Read James Comey’s Prepared Remarks Describing His Meetings With President Trump
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On Thursday, June 8, the former director of the FBI, James Comey, is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He released his opening statement early, giving news organizations a preview of what is to come.
In the remarks, he describes a meeting in the Oval Office in which President Trump, according to Comey, asked him to back off his investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump said, according to Comey.
If true, this could be seen as the president obstructing the FBI’s investigation of possible ties between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign in 2016. Comey apparently kept detailed notes of all his encounters with the president, both before and after his inauguration on January 20.
The FBI director is supposed to remain independent of political considerations, which is why the FBI director and the president rarely speak in a one-on-one scenario (at least customarily). But Trump allegedly demanded loyalty from Comey at a private dinner at the White House in January. “I need loyalty,” the president said. “I expect loyalty.”
At that dinner meeting, the idea of Comey staying on as FBI director also was discussed. FBI directors serve 10-year terms; Comey was in his fourth year at the time.
Comey’s remarks detail a series of meetings and phone calls, during which the topic of whether the FBI was investigating the president repeatedly came up. Comey told Trump he was not under investigation, and Trump asked if Comey could make that information public. Comey declined.
In April, the question of loyalty would come up again as what the president referred to as a “cloud” over him regarding the ongoing FBI Russia investigation continued to dominate news coverage. Trump called Comey directly, which is also unusual for a president to do. (Normally the president contacts the Justice Department, which then reaches out to the FBI.) Trump asked him what he had been doing to get the word out that Comey and the FBI were not investigating Trump personally:
[The president] replied that ‘the cloud’ was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of [the Justice Dept.] to make the request, which was the traditional channel.
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.’ I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.
That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.
A month later, President Trump fired Comey, citing at first a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, then later claiming that he had planned to fire Comey regardless of Rosenstein’s advice.
The Senate Intelligence Committee hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET on Thursday. Here is the full text of Comey’s opening remarks: