Ahead of former FBI Director James Comey’s Congressional testimony tomorrow, the prepared remarks he will deliver at the top of the hearing were released.
Among the highlights of his statement, the ex-FBI chief pointed out that in the much-discussed private dinner he had with PresidentDonald Trump, the president apparently demanded an oath of loyalty from him. Comey noted that he felt the need to write a detailed memo about the conversation after the fact.
A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.
Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.” As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it
wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.
He also described two other meetings with Trump — the January 6th intelligence briefing where he provided details about the salacious Russia dossier and a February 14th Oval Office meeting — along with two phone calls he had with the president.
Regarding the February conversation, Comey’s statement addressed reports that the president had asked him to halt the investigation into ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Pointing out that Trump explained why he had to let Flynn go, Comey then highlights what occurred and how uncomfortable it made him:
The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information – a concern I shared and still share. After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him. The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed.
The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President.
He then said, “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.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my
term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”
The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President.
I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. 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. 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. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.
Describing an April 11th phone call, Comey noted that the president had pushed him to “get out” that he wasn’t personally under investigation. Trump told Comey that the “cloud” of the probe was getting in his way, leading the then FBI head to tell the president that he should go through the traditional channels of the Justice Department. Per Comey, Trump’s response was this:
He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.”
You can read the entire statement here.