FBI Rule 4: FBI agents with the right stuff listen more than they talk. Comey frets over Trump speaking “an overwhelming amount of the time” during their meetings—but that’s exactly what FBI agents want: Let the subjects talk. The more they talk, the more we learn. Comey also complains that during their 80-minute private dinner, Trump “asked very few questions that might prompt a discussion,” but he then lists seven open-ended questions Trump asked, including: “What do you want to do?” and “What are your thoughts?”
A good agent listens, then asks clarifying questions—and Comey certainly should have done that at least twice. When Trump requested loyalty, Comey should’ve asked, “Mr. President, when you say you expect loyalty, exactly what are you asking of me?” When Trump reportedly asked him to drop an examination of Michael Flynn’s conduct, Comey should have asked, “Sir, let what go? Are you talking about his contacts with the Russian ambassador or his lying to FBI agents about it? One is a crime and one isn’t.” Trump’s answer to those questions would have been the “make or break” on an obstruction case. Instead, Comey agreed that Flynn was a good guy.
FBI Rule 5: An FBI agent with the right stuff does not make catty remarks. In A Higher Loyalty, Comey said he told Barack Obama after Donald Trump’s victory, “I dread the next four years.” FBI agents, even if they disagree with a president’s policies, refer to him as “my president” and never disparage an incoming president, especially when talking to a leader from the opposing party. Comey writes about fighting bullies his entire life and regretting being a bully in college—but he makes remarks about Trump’s face and clothing. He stoops to the “hand-to-genital-size” formula Trump disgracefully used on the campaign trail—noting his hand was bigger.
FBI Rule 6: Good FBI agents are precise in their reporting. Comey writes that his White House dinner with Trump began with them “four feet apart” at a dinner table, but moments later (after Trump asked him for “loyalty”) Comey was suddenly “inches from the president, staring him directly in the face.” On May 10, 2017, one day after Comey was fired, his goodbye letter was circulated to FBI employees on the bureau’s email system—but he now claims his testimony to the Senate a month later was his chance to say goodbye, something “President Trump did not have the grace or charity of spirit to allow me to do.”
Comey in A Higher Loyalty wrote Trump “gave me the sense he was defending himself to me.” Agents are not mind readers. They should only report what they heard. They should be like Jack Webb in Dragnet: “Just the facts, ma’am.”