The James Comey book tour is off to a rocky start. The idea was to sell the former FBI director as the Beltway Boy Scout who stood up to a corrupt Donald Trump. But the more we learn about the events Mr. Comey was involved in, the more his self-styled reputation for truth-telling comes into question.
On Thursday news broke that the Justice Department inspector general has referred Andrew McCabe for potential prosecution after finding that the former FBI deputy director lied to investigators about a press leak. This started a back and forth between Mr. Comey, who said he might be a witness for the prosecution, and Mr. McCabe, each accusing the other of not telling the truth.
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The testimony doing the most damage to Mr. Comey’s reputation comes from Mr. Comey himself in the memos he wrote following meetings with President Trump. After months of stonewalling, Justice finally released them to Congress Thursday. Mr. Comey said he told Mr. Trump, “I don’t do sneaky things. I don’t leak. I don’t do weasel moves.” So let’s help readers make a weasel assessment.
• Leaking. Mr. Comey writes in his memos that he told Mr. Trump he didn’t leak. But he later did precisely that when he leaked the memos of his conversations with the President to his friend, Columbia law professor Daniel Richman, on the understanding that the professor would then leak the contents to the New York Times.
• Classification. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the inspector general is now conducting a review because at least two of the memos that Mr. Comey gave Mr. Richman contained classified information, contrary to Mr. Comey’s claim that it was all unclassified.
• Hillary Clinton’s role in the dossier. When Mr. Comey first briefed the President on the Steele dossier, he limited it to the sexual and salacious aspects. He also omitted a point Mr. Trump had a right to know: The dossier was compiled by Christopher Steele on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign through the research firm cutout, Fusion GPS.
An earlier House Intelligence Committee report notes that none of the FBI’s applications for a FISA warrant on former Trump campaign associate Carter Page mentioned the links to the DNC or Clinton campaign even though “the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.” Presumably that includes Mr. Comey, but why didn’t he tell that to Mr. Trump?
• Michael Flynn . Mr. Comey says Mr. Trump’s request that he “let this go” in reference to Mr. Flynn, his first National Security Adviser, is “evidence” of obstruction. But far from suggesting the President encouraged the FBI director to close his eyes to a crime, the memos make clear Mr. Trump was making the case Mr. Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong.
• Loyalty. In his new memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” Mr. Comey likens Mr. Trump to a mob boss in his demand for loyalty. But the Comey memos make clear that Mr. Trump raised the issue of loyalty after complaining about leaks and wondering about Mr. McCabe, whom Mr. Trump had criticized during the campaign.
He also had reason to be suspicious: The fact that Mr. Trump had been briefed on the Steele dossier did soon leak—and became the news peg that CNN used to report that the dossier existed, after which BuzzFeed published the entire dossier. Just because Mr. Trump is paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get him.
We know from Mr. Comey himself that he wanted these memos leaked to the New York Times in hopes of having a special counsel appointed. In that he succeeded. But contrary to his claims, the memos suggest little reason for appointing a special counsel: Far from looking to obstruct an investigation into Russian collusion, Mr. Trump urges Mr. Comey to continue to investigate in hopes that this would show that the ugliest details in the Steele dossier weren’t true.
Mr. Trump’s motives were personal vindication because he feared his wife might believe the allegations, and Mr. Trump should not have made the request. But asking for an investigation to disprove the Steele dossier undermines the charge that Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey to obstruct justice. We don’t know what other evidence special counsel Robert Mueller has, but hanging an obstruction rap on the Comey memos isn’t going to work.