Comey: Trump Asked for Loyalty, Did Not Obstruct
WASHINGTON—The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released on June 7 the remarks that former F.B.I. Director James Comey prepared for delivery on June 8, detailing his recollection of five conversations he had with President Donald Trump.
While expressing repeated concerns about Trump’s tendency not to use traditional channels of communication, Comey does not allege that the president obstructed the investigation into Russian interference in the election and possible collusion with the Trump team. Comey said that Trump considered requesting that Comey investigate claims made in a dossier alleging the Russians held compromising material on Trump and also investigate whether any of Trump’s “satellite” associates had done anything wrong.
Comey said that in his first conversation with the president-elect, he informed Trump in private, after a larger meeting that included heads of the intelligence community, of the contents of a dossier referred to the FBI that alleges that Russia has compromising information on Trump. The dossier has been heavily criticized as being a collection of uncorroborated gossip with several obvious factual errors.
In that private conversation, Comey offered the first of three assurances he gave the president, on three different occasions, that Trump was not personally under investigation, states Comey’s testimony.
Comey also reports that Trump repeatedly asked Comey, in this meeting and in subsequent meetings, to say publicly that he was not under investigation. Comey decided not to make such a public statement, saying in his testimony that he was concerned about giving a public assurance prematurely, in case Trump did come under investigation, thereby requiring Comey to issue a correction.
After the Jan. 6 meeting, Comey reports he immediately typed up a memo of his conversation with the president, a practice he continued after subsequent conversations with Trump.
At a dinner on Jan. 27, Trump told Comey he was considering ordering him to investigate the incidents reported in the dossier in order to show they never happened. Comey argued against undertaking such an investigation.
At that dinner, Trump reportedly told Comey he expected loyalty from him, and Comey replied by saying he would give Trump honesty, and then later, “honest loyalty.” Comey felt Trump’s request was inappropriate and admitted he and Trump might have had different understandings of what “honest loyalty” entailed.
On Feb. 14, the day after former national security adviser Michael Flynn had been fired for not accurately reporting his conversations with the Russian ambassador to Vice President Mike Pence, Comey reports that in a private conversation in the White House, the president said: “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
In a memo he reportedly circulated to FBI leadership about this conversation, Comey said, “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.”
In other words, Comey does not believe that Trump was attempting to obstruct the investigation into collusion with Russia.
In a March 30 phone call, Trump reportedly told Comey that “if there were some ‘satellite’ associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out,” according to Comey’s testimony.
On April 11, Trump again asked Comey to let the public know he was not under investigation, saying that “the cloud” over him was impeding his ability to be president.
In several places in his testimony, Comey complains about Trump not going through the chain of command, and in that final April 11 conversation, Trump agrees to bring his concerns to Comey’s boss, the acting deputy attorney general.