Ousted FBI Director James Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Senators are likely to question him on five key sections.
1. Comey felt compelled to record all conversations with Trump after their first meeting
Early in the testimony, Comey described meeting Trump for the first time on January 6 in Trump Tower, two weeks before Trump was officially sworn in as president. He was there to brief Trump in his capacity as FBI Director on the threat of Russia attempting to influence the 2016 election. During the meeting, he assured Trump that he was not personally the subject of a counter-intelligence investigation at the time. Despite Comey speaking to former President Barack Obama twice, he never felt the need to record those conversations. However, after leaving Trump Tower, the former FBI chief made it his practice from that moment on to record memos of every conversation with Trump:
I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. 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… I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.
2. Comey thought Trump wanted to “create some sort of patronage relationship”
In one particularly revealing section of Comey’s testimony, the former FBI Director recalled a “very awkward conversation” in a one-on-one dinner with Trump at the White House in late January. During the dinner, Trump asked Comey if he wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which he found odd, considering he had already previously told Trump that he intended to finish out the ten-year term as FBI Director which began in September of 2013.
“My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship,” Comey wrote, adding that the exchange “concerned [him] greatly.”
Throughout the dinner, Trump pressed Comey on pledging loyalty to him, with Comey responding with only silence and a neutral facial expression. President Trump then changed the subject, but eventually reverted back to the topic of whether or not the FBI Director would be “loyal” to his administration. Comey only promised “honest loyalty,” which he and Trump interpreted differently.
“As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase ‘honest loyalty’ differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further,” Comey wrote. “The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.”
3. Comey refused to tell President Trump he would drop the inquiry into Michael Flynn
In mid-February, Comey attended an Oval Office meeting with several high-profile members of the Trump administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. Comey’s chair was directly facing Trump’s desk, and he was flanked by a semi-circle of the other meeting attendees. At the conclusion of the meeting, Trump dismissed everyone — including Attorney General Jeff Sessions — telling participants he needed to speak one-on-one with Comey.
During that conversation, Comey recalled how Trump referred to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had resigned just days prior, as a “good guy,” telling Comey he hoped he would “let this go.” Because Trump didn’t specifically refer to the Russia probe in that conversation, Comey concluded that President Trump was referring to the matter of Flynn’s phone calls with Russian officials.
The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. 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.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”
Comey wrote that he never told Trump he would end the investigation. However, he did make a note of the request and decided to not tell anyone inside the FBI about it other than senior bureau staff.
4. Trump pressured Comey to end the Russia probe
Near the end of March, Comey received a call from President Trump, in which he emphasized to the FBI Director that he hadn’t been involved with “hookers” while visiting Moscow in 2013. He also asked Comey to quickly conclude the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia, referring to the matter as a “cloud” hanging over the White House preventing him from carrying out his duties as president.
Comey then responded that the agency wouldn’t rush the probe, and would conclude when the job was done right. He then informed the Acting Deputy Attorney General about the call and asked for guidance, but never heard back.
[Trump] finished by stressing “the cloud” that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated. 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.
Immediately after that conversation, I called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia-related matters), to report the substance of the call from the President, and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the President called me again two weeks later.
5. Trump tried to hang the “loyalty” pledge over Comey before firing him
On April 11, less than a month before President Trump abruptly fired him, Comey once again received a call from Trump, who asked the FBI Director that he publicly state his agency was not investigating the president. Comey then reminded him of the proper channels to relay that request. Trump said he would, but then tried to pressure Comey once more by reminding him he had “been very loyal to [Comey], very loyal.”
“[W]e had that thing you know,” Trump added, according to Comey’s testimony.
“I did not reply or ask him what he meant by ‘that thing,'” Comey wrote. “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,” he concluded.
Tom Cahill is a senior editor for the Resistance Report based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at [email protected], or follow him on Facebook by clicking here.