WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — Former FBI Director James Comey will testify that President Donald Trump sought his “loyalty” and asked what could be done to “lift the cloud” of investigation shadowing his administration, according to prepared remarks released ahead of his appearance on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
WEB EXTRA: Read James Comey’s opening remarks
The Senate Intelligence Committee released Comey’s seven-page opening statement Wednesday afternoon ahead of Thursday’s much-anticipated testimony.
In his remarks, Comey tells lawmakers that he informed Trump that he was not personally under investigation. Comey will say that the FBI and Justice Department were reluctant to state that publicly “because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.”
Comey’s testimony will be his first public comments since Trump abruptly fired him on May 9. At the time of his firing, Comey had been overseeing the federal investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s election meddling, outraging Democrats who claimed the president was interfering in an active probe.
In his opening remarks, Comey says that he met privately with then-President-elect Trump January 6 to brief him on “salacious and unverified” material compiled in a 35-page dossier. During that meeting, Comey said he assured Trump he was not personally under investigation, according to his prepared remarks.
After that meeting, Comey says he “felt compelled” to document his conversation in a memo. Comey said after his first one-on-one meeting with Trump, he kept notes about all future private meetings and phone calls with the president. There were nine one-on-one conversations total, Comey will testify.
Comey will testify that he had a private dinner with Trump at the White House on January 27.
“My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship,” Comey will testify. “That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch.”
During the dinner, Comey will say he told the president “I was not ‘reliable’ in the way the politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the President.”
That’s when Trump allegedly told him “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”
Comey said he and the president then shared an awkward silence.
At the end of the dinner, Trump allegedly told him again “I need loyalty.”
“You will always get honesty from me,” Comey will testify.
“That’s what I want, honest loyalty,” Trump allegedly replied.
Comey claims he paused and said, “You will get that from me.”
Comey describes at length a Feb. 14 meeting in the Oval Office in which he believed Trump asked him to drop any investigation of fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn‘s contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.
“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 says, according to the prepared remarks. “I replied only that ‘he is a good guy.”‘
In March, after Comey had publicly revealed the existence of a federal counterintelligence investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Trump complained that the probe had left a “cloud” that was “impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country.”
“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’s prepared statement says. “He asked what we could do to `lift the cloud.”‘
“He finished by stressing ‘the cloud’ that 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,” Comey will testify.
Some Republicans are expected to press Comey on why he did not raise his concerns publicly or resign.
The White House initially said Trump fired Comey on the recommendation of the Justice Department, citing as justification a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that criticized Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But Trump later said he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he fired Comey and would have dismissed him without the Justice Department’s input.
Trump’s attorney issued a statement Wednesday saying the president feels “completely and totally vindicated” by Comey’s statement, which points out that Trump is not under investigation.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)