Watch Trump and Comey’s Tense Loyalty Dinner From ‘The Comey Rule’
Creator Billy Ray opens up about how he recreated the notorious sitdown between the president and FBI director for his Showtime miniseries. Plus watch the scene here.
Without question the most anticipated sequence in The Comey Rule, filmmaker Billy Ray’s two-part miniseries chronicling former FBI Director James Comey’s bizarre encounters with—and eventual firing by—President Donald Trump, is the loyalty dinner.
On Jan. 27, 2017, a week after his inauguration, Trump is said to have requested a private dinner at the White House with Comey, who as FBI director was in the process of formally investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
According to Comey—who claims to have taken contemporaneous notes of the clandestine tête-à-tête—and a number of his associates at the bureau, during the course of their meal, Trump repeatedly asked Comey to pledge his loyalty to him. Each time, Comey told Trump he would pledge to be honest. When Trump requested that Comey promise “honest loyalty,” he ultimately obliged.
In The Comey Rule, premiering Sept. 27 on Showtime, Jeff Daniels stars as Comey and Brendan Gleeson as Trump. Ray, who is no stronger to based-on-a-true-story tales, having penned Captain Phillips and Richard Jewell, tells The Daily Beast that Comey allowed him to sneak a peek at some of those infamous contemporaneous notes—though not for the loyalty dinner. “There were some notes I wasn’t allowed to see, and I believe that was among them,” he offers.
But Ray was allowed to grill Comey about the dinner sequence, asking him how the table was situated, how the room felt, and what the experience was like. Comey said, “The thing about talking to Trump is it’s like getting hit by 10 fire hoses at once, and if you can manage to get your hands on one of those fire hoses, you’ve really done something, and as you’re congratulating yourself for getting your hands on it, nine more are hitting you in the face.”
WATCH THE ‘LOYALTY DINNER’ SCENE HERE:
The Comey Rule also features Michael Kelly as Andrew McCabe, Jennifer Ehle as Patrice Comey, Holly Hunter as Sally Yates, Peter Coyote as Robert Mueller, and Joe Lo Truglio as Jeff Sessions. It was shot over 51 days, with the cast and crew filming approximately four scenes a day. The loyalty dinner, comprising eight and a half pages of dialogue, was the only scene that got its own shooting day; it was the very first day Daniels acted opposite Gleeson. Plus, Comey and his daughter were on set that day observing the action.
“It was the only day that Comey visited the set,” recalls Ray. “I absolutely wanted him there for the loyalty dinner. And I looked back over my shoulder after a couple of takes and asked, ‘How are we doing?’ and he said, ‘You have ruined my day in a great way. You are taking me back to exactly what it felt like.’”
While Comey provided Ray with notes on the first draft of The Comey Rule, conversations with the Trump administration broke down early on in the production process. “There was a conversation or two very early on, but I decided it was not a good idea for me to pursue that, because they were going to ask to see the script, and that would be a disaster,” says Ray.
Ray was personally selected by Comey to oversee the project—an adaptation of the former lawman’s bestselling book, A Higher Loyalty. He remembers pitching Comey on a conference call with their respective agents. Things were going smoothly until one of Comey’s book agents asked Ray how he was going to handle Trump’s election win over Hillary Clinton—a victory aided by Comey and the FBI’s announcement on Oct. 28, 2016, days before the election, that they were looking into newly discovered Clinton emails stemming from a separate case involving Anthony Weiner.
“Dramatically, it’s Frankenstein. You’ve created a monster, and the monster destroyed you,” Ray replied. When Comey asked him, “Well, how did I create the monster?” Ray shot back, “Well, sir, you got him elected.” “There were other factors,” Comey maintained, to which Ray said, “You created a 6-point swing, and that was enough.”
“And he picked me anyway,” says Ray. “That says everything you need to know about Jim Comey.