President Donald Trump asked for loyalty from James Comey and encouraged the then-FBI director to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser, according to testimony Comey prepared for delivery to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
The committee is investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The questions surrounding the potential Russian involvement have drawn attention away from the administration's legislative goals, including infrastructure spending, tax cuts and changes to the health care system. Comey wrote that Trump himself suggested at a March 30 meeting that the investigation "was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country."
Comey said Trump had asked him to "get out" that the president himself was not personally under investigation. Comey said Trump explained that the "the cloud" of the Russia investigation was impeding his ability to lead.
"I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel," Comey said in his statement. "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 wrote that he could recall nine one-on-one meetings with the president over four months. At a January 27 dinner meeting at the White House, Comey said Trump asked him if he wanted to stay on as FBI chief. Comey said he told Trump he intended to serve out his 10-year term. He added that "the set-up made me uneasy" and that he told the president, "I was not 'reliable' in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth."
"A few moments later, the President said, 'I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,'" Comey said in the statement, as prepared for delivery to the Senate panel June 8. "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."
Comey's testimony also describes a Feb. 14 meeting he had with the president, during which Trump brought up the investigation into Flynn.
"'He is a good guy and has been through a lot,'" Comey quotes Trump as saying. "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.'"
Comey wrote that he immediately prepared a memo about the meeting and discussed it with other FBI officials. "I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December," Comey wrote. "I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign."
The written testimony corroborates reporting from the New York Times that Comey wrote a memo documenting the president's request to end the investigation into Michael Flynn. Trump fired Comey in May while he was addressing FBI agents in Los Angeles, according to the Times.