The Senate Intelligence Committee just released the written testimony of former FBI Director James Comey. In it, Comey discusses five conversations he had with Donald Trump, beginning on January 6. He claims, surprisingly, that he never took notes of meetings with President Barack Obama but took immediate and detailed notes of each of his conversations with Trump.
When Trump fired Comey, he mentioned that Comey had thrice told him he was not under investigation: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau.”
Comey confirms Trump’s claim in his written testimony. Here are the descriptions of the three times he told Trump the latter was not under investigation by the FBI.
When Comey Briefed Trump on the Dossier
Obama’s intelligence chiefs chose to brief the president-elect and president of the existence of a beyond-shady dossier alleging compromising information the Russians held on Trump. This dossier, although full of false and unverifiable information, was used to secure a FISA warrant against an American citizen. Someone in a small circle of intelligence officials leaked the existence of the briefing to CNN, which ran with it, and BuzzFeed published the dossier. Within short order, aspects of the dossier were discredited. The Senate Intelligence Committee is currently investigating why the FBI used the dossier, and even tried to pay the maker of the dossier for the opposition research activities he engaged in.
The previous director of national intelligence, whose office had a reputation for chattiness with reporters, asked Comey to brief Trump on the dossier. Comey’s written testimony says:
In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI’s leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on PresidentElect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.
During a Private Dinner
Comey says his instinct in a second meeting was that Trump was seeking loyalty and by his own description, couched in many words preceding and afterwards, Comey said he would be loyal:
Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, ‘I need loyalty.’ I replied, ‘You will always get honesty from me.’ He paused and then said, ‘That’s what I want, honest loyalty.’ I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.’
Surprisingly, Trump is said to have then pushed for a deeper investigation of Russia — for the purpose of exonerating him! In Comey’s response to Trump’s request to investigate Trump and Russia ties further, Comey issues his second confirmation that Trump was not being investigated:
During the dinner, the President returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them. He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen. 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.
During a Meeting about Press Leaks
A third meeting confirms that someone at the FBI was leaking to the press details of Comey’s conversations with the president. Trump tells Comey he didn’t have a problem with Michael Flynn’s conversation with the Russians but that he had other problems with Flynn and that, with his departure from the White House, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go.”
Both Comey and Trump talk about what a good guy Flynn is. Comey says, literally, “He is a good guy” about Flynn. Comey says he didn’t take Trump to be talking about letting the Russia investigation go. In any case, Comey says no one in the FBI made any changes to the Flynn investigation on account of what Trump said, and implicitly acknowledges that it didn’t rise to the level of obstruction of justice.
If it had, Comey would have had to do more than the nothing he reports in his testimony. He didn’t even tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the conversation. Trump is concerned by leaks and Comey, in his testimony, gives no indication that the FBI took investigating leaks seriously, other than mentioning it briefly to Sessions.
Trump Demanded the Russia Investigation Be Stepped Up
On March 30, according to the testimony, Trump calls Comey and asks him why the Russia investigation is being slow-walked, saying it’s a “cloud” that is impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. Comey stumbles around a bit before writing:
I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, ‘We need to get that fact out.’
Trump goes on to say that if anyone in his orbit did something wrong, “It would be good to find that out, but that he [Trump] hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him.” More:
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. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.
On April 11, the president asked how it was going, and Comey didn’t have much of a response. It was the last time they spoke.
So there you have it. Comey confirms — not with anonymous leaks, but with on-the-record testimony — that he thrice told Trump that Trump was not under investigation for collusion with Russia.