Comey Testimony: Trump Asked for Loyalty, to 'Lift Cloud' of Russia Probe
WASHINGTON -- Former FBI Director James Comey will tell lawmakers Thursday that President Trump asked him multiple times to "lift the cloud" of the Russia investigation and told him an a private Oval Office dinner that “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”
A day before his highly anticipated public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice-Chairman Mark Warner released the prepared remarks Comey is set to deliver in his opening statement.
"I have not included every detail from my conversations with the president, but, to the best of my recollection, I have tried to include information that may be relevant to the committee," begins Comey's statement.
Comey said that on Jan. 6 he met with then-President-Elect Trump in a conference room at Trump Tower, asked to do so by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper because Comey was staying on while Clapper was retiring. Comey said he was alone with Trump after a meeting on the intelligence community report that found Russia waged an influence operation in the 2016 presidential campaign "to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment." Comey said he and Clapper agreed Comey would meet with Trump alone at the end of the briefing "to minimize potential embarrassment" to Trump, suggesting that Trump was briefed on the contents of the Steele dossier.
Intel leaders thought it was important to brief Trump, Comey's prepared testimony states, in part because "to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming president, we could blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing."
Stressing in length that counterintelligence investigations are different from FBI criminal investigations, Comey said "we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him" as of the Jan. 6 meeting, and "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."
"I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the president-elect in a memo," Comey's testimony continues. "To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward."
'This had not been my practice in the past," he added. "I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) – once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone."