Trump Told Comey ‘I Need Loyalty, I Expect Loyalty’

Published June 8th, 2017 - 09:00 GMT

Comey described the interaction as "very concerning, given the FBI's role as an independent investigative agency." (AFP)
Comey described the interaction as "very concerning, given the FBI's role as an independent investigative agency." (AFP)

US President Donald Trump asked the head of the FBI to drop an investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn, ex-FBI director James Comey is to say in congressional testimony on Thursday.

"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," Trump told Comey, in his account of a February 14 White House meeting.

Comey described the interaction as "very concerning, given the FBI's role as an independent investigative agency."

The account made in prepared written testimony appears to confirm media reports about Comey's interactions with Trump that are to be at the heart of Thursday's Senate intelligence committee hearing.

The prepared testimony, which was made public on Wednesday, also details other interactions between the president and FBI chief, including Trump's demand for "loyalty" from Comey.

Comey will walk the committee through five interactions in person and over the phone with Trump, beginning with a briefing he gave the president-elect in January in New York. Comey said he kept detailed accounts of all his interactions with Trump.

Trump fired Comey on May 9 and questions have since swirled about whether he had pressured Comey on the ongoing Russian investigation in allegations that could amount to obstruction of justice. Trump has denied the allegations.

The White House said it was reviewing Comey's written testimony.

Asked if Trump would stand by his previous denials that he had asked Comey to drop the Flynn probe and had not asked Comey for a loyalty oath, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, "I can't imagine the president not standing by his own statement."

In multiple conversations, Trump referred to the ongoing Russia investigation as a "cloud" over his presidency, asking Comey what the FBI could do to "lift the cloud."

Comey said he told Trump on three occasions that he was not personally under investigation, after Trump repeatedly sought reassurance.

Trump had hoped the FBI would publicize that fact, but the FBI and Justice Department did not want to do so in case the situation changed, the testimony says.

Trump said he felt "totally vindicated" by the testimony, according to a statement by his lawyer published in US media.

"The president is pleased that Mr Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the president was not under investigation in any Russian probe," Trump's lawyer Marc Kasowitz said.
Comey recounts a one-on-one dinner he attended with Trump just days after the inauguration at which the president seemed to suggest that he might replace Comey and which he saw as an effort to "create some sort of patronage relationship."

Trump told him, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty," making Comey uncomfortable because of the importance of the FBI's independence. Instead Comey said he told him he would always get "honesty."

Comey oversaw the federal probe of Russia's alleged hacking of Democratic Party targets and other election-related intelligence operations, including possible links to the president's campaign organization.

Trump has denounced the broader investigation as a "witch hunt" even as it has cast a widening shadow over the White House.

Meanwhile, top US intelligence officials on Wednesday would not confirm reports that Trump had asked them to influence the investigation, but claimed they had never felt "pressured" to intervene.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers told the Senate intelligence committee that they would not discuss private conversations with the president publicly.

The Washington Post reported late Tuesday that Trump had asked Coats to ask Comey to back away from the Flynn investigation.

Trump reportedly pulled aside Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo in March to complain about Comey's handling of the investigation and asked Coats to intervene. The Post cited unnamed sources familiar with Coats' discussions.

Coats did not comment directly on the veracity of the report, but said, "Just because it's published in the Washington Post doesn't mean its unclassified," indicating he could not discuss it.

He told the senators he would however be willing to discuss it in a closed session.

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