The Senate intelligence committee released on Wednesday remarks prepared by former FBI Director James Comey for delivery the next day.
In the prepared remarks, Comey confirms that he told Trump he was not under FBI investigation multiple times, as Trump has asserted.
Comey said he told the president on January 6, January 27, and on March 30 that he was not under investigation.
They also show that Trump had never pressured Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation of whether there was any collusion between his campaign and Russia.
In fact, according to Comey, Trump had said it would be “good” to find out of there were some “satellite” associates of his who did something wrong.
In his remarks, Comey clarified conversations with Trump that his “associates” relayed to the media — which showed Trump never “demanded” loyalty or “pressured” him to drop any investigation on Flynn or the broader Russia.
According to a May 11 New York Times report, Trump had told Comey he “needed his loyalty.” The headline read, “In a Private Dinner, Trump Demanded Loyalty. Comey Demurred.”
However, according to Comey’s account, Trump never asked Comey to pledge his loyalty, and Comey never refused, as the Times reported. Trump had, according to the account, said, “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.” Comey said he did not respond to the comment.
Later in the conversation, he said Trump said again, “I need loyalty,” and that he responded, “You will always get honesty from me.” He said the president then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty,” to which Comey said, “You will get that from me.”
Comey said he was not sure what the president meant, and he did not ask, leaving it unclear as to what Trump actually wanted from him and what he meant by “loyalty,” and in what context.
As the Times also noted in the report, “Throughout his career, Mr. Trump has made loyalty from the people who work for him a key priority, often discharging employees he considers insufficiently reliable.”
Comey also provided more context to a conversation he had with Trump on February 14, in which the president reportedly asked him to drop the FBI investigation on his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whom he had dismissed the day before.
The Washington Post ran an article on May 16 that was headlined, “Notes made by FBI Director Comey say Trump pressured him to end Flynn probe.” However, Comey’s account makes it far from clear that he was ever “pressured.”
Comey said the president 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.” Comey said the president then turned to the subject of leaks.
Comey did not say whether he responded to the president’s comment, which he characterized as a “request.”
A White House statement at the time said, “the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end an investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn.”
Comey also clarified that he understood the president’s comment as a request that any investigation of Flynn be dropped — but not “the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign.”
The former FBI director also addressed why he did not tell anyone outside of senior FBI leadership about the President’s comment. He said he did not pass on that information to others in the FBI because he didn’t want to “infect” the investigative team, and because he did not intend to abide by the request.
He also said he had nothing to corroborate his story (which he still does not), and that he didn’t tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions because Sessions was expected to recuse himself from the investigation. They also decided not to tell the deputy attorney general, who would not long be there in that role.
“After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed,” he said. Comey said the investigation actually “moved ahead at full speed.”
Comey does not explain why he never told anyone in Congress, including congressional committees that oversee the FBI. He will likely be asked on Thursday why he did not come to Congress.
In fact, he told Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) last month that a situation where the FBI was told to stop something for a political reason has “not happened in my experience.”
Comey said Trump had called him on March 30 and said the Russia investigation was like “a cloud” impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country, and asked what the FBI could do to “lift the cloud.”
Comey said he told him they were investigating the matter as quickly as they could. He said he again told Trump he was not being personally investigated. He said Trump had repeatedly told him, “We need to get that fact out.”
Comey said he did not tell the president that the FBI and Justice Department were reluctant to do that, since that would create a duty to correct the record if things changed, but that he would “see what we could do” to lift the cloud.
“I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could,” he said. Comey also said he called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente for guidance, but he never received a call back.
Trump would call back two weeks later asking what he had done to make it clear that he was not personally under investigation. Comey said Trump said he would “have his people” reach out to Boente, and that he told the President that was the way to go.
Comey said Trump said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” But Comey said he wasn’t sure what the President meant.
“That was the last time I spoke with President Trump,” Comey said.