In prepared remarks released Wednesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee, former FBI director James Comey gives his account about the events that led to his firing. Comey will deliver the remarks in person on Thursday morning as the curtain rises on one of the most widely anticipated productions of Washington political theater in recent years.
Comey’s prepared remarks are the script to this show. In seven pages, Comey details his instant mistrust of Trump and his conviction that Trump’s requests were unusual, inappropriate, and a threat to the FBI’s independence.
1. Comey: The Difference Between Trump and Obama
After their first meeting on January 6, Comey was worried.
“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 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.”
2. Trump: “I Need Loyalty, I Expect Loyalty”
About a January 27 dinner at the White House, Comey felt pressured.
“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. … 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.”
3. Trump: “I Hope You Can Let This Go”
After a February 14 Oval Office meeting, Comey and his colleagues decided they would not follow the president’s wishes.
“The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, ‘He is a 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.’ …
“[After the meeting] I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. … it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency. The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide.”
4. Comey: “Inappropriate and Should Never Happen”
After the February 14 meeting, Comey also rebuked Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened—him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind—was inappropriate and should never happen.”
5. Trump: “Not Involved with Hookers in Russia”
In a March 30 phone call, Trump denied an unconfirmed report that he had consorted with prostitutes during a visit to Russia.
“On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He 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.”
6. Trump: “That Thing”
After their last communication in an April 11 phone call, Comey wondered what the president was trying to say.
“The President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I ‘get out’ that he is not personally under investigation. … I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel. 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.'”
Jefferson Morley is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. He is the author of the forthcoming biography The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton (St. Martin’s Press, October 2017) and the 2016 Kindle ebook CIA and JFK: The Secret Assassination Files.
Copyright 2017 The National Memo