In an official statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, James Comey (former FBI Director) submitted detailed accounts of his interactions with President Trump from January through April.
Here are the biggest bombshells & just wildly strange moments from the memos.
After his first conversation with then President-Elect Trump, Comey begins a new practice of writing memos detailing their interactions although he notes this was not something he did with President Obama. He says the difference is that he “spoke alone with president Obama twice in person (and never on the phone)” while he remembers “nine one-on-one conversations with president Trump in four months”.
Comey is invited to dinner in the Green Room at the White House. Comey doesn’t realize it will be a one-on-one dinner with Trump. When Comey realized it was just the two of them, he became worried because the FBI historically remains independent from the President. Too close of a relationship could create the illusion that the FBI was no longer independent from the President. Comey famously declined to play basketball with President Obama because he worried what it would look like from the standpoint of independence.
During the dinner, President Trump says that he needs and expects loyalty from Director Comey. Comey writes that he “didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed”. (Sorry, but I can’t get over this part – was it like a staring contest? How long did the silence last? What was Trump’s facial expression? I seriously need answers.)
Comey tried to explain to the President “why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House”.
When dinner was almost over, Trump pressed Comey again for a promise of loyalty and the two men settled on the term “honest loyalty” with Comey pushing the honesty portion. I have no idea what this term means and I don’t think either of them do either.
After a counterterrorism briefing in the Oval Office, President Trump asked to speak with Comey alone. Trump took this moment to attempt to influence the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump said. “He is a good guy.”
This may be the most important detail of the statement – some believe that President Trump asking Director Comey to “let go” of the Flynn investigation is obstruction of justice, which is an impeachable offense.
Trump calls Comey at the FBI and tells him that the Russia investigation is “a cloud” hanging over his presidency and asks what can be done to “lift the cloud”. Comey tells Trump that the FBI is investigating as quickly as possible but that there is a benefit to President Trump that the work is done well (providing that they don’t find anything that indicts Trump in collusion with Russia).
President Trump calls Comey to ask if he can “get out” the fact that Trump is not personally under investigation. “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know,” he said. Comey isn’t sure what Trump means by “that thing” but doesn’t ask. This is the last time they spoke.
Tomorrow, James Comey will testify on the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election as well as his own interactions with President Trump.