Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by President Trump on May 9th, released prepared testimony yesterday ahead of his testimony later today in front of a Senate Intelligence Committee and the international media over his previous interactions with the President who has faced widespread criticism about the way he interacted with Comey while he was director of the FBI.
At issue is the question about whether President Trump had overstepped his executive powers as President and obstructed justice through the interference of a multi-layered FBI investigation involving Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential elections.
Comey admitted in his prepared testimony that they weren’t investigating President Trump personally and didn’t have an open counter intelligence case on him.
Comey explained that he offered that assurance to President Trump during a one- on- one meeting with him at Trump Tower.
During a January 27th private dinner at the White House, Comey said that President Trump began asking him whether he wanted to stay on as director of the FBI and pointed out that lots of people wanted his job and he would understand if he wanted to walk away from his director position.
Comey wrote that it was their first discussion about his director position at the FBI and it meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have Comey ask for his job and “create some sort of patronage relationship.”
Comey acknowledged that it concerned him greatly, especially knowing the FBI’s traditional independent status in the executive branch.
He told President Trump that he loved his work and planned to serve out his 10 year term as director of the FBI.
President Trump said to Comey later during their private dinner, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”
Comey informed President Trump why it was important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House and blurring those boundaries makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.
Later in the dinner, President Trump turned to Comey and said, “I need loyalty.”
Comey replied, “You will always get honesty from me.”
Trump told Comey, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.”
Oval Office Meeting On February 14th
During a scheduled counterterrorism meeting at the Oval Office, Comey met in private with President Trump who informed Comey, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.”
President Trump said that Flynn was a “good guy” and has been through a lot.
Trump told Comey that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians but misled Vice President Mike Pence which it turns out ultimately led to his ousting from his position as national security adviser.
Trump said to Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Comey refused to say he would “let this go” but admitted that Comey was a good guy.
Comey explained in his writing that he understood Trump’s statement to mean that he was requesting him to end the FBI investigation of Flynn.
“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” Comey wrote.
Comey said that he did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign.
Comey noted that President Trump’s statement to him was “very concerning” especially after knowing the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.
Comey wrote that the FBI leadership team agreed with him that it was important “not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request” which they refused to honor.
The leadership team agreed to keep the information closely held while the investigation moved ahead at full speed.
March 30th Phone Call
President Trump called Comey on March 30th and described the Russian investigation as a “cloud” that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country.
Trump said he had nothing to do with Russia, and had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia.
Trump asked Comey what he could do to “lift the cloud.”
Comey replied that they were investigating the matter as quickly as they could, and there would be great benefit if they didn’t find anything.
April 11th Phone Call
President Trump called Comey on April 11th and asked what he had done about his past request to “get out” that he is not personally under investigation.
Comey replied that he passed the request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General but said that he had not heard back.
President Trump told Comey, “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job and indicated that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General.
Comey explained the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.
Trump said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.”
That was the last time Comey spoke to President Trump before he was fired from his position at the FBI on May 9th, a few days after he requested for additional resources from the Department of Justice for the FBI investigation about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, a request which was later denied.
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