Amid more salacious talk and other key interactions—including discussions of "golden showers"; how President Trump claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin bragged to him that Russia had the "most beautiful hookers in the world"; and a request by the president for the then FBI director to "let go" of the investigation into national security advisor Michael Flynn—a revealing moment contained in the contemporaneous memos of James Comey, redacted versions of which were released Thursday night, is when Trump suggests jailing journalists and then having them sexually assaulted as way to force them to "talk" about their sources.
In response, Comey admits, he just "laughed."
In one of the memos—dated Feb. 14, 2017 and which details a White House meeting—Comey writes:
As many quickly pointed out, Trump's "make a new friend" comment—which draws laughter from Comey—is a very clear, if not grotesque, reference to someone being raped:
"They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend, and they are ready to talk," Trump said according to Comey's recollection.
Trump is talking about prison rape. He's talking about rape being used to force imprisoned journalists to "talk".
I am stunned.
— Peter "Little Doc" Delacroix (@DocPeteyJ) April 20, 2018
Not just prison rape, but specifically sending journalists to prison with the goal of them being raped so they will give up sources.
Donald Trump and James Comey, everybody. https://t.co/kNCfstj318
— David Bixenspan (@davidbix) April 20, 2018
Overall, the release of the memos—done at the urging of the GOP members sitting on the House Intelligence Committee—has provoked new uproar and partisan bickering over their implications.
But as critics of Comey have pointed out, nothing in Trump's deplorable behavior—including the possibility he attempted to obstruct justice by firing the former FBI director—should make people forget the "authoritarian" tendencies and troubling legacy that were part of Comey's career at the bureau.
"Comey may be a demonstration of how Trump obstructed justice, and his testimony deserves close consideration," wrote columnist Ryan Cooper earlier this week. "But he is no martyr for democracy, and neither is he a moral exemplar in general."
He spent years trying to force Apple to undermine its security by putting in an backdoor for authorities, and worked hard to outlaw end-to-end encryption altogether. He defended the arrest and due process-free detention of a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil for well over three years. He signed off on the illegal Bush torture program, despite his own doubts.
Now, a couple large caveats are in order. There is no reason to doubt Comey's recounting of how he was fired by Trump, nor the implication that it was done to obstruct the Russia investigation — indeed, Trump himself confirmed that on national TV. Neither is he a fraud or partisan hack on the level of John Yoo or Kellyanne Conway. The Republican Party smear campaign against Comey — who donated to the presidential campaigns of both John McCain and Mitt Romney — is a transparently cynical and dishonest attempt to protect President Trump by attacking the messenger.
But that doesn't mean Comey actually lives up to his pious self-branding as some model of character, honor, and "ethical leadership."
With Comey now in the middle of a media blitz to talk about his experiences with Trump and promote his new book, the war between the president and the former FBI director is gobbling up massive amount of air time on the cable news networks and receiving frontpage coverage both in the U.S. and abroad.
“From leakers to hookers.” Justice Department turns over memos James Comey wrote after his meetings with President Trump to Congress pic.twitter.com/w1L2uJRLT2
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 20, 2018
Late Thursday night, Trump responded to the memos directly on Twitter:
James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018
But many legal experts, lawmakers, and political commentators were quick to say that is the nearly the opposite of what the memos indicate:
rubbish. comey testimony & media reports suggested there was substantial evidence of obstruction. these memos confirm it. no wonder Mueller classified POTUS as a subject. we explained the possible obstruction here, & the memos are more corroboration https://t.co/v0lDIfNJMd https://t.co/pmYLq0ssVU
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) April 20, 2018
I already thanked House Republicans, but I'm going to do it again. There is so much in the #Comeymemos that @realDonaldTrump would not want released, but you did it anyway! I don't know why you did it, but much thanks. https://t.co/bMCohiXIcF
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) April 20, 2018
Trump claims the Comey Memos clearly show “no obstruction” — but they preceded Trump’s firing of Comey, which was the most obvious evidence of obstruction. Completely nonsensical.
— Mike Levin (@MikeLevinCA) April 20, 2018
View the full text of the all the Comey memos, as released, below: