Former FBI Director James Comey will say in public testimony Thursday that President Trump asked him to "lift the cloud" over him and the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Comey's seven-page opening statement, released Wednesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee at Comey's request on the eve of his hearing, reveals key details about his interactions -- a total of nine in-person meetings and phone calls -- with Mr. Trump since early January. Comey wrote memos about each of those interactions, a step he did not take with Mr. Trump's predecessor for the two conversations he had with former President Obama.
The former FBI director will confirm earlier reports that Mr. Trump asked that Comey drop the FBI's investigation into former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, a day after his resignation, and Comey will also confirm that the president requested a pledge of loyalty.
Comey told Trump in January and March there was no counter-intelligence case against him
The former FBI director met one-on-one on Jan. 6 with then-President-elect Trump after briefing him with other intelligence agency leaders on Russian meddling in the election at Trump Tower. Comey will say in his opening statement that he had previously discussed with the FBI's leadership team whether to be prepared to assure Mr. Trump that the FBI wasn't investigating him.
"That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. 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," Comey will say Thursday.
During a phone call between Comey and Mr. Trump on March 30, Mr. Trump asked why he testified at a congressional hearing on the Russia probe the previous week.
"I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump," Comey will say Thursday.
Mr. Trump has referred to the fact that Comey has told him that he is not under investigation --in May and in an interview.
Comey confirms that the president requested his loyalty
During a one-on-one dinner at the White House on Jan. 27, Comey said that the president began by asking whether he wanted to remain as FBI director. Comey said that Mr. Trump's behavior during their sit-down suggested the president was trying to create a "patronage relationship," which Comey said, "concerned me greatly."
"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," Comey will say Thursday.
At the end of the dinner, Comey said that Mr. Trump repeated, '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,' Comey will say Thursday.
Comey says Trump asked him to drop the FBI probe into Michael Flynn
Following a counter-terrorism briefing on Feb. 14 at the White House, a day after Flynn resigned from his post, Comey met privately with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office in which the president said he wanted to discuss Flynn.
"The President began by saying Flynn hadn't done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify," Comey will say.
"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,' Comey will continue saying in his opening statement.
Comey said he "immediately prepared" an "unclassified memo" of the conversation about Flynn and discussed it with FBI senior leadership. He said he didn't think the president was referring to the "broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign" but admits, "I could be wrong."
"Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI's role as an independent investigative agency," Comey will say.
Afterward, Comey asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prevent any future direct communication between him and the president.
Trump asked Comey to "lift the cloud" over him and the Russia investigation
Comey will say Thursday that Mr. Trump called him by phone on March 30.
"He described the Russia investigation as 'a cloud' that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country," Comey will say. "He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to 'lift the cloud.'"
Comey told the president that the FBI was investigating the matter as quickly as possible.
Trump asked Comey what he was doing to clear him
The last time Comey said he spoke with Mr. Trump was by phone on April 11 when the president called him and "asked what I had done about his request that I "get out" that he is not personally under investigation" and again repeated that the "cloud" was interfering with his job. Comey said that the president told him the White House would reach out to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Comey explained how it should be done through the traditional channels.
"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," Comey will say Thursday.
Read Comey's opening statement here.
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