The Senate Intelligence Committee released a statement from former FBI Director James Comey ahead of Thursday’s highly anticipated hearing.
Here are the highlights from Comey’s seven-page statement detailing his interactions with President Donald Trump in his first public remarks since he was fired last month:
“I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,” Comey said Trump told him during a Jan. 27 dinner. “I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed,” Comey wrote. “We simply looked at each other in silence.”
Trump told Comey, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” Recounting the aforementioned Jan. 27 dinner, Comey said Trump had asked for his loyalty again, prompting the FBI chief to say, “You will always get honesty from me.” Trump’s response, however, was that he wanted “honest loyalty.” Comey said he assured the president he would get “honest loyalty” from him, writing that the term “had helped end a very awkward conversation.”
“I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know,” Trump said, according to Comey, who “did not reply or ask him what he meant by ‘that thing.’” “I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended,” Comey said. “That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.”
Lots of people want your job, Trump told Comey. The FBI director said he found it strange that Trump began the private dinner by asking if he wanted to retain his position “because he had already told me twice … that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to.” “He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.” He said he was “greatly” concerned that dinner was “at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship.”
“I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo,” Comey said, explaining that he did so on a laptop inside an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower immediately after his Jan. 6 meeting with the president-elect. Comey said it became his practice “from that point forward.”
“I can recall nine one-on-one conversation with president Trump in four months,” Comey said, noting that three were in person and six were over the phone. “I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) – once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016,” Comey said. “In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions.”
Comey assured Trump he wasn’t under investigation during their first meeting. He said he discussed with FBI leadership before his meeting with the president-elect whether to disclose that he wasn’t personally under investigation. “That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him,” Comey said. “We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.”
Trump asked Comey what he could do to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation. Comey said Trump during a March 30 call blamed the “cloud” of the investigation for hindering his presidency. As he’s done publicly, Trump maintained that he had nothing to do with Russia. “I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well,” Comey said. “He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.”
“We need to get that fact out,” Comey said Trump repeatedly told him. The fact was that Trump was not personally under investigation. “The President went on to say that if there were some ‘satellite’ associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him,” Comey said.
Trump “asked what I had done about his request that I ‘get out’ that he is not personally under investigation,” Comey said. The interaction came during an April 11 phone call, the last time he said he spoke with Trump. The president eventually said he would have White House counsel contact Justice Department leadership to make the formal request.“
Trump had concerns about former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to Comey. The president met privately with Comey in the Oval Office on Feb. 14, the day after Flynn resigned. “I want to talk about Mike Flynn,” Comey recalled Trump saying. “The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.”
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Comey said Trump told him. Comey added that Trump called Flynn “a good guy” and said “I hope you can let this go.” Comey agreed that Flynn “is a good guy” but wouldn’t say he would “let this go.” Trump briefly returned to the subject of leaks and then Comey left.
Comey said he “understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn.” “I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls,” Comey said. “Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.” Neither Attorney General Jeff Sessions nor members of the FBI’s investigative team were made aware of Trump’s request, Comey said.
Comey told Sessions “to prevent any future direction communication between the President and me.” “I told the AG that what had just happened – him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind – was inappropriate and should never happen,” he recalled telling Sessions face to face. “He did not reply. For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBI’s potential investigation of General Flynn.”
Powered by WPeMatico