Comey to Congress: President Trump told him ‘I need loyalty’

In this Dec. 9, 2015 file photo, FBI Director James Comey prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)


WASHINGTON (AP/WOOD) — 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.

Comey, who is scheduled to appear before the Senate intelligence committee, will also tell 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.

The former director’s testimony details several meetings and phone calls he had with Trump following the election. 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.'”

The seven-page remarks reveal Comey’s uneasiness with Trump, who appeared to disregard the FBI’s traditional independence from the White House. Some Republicans are expected to press Comey on why he did not raise his concerns publicly or resign.

Among the encounters Comey describes is a Jan. 27 dinner at the White House. He says that after Trump asked him if he wanted to remain as FBI director, the president declared: “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.”

Comey says he replied that he could offer his honesty, and that when Trump said he wanted “honest loyalty,” Comey paused and said, “You will get that from me.”

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.'”

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.

MICHIGAN LAWMAKERS ON TESTIMONY’S IMPORTANCE

Checking with legislators from Michigan, it appears that the perception of how important Comey’s testimony will be is at least somewhat dependent on which side of the political fray you are on.

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, told 24 Hour News 8 he wants the investigations to continue and for the truth to come out.

“One, what I hope and expect is that he’s just going to tell the truth about what is going on that has to happen and is expected,” Huizenga said. “But two, we’ll see, we’ll let those investigations that are happening in the House and the Senate move forward. But at this point, I think the decision to remove him as FBI director has played out to be the correct one.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, believes there is something sinister in parts of Comey’s testimony that he has been able to preview.

“I’ve only read a few excerpts, but what I have seen, it’s pretty serious. I mean, he does indicate with pretty serious clarity that the president attempted to get him to drop the investigation into Russia, the investigation into …. Mr. Flynn. This is really bad,” Kildee said.

But unless there is some definitive testimony to prove or disprove allegations about Russia, Trump and myriad other accusations, the testimony is not likely to change minds in a wholesale way on either side.

–24 Hour News 8 political reporter Rick Albin