WASHINGTON — Former FBI Director James Comey will say Thursday that President Donald Trump asked him about the former national security adviser Michael Flynn and to “see your way clear to letting this go,” according to a copy of his opening remarks posted online.
“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 said in remarks posted on the website of the Senate intelligence committee. “I replied only that ‘he is a good guy.’ (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would ‘let this go.'”
Comey’s testimony was publicly released intentionally Wednesday by the Senate intelligence committee at Comey’s request, a Senate intelligence committee source said. Comey is scheduled to give his testimony before the Senate committee Thursday.
Comey, in his testimony, said that he spoke privately with Trump nine times — including three one-on-one meetings — and took detailed notes of his encounters in declassified memos.
In his written testimony, Comey described a March 30 phone call where he said that Trump stressed “the cloud” of the Russia investigations 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.”
But Comey determined it would be bad to publicly state Trump was not under investigation because if that changed and Trump became a subject of the probe, he would have to say so in public.
“I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change,” Comey wrote in his testimony.
Comey said Trump told him, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty” during their first dinner in January. Comey said in the statement “I didn’t move, speak or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed.” Comey said he told Trump “you will always get honesty from me.” He said the President responded, “that’s what I want. Honest loyalty.”
Comey states that Trump asked him on several occasions to publicly state that he was not under investigation.
But Comey also confirmed in his statement that he told Trump he was not under investigation, as Trump asserted in his letter to Comey explaining his firing.
The Republican National Committee seized on that element of Comey’s testimony in a statement Wednesday, a potential sign of the rapid response the party is planning for Thursday’s hearing.
“According to former FBI Director James Comey’s prepared testimony, he will confirm what Democrats and the media have been denying for weeks: That Comey did in fact tell the President three times that he was not under investigation,” the RNC said in an email to reporters.
In his testimony, Comey said he offered Trump an assurance that he was not under investigation during a Jan. 6 briefing held with the President-elect at Trump Tower.
At their January 27 dinner, Trump floated directing Comey to announce he was investigating Trump personally — so he could then prove nothing happened with Trump and Russian officials.
“He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen,” Comey wrote. “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. He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it.”
And then in the March 30 phone call, he said he had briefed congressional leaders that the FBI was not investigating Trump personally.
In that same phone call, Trump denied many of the allegations about his actions in Russia contained in a dossier prepared last year.
“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,” Comey wrote.
Comey states that he considered Trump’s request on Flynn “very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency” but decided to keep it “very closely held.”
“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,” Comey wrote. “We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account.”
Here’s a timeline of the roller coaster that is the Trump-Comey relationship:
Comey announces in a news conference that he recommended no charges be filed against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but says her handling of classified information was “extremely careless.”
Trump criticizes Comey’s announcement at a political rally hours later: “Today is the best evidence ever that we’ve seen that our system is absolutely, totally rigged. It’s rigged.”
“He talked about ‘extremely careless.’ She was ‘extremely careless,’ ” Trump said, echoing Comey’s words to describe Clinton’s actions. “That’s a tremendous word.”
Comey announces in a letter to members of Congress that the FBI has discovered emails “that appear pertinent to the investigation” of Clinton’s email server.
Trump pounces: “What happened today, starting with the FBI, maybe the system will become a little less rigged. Beautiful.”
“I’ve had a lot of words about the FBI lately, but I give them great credit for having the courage to right this horrible wrong,” he added.
Trump praises Comey: “I respect the fact that Director Comey was able to come back after what he did. I respect that very much.”
Trump continues to praise Comey’s decision to reveal the FBI’s review of new emails.
“It took a lot of guts,” Trump said. “I really disagreed with him. I was not his fan. But I’ll tell you what, what he did, he brought back his reputation. He’s got to hang tough, because there’s a lot of people want him to do the wrong thing. What he did was the right thing.”
The FBI announces that it concluded a review of the newly discovered Clinton emails and that the review found nothing that would change the conclusions of its original investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Trump goes on the attack again: “Hillary Clinton is guilty. She knows it, the FBI knows it, the people know it.”
“She is being protected by a rigged system. It’s a totally rigged system,” he said.
Trump and Comey interact publicly for the first time since Trump’s inauguration two days earlier, during an event honoring law enforcement officials at the White House.
“Oh, and there’s James, he’s become more famous than me,” Trump said, singling out Comey before shaking the FBI director’s hand and pulling him in for an embrace and a few whispered words.
Comey friend Benjamin Wittes would later explain that Comey had tried to “blend into the background” to avoid a one-on-one interaction with Trump and wanted to avoid “any show of warmth.”
“Trump grabs his hand and attempts an embrace. The embrace, however, is entirely one-sided. Comey was disgusted. He regarded the episode as a physical attempt to show closeness and warmth in a fashion calculated to compromise him before Democrats who already mistrusted him,” Wittes wrote last month.
January 27 — The dinner
Trump and Comey break bread together at the White House in what Trump would later describe as one of three times Comey told him he was not the target of the FBI’s investigation into potential collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials.
Sources close to Comey also said that Trump asked Comey to pledge his loyalty to him during that dinner.
Trump has denied making that request and those close to Comey have denied he offered any assurances to the President about whether he was under investigation.
And while Trump said he believed Comey “asked for the dinner,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Comey told him Trump had invited him to dinner.
Clapper said Comey was “uneasy with it, both from a standpoint of the optic of compromising his independence and the independence of the FBI.”
Wittes, Comey’s friend, wrote recently that Comey “did tell me in general terms that early on, Trump had ‘asked for loyalty’ and that Comey had promised him only honesty. He also told me that Trump was perceptibly uncomfortable with this answer. And he said that ever since, the President had been trying to be chummy in a fashion that Comey felt was designed to absorb him into Trump’s world — to make him part of the team.”
February 14 — The Oval Office meeting
This date is likely to be a major focus of Comey’s hearing because it’s when — according to a memo Comey wrote at the time — Trump asked Comey to drop the federal investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“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 said, according to the Comey memo several of his associates shared with reporters.
Comey only replied: ‘I agree he is a good guy,” according to the memo.
The White House has only said that the memo did not amount to a “truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation.”
Comey testifies before Congress, confirming that the FBI is investigating “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
He also says he has “no information” to support Trump’s recent claim that President Barack Obama ordered his phones tapped during the campaign.
Trump tells Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo that “it’s not too late” for him to fire Comey, but says that he has “confidence in him.”
“We’ll see what happens. You know, it’s going to be interesting,” he said.
On the eve of Comey’s testimony before Congress, Trump tweets: “FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!”
Comey testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but demurs on a slew of questions about the FBI’s investigation, particularly in questions about Trump.
“I hope people don’t over interpret my answers, but I just don’t want to start talking about anything — what we’re looking at and how,” Comey says.
Trump fires Comey.
In a letter informing him of his firing, Trump writes that Comey informed him “on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.”
Calling Comey a “showboat” and a “grandstander,” Trump says he had decided to fire Comey regardless of the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,” Trump said.
Trump tweets: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.”
When asked what message he had for Comey ahead of Thursday’s hearing, Trump said: “I wish him luck.”