Comey: 'The administration chose to defame me and the FBI'
In a brief opening statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday, fired former FBI Director James Comey accused the Trump administration of defaming him and the agency he used to lead.
Departing from the prepared text of his remarks, Comey described being "confused" by the White House's shifting explanations for his firing and President Trump's suggestion that it was related to the investigation of Russian interference in the election.
“The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI,” he said, referring to the White House efforts to portray the organization as in disarray under his leadership.
Comey also defended the integrity of the FBI.
“The FBI is honest, the FBI is strong, and the FBI is and always will be independent,” Comey said.
The written version of Comey’s statement was released by the committee on Wednesday, apparently at Comey’s request. The unusual disclosure was reportedly made in part because he wanted senators to have time to process his story and prepare questions ahead of the hearing.
The result is that the most significant details of Comey’s recollection of his interactions with Trump were known to the public nearly 24 hours before he was sworn in.
In the statement, Comey described meeting Trump at Trump Tower on January 6 and discussing with him “personally sensitive” allegations that investigators were aware of, some of them salacious and unverified. According to Comey, he told then-President-Elect Trump the FBI was not investigating him personally.
He stated that after this first encounter with Trump, he began creating written records of their one-on-one conversations, something he had not felt the need to do with President Obama.
Comey also detailed a dinner with Trump at the White House in late January where the president told him he expected his loyalty.
"I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed,” Comey wrote. “We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner."
At that point, Comey says he told Trump he could only promise him honesty, to which Trump replied that he wanted “honest loyalty.”
They spoke again on Valentine’s Day after a counterterrorism briefing with other officials. Trump had fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn the previous day amid questions about Flynn’s interactions with the Russian ambassador. According to Comey, Trump insisted Flynn had done nothing wrong and told him, "I hope you can let this go."
Comey described this request as “very concerning” and said he wrote an unclassified memo about the conversation and discussed it with senior FBI leadership. They chose not to share the details with the investigators handling the Russia inquiry.
In a March 30 phone call, Trump complained to Comey that the Russia investigation was “a cloud” impairing his presidency and asked Comey what could be done to “lift the cloud,” according to the statement.
Comey stated that he again told Trump at that time that he was not personally under investigation, to which Trump replied he wanted to “get that fact out.”
According to Comey, their final conversation came on April 11, when Trump again asked him about getting out the fact that he was not under investigation. Comey told him the White House counsel should contact the Department of Justice leadership about that.
“I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know,” Trump allegedly said. Comey did not ask what “that thing” was.
Less than a month later, Comey was fired.
A person close to Trump's legal team told the Associated Press he plans to dispute Comey's account.