–needs to kiss every baby and shake every hand in the “blue wall” states.

            • Rayne says:

              The intelligence community did not see the entirety of the 2014-2016 Russian interference operation. Mitch McConnell thwarted release of what was known about Russian interference operations during 2016. Obama administration was responsible for the report on Russian interference eventually released AFTER the election.

              None of that is campaign work, and what Clinton’s lawyers did to research Trump-Russia via Fusion GPS’ Steele dossier only told them there was a major problem given what they obtained was raw intelligence. Considerable damage had already been done before the Democratic Primary was over. The average campaign doesn’t do the next level intel gathering and analysis — it was a national security issue. No way should any campaign have to deal with forecasting this kind of future; they should have been able to rely on elected and appointed officials to protect the election.

              Now look at polling reports knowing the Russians obtained internal polling data via Manafort the first week of August, which could have been combined with social media data. Nobody, not even the professional pollsters, predicted that social media messaging micro-targeting audiences in key states would be days to hours ahead of Clinton’s moves. We’re talking about final results in Michigan as narrow as 10K votes — roughly 2 votes per precinct — based on using illegal Russian influence tools unseen by the public as a whole.

              The only fucking mistake the Clinton campaign made was not cheating like Trump did — if that’s a mistake. And your mistake is gullibility, credulity, and a general lack of knowledge about the way legal party campaigns operate. You certainly don’t get to dictate what is and isn’t debatable here.

              My mistake is putting up with this perpetuated propaganda in comments, especially from people with a sum total of 15 comments to date who’ve clearly not read years of posts at this site about Trump-Russia.

              • joel fisher says:

                Were you referencing “is debatable” as trying to “dictate what is and isn’t debatable here”? I regret any such implication. I was saying, awkwardly, that I don’t have the answer. My point was simply that HRC –and, indeed, all the players-Obama, Comey, Brennan, the DNC, et al–were faced with an entirely new problem: a successful, ongoing Russian attack. To be sure, as you correctly point out, HRC had very little notion of the Russian plotting. However, coupled with the Comey fuckover, a real emergency occurred and choices were made that might be made differently if, as seems likely, the same thing happens next October. Not making the best choice in an emergency is not something I would criticize.

          • Vicks says:

            It is not my intention to be snarky, I voted for the women, but mistakes were made…..
            For the short list just start with her private server.
            There are rules, she broke them, and it opened up a can of holy hell.
            Unforced error. She handed a club to her opposition and god help us, they are STILL using it.

            • Rayne says:

              What does the “private server” have to do with the campaign? Are you seriously confused all these years later about the email server Clinton used as secretary of state and the servers hacked by Russia during the 2016 campaign? Either she and her campaign made mistakes or no — cite them with sources — and they shouldn’t be conflated with the private email server issue. She had guidance from Colin Powell about non-govt email as secretary of state; she clearly had good reason to worry about hacking of government email systems after the Bush/Cheney White House lost MILLIONS of emails (which were covered at this site ad nauseam).

              And it didn’t bloody matter what she did as secretary of state, they clubbed her with it — on one occasion for 11 fucking hours straight during a Benghazi hearing — only to determine later the failures weren’t hers but the military’s.

              Jesus fucking Christ on a Ritz cracker. You have literally fallen for the same damned propaganda. You are absolutely unable to counter it.

              • Vicks says:

                I’m going to leave Jesus and crackers out of this, ignore your cheap shots and skip to connecting the dots between Hillary’s server and the campaign.
                The chant “LOCK HER UP” was the result of Hillary getting caught during the campaign for using a private server for official government business while she was Secretary of State.
                During his rallies Trump would bring up Hillary’s missing emails or the server and the base would respond like trained seals with “Lock her up!”
                The emails Trump was referring to then and in his “Russia if your listening” moment were emails Hillary had supposedly deleted from this server.
                An error in judgement when she was Secretary of State bit her (hard) during the campaign.

                • Rayne says:

                  And the chant is based on a distorted perception of what happened. You still don’t even get that a cabinet secretary whose predecessors hadn’t used .gov email had discretion to do what they wanted so long as they complied with record keeping regs and protected classified info.

                  And again, it wouldn’t have mattered what Clinton did — Team Trump would find a way to distort what happened and create an othering shit storm out of it.

                  If you don’t get that you’re so not ready for what will happen in 2020.

                  • Vicks says:

                    By continuing this argument by reframing your position you are making my larger point for me.
                    Hillary was one of the most intensely hated candidates in history.
                    Her opposition used the baggage she brought into the campaign as fuel.
                    Like you said, if it wasn’t the server it would have been something else.
                    I grew up on the same block as Hillary. She was our home town hero. Despite your claims to the contrary I think I “get it” more than you imagine.

                    • P J Evans says:

                      That “hate” was driven by her political opponents, not by her actions. Being “hated” is not the same as being a bad candidate.
                      Try backing up from your dearly-held beliefs about someone who’s retired from politics.

            • orionATL says:

              forget the trivial-raised-to-serious issue of sec. clinton’s private server. there must be some reality introduced here.

              as the commenter ‘n.c. dem’ said back then, clinton was the boss; clinton was the secretary of state, not a gs-15 dept head.. believe it or not, people at that level are different; they have different requirements to be able to operate effectively. this is not ‘mr. smith goes to washington’ territory. clinton was a political appointee with a life-time of political enemies. she would have been stupid to put her emails in a departmental process (not least because some probably involved the dept.). clinton was not a gs-15 department head.

              i’ll eat my hat if wilber r. or steven m. do things any differently. and we know the president refuses to keep the presidential records act, in addition to keeping meetings with putin sans notes.

            • Americana says:

              Tactical mistakes were made by the Clinton campaign. But some of those so-called “mistakes” were LEGAL under gov’t regulations at the time Hillary Clinton made those mistakes. Under the then-current government regulations regarding personal electronic devices when Hillary was SOS, one was able to use one’s own private devices so long as one didn’t transmit classified information on them and provided the requisite government record of work-related material. But Republicans are pretending not to know the timeline of the development of personal electronics policy by the U.S. gov’t since, if they had researched the gov’t regulations on private electronic devices, they would no longer have the same case against Hillary Clinton.

              Hillary’s failure was that she didn’t find a way years ago, decades ago, to defuse the rampant sexism and political deceit being arrayed against her. The Clinton Chronicles the Republicans have been writing are vicious. Hillary is a lesbian. Hillary was sleeping w/Huma Abedin. On and on and on… I think she made an error by having a private server at her house in Chappaqua, NY. But I think the State Dept./Obama administration made an even bigger error in permitting Clinton to have that private server. Since the gov’t didn’t stop her having that server, it’s not entirely Clinton’s fault that’s what she opted to use since there were no gov’t regulations stipulating she couldn’t have her own server.

              It’s also understandable to me why Clinton would have opted for a Mac system for her home computer. I don’t find the choice of a Mac system for her private system that controversial. As for the private local computer tech firm she hired to maintain her system, again, the gov’t should have stepped in to say she needed to have a certified techie w/a security clearance from one of the nearby military bases or the FBI or somewhere to show up when needed if that’s what they’re now claiming wasn’t permitted. There were no regulations at the time regarding computer tech folks. But the Republicans have made far too big of an issue out of Hillary’s computer system given the regulations governing private devices at the time she was SOS.

  7. Leonard Grossman says:

    I look forward to your discussion of the OIG Comey report. Glad DOJ decided not to prosecute him for this demonstration of his arrogance. They should have nailed him for his Clinton disclosures which were far more serious in their consequences for national security. Our security.

  8. Eureka says:

    Re Rayne’s thread about trafficking and her last year’s post: I’ve got an anecdote and some links I saved on some of the related history.

    Back in the late 90s/early aughts, there was talk and State Dept. advisories/warnings about travel to Guatemala due to risk of violence to women (couples) of child-bearing age because of alleged attacks on American women over Guatemalans’ fears of women stealing their babies. The talk was active in circles of people having to go there to do fieldwork (so if gossip, not idle); I haven’t tracked down the language of the official travel warnings from that timeframe (I looked casually last year when the child separation topic came into general awareness; it’s possible that they were worded more vaguely re ‘violence’ risks, as opposed to the specifics of the story; also it’s possible that official warnings were issued in a more narrow window/quarter than was the talk). I know I read it somewhere back then, too– could have just been something like an AP story or an email circulating.

    Per that info, I’ve followed this topic prospectively, if loosely, over the years and have some links saved.

    Transcript; originally aired January 2008, major breaking of the story, going back some years (at least into mid-aughts when people– brokers– were getting in trouble for it):

    To catch a baby broker – Dateline NBC – International adoption | NBC News

    See also numbers by year (look at the rocket start to launch 1999 (truncated start), peak FY ’07…tapers after Guatemala’s ’08 shutdown of international adoption); also by country and state (MI makes one of these ‘top’ lists as I recall, after the shutdown) at:

    Adoption Statistics

    May be easier to enter via this link:

    Guatemala Intercountry Adoption Information

    More to follow…

    • Eureka says:

      Among other aspects, covers the surge late-90s forward; some of Bethany’s role (from 2015):

      For many US adoptees from Guatemala, a complicated legacy – The San Diego Union-Tribune

      Bethany Christian Services, which was among the U.S. adoption agencies most active in Guatemala, has remained engaged there, working on programs to keep fragile families together and improve foster care.
      “While it was probably good that adoption stopped, because of the unethical practices, it raised the question of what’s going to happen with the vulnerable children,” said Brian DeVos, a senior vice president of Bethany. “There are some good orphanages, but also a number that are just warehousing children.”

      This next link re-copies in toto the AP author above, though says it’s “by Fox News”– it made me wonder, as others have wondered, how Ingraham’s adopted Guatemalan daughter might feel given some of her on-air statements about brown immigrants:

      U.S. adoptees from Guatemala reconnect with their past amid a complicated legacy | Fox News

    • Eureka says:

      (Also recall the new-to-2001-forward *government funded* role of Christian orgs like Bethany in providing social services since W. Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative.

      I don’t have links handy, but as I recall in recent years Bethany had an important role in refugee resettlement in PA, for e.g., and its social workers were lamenting the Trump-Miller admin ‘cancelling’ of Syrian refugees/ reduction of numbers a few years back. It’s hard to re-locate old Inky links. May return to this…)

      White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships – Wikipedia

      Snopes from June 2018:

      Christian Non-Profit Faces Scrutiny Over Government Foster Care Contract for Separated Children

    • Eureka says:

      For permanence here, Rayne’s links:

      RayneToday: “My pissed-off post last year — and don’t think I’ve forgotten we haven’t had a solid accounting of child deaths in custody, either. (links to post below)”
      “I called it human trafficking a year ago. Where are all the girls, children, babies? We didn’t know then — how many more have been trafficked? (quotes another tweet)”

      Angry Mom: I See Dead Children

    • Eureka says:

      The decades-old story of Guatemalans fearing Americans stealing their babies was the first thing I though of when the details of child separation became known.

      By now, pretty much everyone involved in the Trump admin efforts has publicly acknowledged (or been ID’ed claiming same via reporting) that deterrence-writ-cruelty is the point to their “immigration” policies.

      But back last year this old story, and the possibility that others were intentionally reviving it, dropped like a sick memory stone in my gut.

  9. Michael Keenan says:

    https ://turcopolier .typepad .com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2019/08/keep-your-powder-dry-comey-is-not-out-of-the-woods-by-larry-c-johnson .html

    [FYI, link ‘broken’ with blank spaces to prevent accidental clickthrough by community members. Contents at that link should be viewed with caution. /~Rayne]

    • bmaz says:

      For the record Emptywheel readers and commenters, “Michael Keenan” has been trolling this site with baloney for a long time, from various addresses. He is a troll. And anybody citing the dubious voice of Larry Johnson is a troll. The piece cited is garbage, and has nothing to do with common DOJ charging and prosecution guidelines.

      The fact that Pat Lang lets that kind of garbage on his site is sad. But Lang has been going ever more bonkers for a long time now. Especially since the popular election of a black President with no military experience. One can only wonder if there is a correlation?

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