WASHINGTON-Former FBI director James Comey confirmed in stunning detail Wednesday that President Trump privately requested his loyalty and later urged him to drop the investigation into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to a preview of his highly anticipated testimony.
Comey's statement reveals key details about his nine interactions in person and on the phone with Mr. Trump. "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".
Comey had dinner with Trump in the Green Room at the White House. Comey writes he was ready to assure Trump he was not.
Comey also wrote that Trump had asked him for his loyalty, and that he described the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election "as "a cloud" that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country".
Rubin also writes that, by asking Comey if he wanted to stay on as Federal Bureau of Investigation director, even though Comey had previously told him that he planned to serve out his normal 10-year term, Trump was hoping to create some anxiety in Comey's mind about getting fired. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. He is expected to describe in detail several one-on-one conversations with Trump, beginning with a January 6 briefing at Trump Tower in NY related to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.
"'I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know, "' Comey recalled being told by Trump, adding that he didn't ask the president what "that thing" referred to.
He says Trump asked him to stay behind in the Oval Office after a meeting with a larger group, and as they stood near a grandfather clock, Trump described Flynn as a good guy who'd been through a lot.
The broader picture presented by Comey's testimony is deeply damaging to Trump.
"On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I "get out" that he is not personally under investigation".
Trump paused and said: "That's what I want, honest loyalty".
In her analysis of the testimony, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin suggests that when Comey writes that the FBI "did not have" an investigation in process on Trump personally, the use of the past tense might imply that such an investigation is now under way. Comey says he discussed the conversation with a small F.B.I. leadership team, but did not expand beyond that for two reasons: 1.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions lingers, and Trump shoos him away. In his testimony, Comey makes clear that Trump brought up Flynn in their February 14 meeting as soon as they were by themselves in the Oval Office. Moscow and Trump have both denied any collusion.
"The president is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the President was not under investigation in any Russian Federation probe", Marc Kasowitz wrote in a statement.
Comey said that when he and Trump were alone, Trump asked to speak about Flynn, who had just resigned as national security adviser over misleading Vice President Pence over his contacts with the Russian ambassador.
"It's not against the law to lie to the vice president of the United States in that situation", said Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor who's now a managing director with Berkeley Research Group in Chicago.
Trump announced Wednesday that he would nominate Christopher A. Wray, the former assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's criminal division, to succeed Comey. Comey claimed Trump asked what could be done to "lift the cloud".