The Jury Talks Back


Mollie Hemingway Twists the Facts to Accuse James Comey of Lying

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 12:33 pm

The pronouncements of Mollie Hemingway are often taken as Gospel truth by the Trump superfan section of the Internet, so a little debunking of a false claim she has recently made about James Comey is in order. Here is Mollie Hemingway on Twitter:

Mollie is here claiming that Comey lied to Congress. Her evidence does not support her claim.

Mollie, in the first tweet above, suggests that Comey could not have leaked his memo in response to Trump’s tweet, because “in fact” Trump’s tweet was “in response” to “Comey’s latest leak.” Therefore, Comey’s testimony is a “false claim” — one that he has made several times.

But Mollie’s evidence does not support her claim, which rests on a false implication that the New York Times article to which Trump was responding was based on a leaked memo from Comey. It wasn’t. Instead, that New York Times article was sourced to two anonymous “associates” of Comey’s. Mollie is dead wrong here and I have called her out.

In case this is not already crystal clear, I’m going to explain it step by step. It’s a little intricate, but stay with me and I promise that it won’t be that difficult.

Here’s the order of events as they actually happened. A New York Times story appeared on May 11, 2017, and appeared on Page A1 of the May 12, 2017 edition, titled In a Private Dinner, Trump Demanded Loyalty. Comey Demurred. The story opened with these paragraphs:

Only seven days after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president, James B. Comey has told associates, the F.B.I. director was summoned to the White House for a one-on-one dinner with the new commander in chief.

The conversation that night in January, Mr. Comey now believes, was a harbinger of his downfall this week as head of the F.B.I., according to two people who have heard his account of the dinner.

As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.

The story is sourced to “two people who have heard [Comey’s] account of the dinner.” Elsewhere in the story they are described as Comey’s “associates”:

Mr. Comey again replied that he would give him “honesty” and did not pledge his loyalty, according to the account of the conversation.

But Mr. Trump pressed him on whether it would be “honest loyalty.”

“You will have that,” Mr. Comey told his associates he responded.

Throughout his career, Mr. Trump has made loyalty from the people who work for him a key priority, often discharging employees he considers insufficiently reliable.

As described by the two people, the dinner offers a window into Mr. Trump’s approach to the presidency, through Mr. Comey’s eyes.

Keep in mind that Comey reported the events of the meeting to top FBI officials after it happened, as well as writing a memorandum. But Comey’s memorandum is not referenced in the story. Instead, two associates described what Comey had told them at the time:

Mr. Comey described details of his refusal to pledge his loyalty to Mr. Trump to several people close to him on the condition that they not discuss it publicly while he was F.B.I. director. But now that Mr. Comey has been fired, they felt free to discuss it on the condition of anonymity.

This is the NYT story that Mollie is referencing in her first tweet, above, which embeds four images: 1) Trump’s tweet, 2) a section from Comey’s testimony, 3) a screenshot of the opening of the NYT article, and 4) a screenshot of a notation stating that the story appeared on page A1 of the May 12, 2017 edition. Here are the third and fourth images from Mollie’s first tweet above:

Hemingway Screenshot 3

Hemingway Screenshot 4

Later that same morning, May 12, 2017, Trump tweeted an implication that he had taped the meeting:

A screenshot of this tweet is the first image in Hemingway’s first tweet, followed by the second image: a screenshot of a portion of Comey’s testimony:

Hemingway Screenshot 2

Comey, in other words, testified that he leaked his memo summarizing the meeting in response to that Trump tweet. This is the testimony that Mollie is claiming is “false.”

But the claim that Comey’s testimony is false rests on the false implication that the NYT story I just discussed in great detail is based on a leak from Comey — in particular, a leak of Comey’s memo. If you put Mollie’s two tweets together, the allegedly “false claim to Congress” is the claim described in her first tweet:

Comey just told Congress he only leaked his memos in response to Trump’s 5/12/17 tweet about “tapes” of his meetings with Trump.

This is “false,” we are told, because “in fact” Trump’s tweet was made “in response” to “Comey’s latest leak.” The very strong implication here is that “Comey’s latest leak” is the leak referred to in the Comey testimony highlighted by Hemingway’s second screenshot, describing why he leaked his memo.

In other words, Hemingway is implying that the NYT story was based on Comey’s leak of his memo memorializing his dinner with Trump.

But it wasn’t. There is zero evidence of that. It’s something Hemingway is pulling out of her hind quarters. The NYT story based on the memo that Comey leaked through his friend Daniel Richman came days later, on May 16, 2018. The article was titled Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation:

President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

It’s a different story.

Hemingway is conflating that May 16, 2018 story, which appeared four days after Trump’s tweet, with the May 11, 2018 story to which Trump was responding in his tweet. The earlier story was not based on a leaked Comey memo. The latter one was.

The timeline is consistent with Comey’s version of the events, and inconsistent with Hemingway’s revisionism. She owes James Comey a retraction and an apology.

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