Former FBI Director James B. Comey will testify on Thursday. In his prepared remarks, Comey writes President Trump demanded and expected loyalty. He is also expected to say the president asked the bureau to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Statement for the Record
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
James B. Comey
June 8, 2017
Chairman Burr, Ranking Member Warner, Members of the Committee.
Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. I was asked to testify today
to describe for you my interactions with President-Elect and President Trump on
subjects that I understand are of interest to you. I have not included every detail
from my conversations with the President, but, to the best of my recollection, I
have tried to include information that may be relevant to the Committee.
January 6 Briefing
I first met then-President-Elect Trump on Friday, January 6 in a conference
room at Trump Tower in New York. I was there with other Intelligence
Community (IC) leaders to brief him and his new national security team on the
findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the
election. At the conclusion of that briefing, I remained alone with the PresidentElect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information
assembled during the assessment.
The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the
incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious
and unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to
publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge of
the material and its imminent release from the President-Elect; and (2) to the
extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could blunt
any such effort with a defensive briefing.
The Director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portion
of the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the material
implicated the FBIas counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I would
do it alone to minimize potential embarrassment to the President-Elect. Although
we agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBIas leadership and I were
concerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new President came
into office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence
investigation of his personal conduct.
It is important to understand that FBI counter-intelligence investigations are
different than the more-commonly known criminal investigative work. The
Bureauas goal in a counter-intelligence investigation is to understand the technical
and human methods that hostile foreign powers are using to influence the United
States or to steal our secrets. The FBI uses that understanding to disrupt those
efforts. Sometimes disruption takes the form of alerting a person who is targeted
for recruitment or influence by the foreign power. Sometimes it involves
hardening a computer system that is being attacked. Sometimes it involves
aturninga the recruited person into a double-agent, or publicly calling out the
behavior with sanctions or expulsions of embassy-based intelligence officers. On
occasion, criminal prosecution is used to disrupt intelligence activities.
Because the nature of the hostile foreign nation is well known, counterintelligence investigations tend to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to
be witting or unwitting agents of that foreign power. When the FBI develops
reason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign
power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will aopen an
investigationa on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more about
the nature of any relationship with the foreign power so it can be disrupted.
In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBIas
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 Trumpas reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the
question, I offered that assurance.
I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect
in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle
outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written
records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my
practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I
spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) a
once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly,
for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I
memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with
President Trump in four months a three in person and six on the phone.
January 27 Dinner
The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the
Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and
invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but
decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It
was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I
assumed there would be others.
It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the
center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the
room to serve food and drinks.
The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI
Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier
conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to.
He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during
the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.
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.
That concerned me greatly, given the FBIas traditionally independent status in the
I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my tenyear term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that
I was not areliablea in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count
on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybodyas 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.
A few moments later, the President said, aI need loyalty, I expect loyalty.a
I didnat move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the
awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The
conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our
At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the
Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox:
Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because aproblemsa come
from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those
boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in
the institutions and their work.
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, aI need
loyalty.a I replied, aYou will always get honesty from me.a He paused and then
said, aThatas what I want, honest loyalty.a I paused, and then said, aYou will get
that from me.a As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is
possible we understood the phrase ahonest loyaltya differently, but I decided it
wouldnat be productive to push it further. The term a honest loyalty a had helped
end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he
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 didnat happen. I replied
that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we
were investigating him personally, which we werenat, and because it was very
difficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me to
think about it.
As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a
detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the
senior leadership team of the FBI.
February 14 Oval Office Meeting
On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counterterrorism briefing of the President. He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat in
a semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk. The
Vice President, Deputy Director of the CIA, Director of the National CounterTerrorism Center, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and I
were in the semi-circle of chairs. I was directly facing the President, sitting
between the Deputy CIA Director and the Director of NCTC. There were quite a
few others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs.
The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and
telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the
participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my
chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me.
The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and
exchanged pleasantries with me. The President then excused him, saying he
wanted to speak with me.
When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the
President began by saying, aI want to talk about Mike Flynn.a Flynn had resigned
the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadnat done anything
wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had
misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn,
which he did not then specify.
The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with
leaks of classified information a a concern I shared and still share. After he had
spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door
by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him.
The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly.
The door closed.
The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, aHe is a
good guy and has been through a lot.a He repeated that Flynn hadnat done
anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President.
He then said, aI 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.a I replied only that ahe is a good
guy.a (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a
colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my
term at FBI.) I did not say I would alet this go.a
The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and
left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group
of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President.
I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about
Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood the
President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection
with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in
December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader
investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I
took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynnas departure and the
controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very
concerning, given the FBIas role as an independent investigative agency.
The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect
the investigative team with the Presidentas request, which we did not intend to
abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there
was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little
sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely
recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two
weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney Generalas role was then filled in an acting
capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role.
After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to
figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed. The
investigation moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team
members a or the Department of Justice lawyers supporting them a aware of the
Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to
pass along the Presidentas concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore
the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the
President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened a him being asked to
leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind a was
inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply. For the reasons
discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBIas potential
investigation of General Flynn.
March 30 Phone Call
On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He
described the Russia investigation as aa clouda 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. He asked what we could do to alift the cloud.a I responded that
we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be
great benefit, if we didnat find anything, to our having done the work well. He
agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.
Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about
Russia the previous week a at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed,
confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the
Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in
Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the
confirmation of the Deputy Attorney General until we briefed him in detail on the
investigation. 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, aWe need
to get that fact out.a (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department
of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an
open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because
it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)
The President went on to say that if there were some asatellitea associates
of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he
hadnat done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we
werenat investigating him.
In an abrupt shift, he turned the conversation to FBI Deputy Director
Andrew McCabe, saying he hadnat brought up athe McCabe thinga because I had
said McCabe was honorable, although McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and
had given him (I think he meant Deputy Director McCabeas wife) campaign
money. Although I didnat understand why the President was bringing this up, I
repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honorable person.
He finished by stressing athe clouda 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
wasnat 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.
Immediately after that conversation, I called Acting Deputy Attorney
General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russiarelated matters), to report the substance of the call from the President, and said I
would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the President
called me again two weeks later.
April 11 Phone Call
On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had
done about his request that I aget outa that he is not personally under investigation.
I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I
had not heard back. He replied that athe clouda was getting in the way of his
ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to
the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be
handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to
make the request, which was the traditional channel.
He said he would do that and added, aBecause I have been very loyal to
you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.a I did not reply or ask him what he
meant by athat thing.a I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White
House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what
he would do and the call ended.
That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.
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