The FBI’s former top lawyer told Yahoo News that senior officials in the agency once worried that former FBI Director James Comey would seem like he was blackmailing President Donald Trump.
On Jan. 6, 2017, then-FBI Director Comey and FBI chief counsel Jim Baker met with President-elect Donald Trump. They told Trump that the FBI had received allegations that Trump had solicited prostitutes in Moscow. These allegations were part of the infamous — and at least partially discredited — dossier on Trump compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.
This was the same meeting where Comey assured the president that he was not personally under investigation, something Baker had urged Comey not to say.
The concern for Baker and Comey as well as other unnamed senior officials at the FBI was that mentioning the allegations about prostitution to Trump would make it appear as if they were blackmailing the president-elect.
Baker told Yahoo News‘s “Skullduggery” podcast that they “were quite worried about the Hoover analogies, and we were determined not to have such a disaster happen on our watch.”
J. Edgar Hoover, the founder of the FBI, notoriously kept blackmail files on people he thought might try to oppose him. Baker said that he and Comey had frequently discussed the Hoover years at the FBI, and Hoover’s blackmailing of prominent figures including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
But, Baker argued, the agency’s hands were tied.
“The press has it; it’s about to come out. You should be alerted to that fact,” he said.
Baker said he thought that it would have been “inappropriate” if the president was not briefed on this and instead found out through the media.