Former FBI director James Comey will testify on his exchanges with President Trump about the Russia investigation before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. But what he’ll say at the open hearing was revealed Wednesday when the full transcript of Comey's testimony confirmed, among other details, his discomfort with the president’s conduct with him.
UPDATE: The prepared statement that Comey released the day before he testified differed from what he said during the actual testimony. You can read the opening remarks he gave to the Senate here.
EARLIER: If intrigue is what you're looking for, Comey's testimony doesn't disappoint. More importantly, it confirms the veracity of many of the reports that have come out surrounding the issue of his firing. For example, remember the bombshell New York Times report about how Trump had demanded loyalty from Comey? Times' reporters had only spoken to sources close to Comey, but his prepared testimony backs that up. He also quotes the president as saying "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty" at a dinner they had together.
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." As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase "honest loyalty" differently, but I decided it wouldn't be productive to push it further. The term — honest loyalty — had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.
The testimony offers a glimpse into their fraught relationship, which is telling on many levels. Comey appears to be clear about his role and was determined to protect it, but Trump, on the other hand, seemed not to respect the "FBI's traditionally independent status in the executive branch."
For example, at the same dinner where Trump pressed him to pledge his loyalty, he also asked Comey if he wanted to keep his job. This set off red flags for Comey, according to his testimony:
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.
Reading the testimony reveals a pattern of Trump asking Comey to confirm that he wasn't the subject of an investigation, and Comey trying to retain his independence. It also confirms claims that Trump pushed Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, that Comey asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prevent private meetings between himself and Trump, and that Comey assured the president he wasn't under investigation.
Comey's testimony paints Trump as a president who sought for loyalty from someone who should have been an independent figure. A lot of things may still be up in the air, but his testimony on Thursday is sure to set off some political fireworks.