WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — New information was surfacing Thursday about former FBI Director James Comey’s relationship with President Donald Trump, two days after Comey was fired.
As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported, a CBS News law enforcement source said late Thursday that Comey was invited to the White House for dinner in January with Trump – in a narrative that was also reported by the New York Times. During the dinner, Trump asked Comey if he would pledge his loyalty, Comey told the source.
Comey said he declined, but instead he told Trump he would always be honest, Comey said according to the source. Later on in the dinner, Trump again told Comey he needed his loyalty, the source said Comey told them.
Again, Comey said he would be honest, the source said. Trump pressed him on whether it would be “honest loyalty,” and Comey said he responded by saying, “Yes, you will have that,” the source said.
He meant he would always be honest with Trump, the source said.
Meanwhile, there were reports that Comey had recently requested more resources in the investigation into the Russian hacking of the election. But Trump insisted that he himself is not under investigation, and offered other reasons for the seemingly abrupt firing.
Trump said he planned to fire Comey regardless of the recommendation from his deputy attorney general, contrary to earlier statements from the White House.
Trump told NBC News Thursday that he had made up his mind to dismiss Comey before he met Monday with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
“He’s a showboat, he’s grandstander, the FBI has been in turmoil,” Trump said. “You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.”
When asked to explain Trump’s comments during a press briefing Thursday, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Those words don’t leave a lot of room for interpretation so I think it’s pretty clear what he meant.”
White House officials had said earlier in the week that Trump asked Sessions and Rosenstein for their opinions about Comey, and then Trump acted on those recommendations.
“He made, he made a recommendation. He’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy, uh, the Democrats like him, the Republicans like him, uh he made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendations I was going to fire Comey,” Trump said.
Sanders said Thursday that Trump had been thinking about firing Comey “for months” and that the final straw came last week when the former FBI director apparently misspoke during testimony about Hillary Clinton’s emails.
“The recommendation that he got from the deputy attorney general just further solidified the decision and again I think reaffirmed that he made the right one,” Sanders said.
Trump detailed conversations with Comey during the interview, saying that he spoke with the former FBI director once during dinner and twice in phone calls. Trump said Comey told him “you are not under investigation.”
“I know that I’m not under investigation. Me personally. I’m not talking about campaigns or anything else. I am not under investigation,” Trump said.
Democrats allege the firing of the FBI director was an attempt to cripple the probe into alleged Russian meddling with the 2016 election.
The White House insists Comey had lost the confidence of the president and many others with his controversial handling of the Clinton email probe.
The Washington Post reported that Rosenstein threatened to resign this week because the White House made it look like he was driving the process.
The controversy over the Comey firing consumed talks on Capitol Hill Thursday.
“I do have questions about both the rationale and the timing,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
The Trump administration has claimed rank and file FBI agents lost faith in Comey and his leadership.
The new acting head of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, flatly contradicted that Thursday morning, saying Comey had broad support in the bureau. He called Comey a man of integrity.
When asked about McCabe’s statement, Huckabee said, “I can speak to my own personal experience, I’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president’s decision. I think that we may have to agree to disagree. I’m sure there are some people who are disappointed but I’ve certainly heard from a large number of individuals and that’s just myself and I don’t even know that many people in the FBI.”
McCabe, made his first public appearance since Comey was fired, speaking at a Senate hearing on threats to national security.
The top Democrat on the senate intelligence committee Sen. Mark Warner, D.-Virginia, asked McCabe, “Do you commit to informing this committee of any effort to interfere with the FBI’s ongoing investigation into links between Russia and the trump campaign?”
“I absolutely do,” McCabe replied. “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date. Quite simply put sir, you cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing, protecting the American people, and upholding the constitution.”
Meanwhile, Comey, back at his home in Virginia, sent a message of encouragement to FBI colleagues following his abrupt dismissal.
“I’m not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed. I hope you won’t either. It is done, and I will be fine,” Comey said.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)