Fired FBI Director James Comey will testify Thursday that President Donald Trump sought his loyalty and urged him to stop investigating his first national security adviser, encounters that left Comey feeling uncomfortable, he says in a statement submitted to the Senate.
"I need loyalty, I expect loyalty," Trump allegedly demanded, according to a statement Comey submitted to the Senate intelligence committee. The statement detailing Comey's one-on-one interactions with Trump was released Wednesday, one day before Comey will appear before the committee.
It confirms Trump's assertion that Comey assured him three times that he was not personally under investigation and explains why Comey shared that information with Trump. According to the document, Comey first volunteered the information during a Jan. 6 meeting at Trump Tower. He told Trump again that he was not under investigation during a Jan. 27 dinner at the White House and a third time during a March 30 phone call when Trump pressed him on the issue, according to Comey.
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Comey wrote that that the FBI and the Department of Justice were reluctant to say publicly that they did not have an open case on Trump, as Trump wanted them to do, "for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change." Comey said he did not tell the president that.
The statement also confirms what Comey's associates have said previously, in anonymously sourced reports, that Comey told them that Trump asked him at a January dinner to pledge his loyalty to the president.
Comey says he answered that he could offer his honesty. When Trump said he wanted "honest loyalty," Comey replied, "You will get that from me."
Comey also wrote that, at an Oval Office meeting weeks later, the president asked him to consider letting go of an FBI investigation into Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
That is something Trump has denied doing. At a May 18 news conference, Trump twice said "no" when asked if he tried to halt the probe.
But Comey wrote that Trump said, of Flynn, "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."
On Wednesday afternoon, Trump's outside counsel released a statement: "The President is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the President was not under investigation in any Russian probe. The President feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda."
Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, said that Comey's statement was released early "because that's what Comey and I agreed to," but declined to discuss the contents of the statement.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D.-Mass., a frequent critic of the president, tweeted out Comey's statement and added: "This whole thing is crazy."
Trump fired Comey on May 9, later calling him a "showboat" and "grandstander" in an interview with NBC News' Lester Holt. On Wednesday, he announced he is nominating former Department of Justice official Christopher A. Wray to replace him.
Comey said he prepared memos from each of the meetings with Trump, writing he "can recall" nine one-on-one conversations in four months, three in person and six on the phone. He says in the statement that he has not included every detail of his conversations.
Below are selected highlights from the allegations in Comey's statement, broken down by date. Read the whole transcript here.
Jan. 6 Briefing
Before the Jan. 6 meeting, Comey had discussed with the FBI leadership team whether he should be prepared to assure Trump that the FBI was not investigating him personally.
"That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. 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."
Jan. 27 Dinner
During a dinner with the president on Jan. 27, Comey wrote that the president began by asking him whether he wanted to stay on as FBI director, which he found strange because he had already assured the president that he intended to.
"My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship," Comey wrote. "That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch."
At the dinner, Comey assured Trump for the second time that he was not personally under investigation by the FBI. Trump told Comey he was considering ordering the FBI director to investigate the salacious material about prostitutes in Russia, to prove that it had not happened. Trump had denied the allegations in the report and said he was disgusted by them. (He has also publicly denied the allegations, which are based on an unverified intelligence dossier.)
"I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative," Comey wrote.
Feb. 14 Oval Office Meeting
Trump asked the other members of his administration in a counter-intelligence briefing to leave, and when they had, said, "I want to talk about Mike Flynn," who had resigned the previous day.
Trump insisted Flynn hadn't done anything wrong by speaking with Russians but fired him because he misled Vice President Mike Flynn and "had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify."
Apparently referring to the FBI investigation of Flynn, Trump said, "I hope you can let this go." Comey replied, "He is a good guy." After the meeting, he prepared an unclassified memo summarizing the conversation.
"I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign," Comey wrote, calling it very concerning.
Comey also write about that meeting:
“Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct 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 did not reply. For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBI’s potential investigation of General Flynn.”
March 30 Phone Call
Comey said Trump called him and "described the Russia investigation as 'a cloud' that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country" and asked what Comey could do to lift that cloud."
"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. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him," Comey wrote.
Comey explained to Trump that he had briefed congressional leadership that the FBI was not personally investigating Trump, who replied, "We need to get that fact out."
Trump again denied rumors that he had "been involved with hookers in Russia."
April 11 Phone Call
Trump reiterated to Comey his desire to "get out" to the public that he was not under investigation, saying the "cloud" was getting in the way of Trump doing his job. Comey said he directed Trump to the acting deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, and Trump said he would follow Comey's advice, adding he had been "very loyal" to Comey. It was the last time Comey spoke to Trump.