Former FBI Director James Comey will describe in vivid detail the different interactions he had with Donald Trump since he was elected President in his hotly anticipated congressional testimony on Thursday, confirming for the first time himself explosive reports that Trump had asked him to pledge his loyalty and to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
“The President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,” Comey will tell the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to prepared testimony released Wednesday. “I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed.”
The lengthy prepared testimony backs up, in Comey’s own words, a series of news reports since Trump fired him last month — that his interactions with Trump left him uncomfortable, that he feared for the FBI’s independence amid an investigation into possible connections between Trump’s campaign and Russia, and that he demurred when asked to pledge his loyalty.
“I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone,” Comey says in his testimony, contrasting that with the fact that he “spoke alone with President Barack Obama twice in person (and never on the phone).” Comey said he wrote detailed memos after every conversation with Trump out of his own volition, which he had not done while working under Obama.
Comey also said that Trump asked him in late March to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation.
“He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia,” Comey says. “He asked what we could do to ‘lift the 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.”
This is the first time Comey has spoken publicly about his interactions with Trump since he was fired in May. Comey had confirmed during a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee in March that the FBI was investigating whether Trump associates had colluded with Russian officials in their attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.
Ahead of Comey’s testimony on Thursday, Trump said simply, “I wish him luck.” But behind the scenes, the Administration and his allies have been preparing to rebut his testimony and discredit him.
Trump’s decision to terminate Comey immediately sparked outrage in both parties because he was firing the person overseeing the investigation into his campaign. Trump had initially cited Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server during the campaign as the reason he fired Comey, but he acknowledged just two days later in an interview with NBC News that the Russia investigation was a factor.
“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,” Trump said.