Trump told Comey 'I need loyalty,' the fired FBI director says in prepared remarks
Former FBI Director James Comey
Fired FBI director James Comey said in prepared congressional remarks that President Donald Trump told him “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty” during a private dinner in January.
Trump told Comey during another meeting at the Oval Office in February that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in calls with the Russians, according to Comey’s remarks.
Comey said in the remarks that he expected other people to be present at the Jan. 27 dinner, but he and Trump were alone. Comey said he was uncomfortable, even before Trump asked for loyalty, so he told the president he was not “reliable” in the way politicians use the word. But he could always be counted on to tell the truth.
When the president said he needed 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,” Comey said.
At one point, Comey’s testimony said, he explained why it was important that the FBI and Department of Justice be independent of the White House. But the president raised the loyalty issue again near the end of the dinner, saying “I need loyalty,” according to the prepared remarks.
Comey said he replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” Trump responded, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.”
The Oval Office meeting occurred on Feb. 14 after a counterterrorism briefing, Comey said in the remarks. Trump said he wanted to speak to Comey alone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and adviser Jared Kushner lingered, Comey said, but the president said he wanted to speak only to Comey.
Trump said Flynn had done nothing wrong by speaking to the Russians. But Trump had to let him go because he misled the vice president. “He is a good guy and has been through a lot,” Trump reportedly 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 said he replied only that Flynn “is a good guy.”
Comey said he understood the president to be requesting that the FBI drop any investigation into alleged false statements Flynn made about his conversations with the Russians. “I did not understand the president to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign,” Comey said.
In a March 30 phone call, Trump told Comey that the Russia probe was a “cloud” hanging over his ability to lead the country, according to Comey’s account. Trump reportedly said he had nothing to do with Russia and had not been involved with hookers there. Trump reportedly said it would be good to find out if “satellite” associates of his had done something wrong. But he hadn’t done anything wrong, and he hoped Comey could get out that information.
“I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could,” Comey said, “and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.”
Trump finished the conversation by stressing that the cloud was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country, and he hoped Comey could find a way to let people know 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,” Comey said.
Comey said he first assured Trump he was not under investigation during a Jan. 6 briefing. Trump raised the issue at the January dinner and said he was considering ordering Comey to investigate salacious, unverified allegations involving Trump and Russia to prove the incident didn’t happen, according to Comey.
Comey said he replied that the idea should be given careful thought because it might create a narrative that the FBI was investigating the president personally, which it wasn’t, and because it is difficult to prove a negative.