On March 30, President Donald Trump informed James Comey that he had not been involved with “hookers” in Russia, had “nothing to do with Russia” and hoped the then-FBI director could help him “lift the cloud” of the nascent investigation.
The new detail is just one in the testimony Comey will deliver Thursday before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, according to prepared remarks released Wednesday.
The seven-page document outlines five of nine one-on-one conversations between Comey and Trump, beginning on January 6, which according to Comey, took place in a “conference room at Trump Tower in New York.”
According to Comey, other leaders of the intelligence community were in attendance to brief the incoming president “on the findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election.”
“At the conclusion of that briefing, I remained alone with the President-Elect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment,” according to the testimony.
Comey emphasized that the IC believed it was important to inform Trump about their findings as well as the existence of a dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. The dossier included unverified, salacious activities by Trump and his associates in Russia, including one particular detail about prostitutes urinating.
Comey recounted that in the first conversation, he assured the president that there was not an “open counter-intelligence case on him.”
Immediately after leaving that first meeting, Comey said, he began taking notes on his interactions with Trump, a practice that he did not undertake for his conversations with former president Obama.
The next conversation detailed in the testimony took place at a private dinner between the two men on January 27 in the Green Room of the White House.
“The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to,” Comey wrote. “He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.”
Comey wrote that he was “concerned” about the nature of this conversation and that it appeared as if Trump was seeking “some sort of patronage relationship.”
Comey, as previously reported in the New York Times, recalled he told the president that he “was not 'reliable' in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth.”
That wasn’t enough for Trump, according to Comey.
“A few moments later, the President said, 'I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,'” Comey wrote. “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.”
According to the testimony, they returned to the subject once more later in the dinner at which point the two men seemed to agree on the term “honest loyalty” for the way in which Comey would be handling his job.
Towards the end of this dinner, Trump said he “was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen,” in reference to the previous material Comey had shared with the president.
“I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative,” Comey wrote.
The next meeting occurred in the Oval Office on February 14. The president allegedly asked everyone else in attendance to leave at which point he told Comey: “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.”
Trump told Comey that Flynn “hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians” but he had to be let go because he misled Vice President Mike Pence.
“He is a good guy and has been through a lot,” Trump told Comey according the testimony. “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.'”
Comey wrote that he found the request to be “very concerning” but also understood it to mean that Trump was simply “requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December” and not asking broadly that the Russia investigation overall be dropped.
Subsequently, Comey said he told Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he and Trump should not have any “future direct communication.”
Comey also described a March 30 phone call with Trump in which the president “described the Russia investigation as 'a cloud' that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country.”
“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 wrote.
Comey responded, according to the testimony, that they were investigating as quickly as they could.
During the call, Trump allegedly asked Comey why there had been a congressional hearing on the matter the previous week, during which time Comey “confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.”
Comey also added that he had emphasized to congressional leadership that Trump himself was not under investigation. He explained in the testimony that this had not been stated publicly because “it would create a duty to correct, should that change.”
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.”
In the final call, which took place on April 11, Trump “asked what I had done about his request that I 'get out' that he is not personally under investigation,” Comey wrote.
Comey wrote that he said the request should be made through the acting Deputy Attorney General.
Trump “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 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 Comey spoke with the president before he was fired on May 9.