The Most Shocking Lines From The James Comey Testimony
Less than 24 hours before former FBI director James Comey testifies before the Senate on Thursday, the text of his prepared introductory testimony was released. Considering some of the shocking lines from Comey's testimony on his exchanges with Trump over the Russia investigation, it looks to be just as explosive as anticipated.
Comey is scheduled to begin his testimony at 10:00 a.m. ET (that's an early start of 7:00 a.m. for those on the West Coast) on Thursday, June 8, in what was already one of the most hotly anticipated Senate hearings in recent memory.
And the anticipation is only going to increase now that Comey's opening remarks have gone public. They're lengthy, and touch on a number of different meetings between himself and the president, including the widely reported allegation that Trump requested a loyalty pledge from him. Here are some of the most shocking and potentially consequential takeaways from the document, which you'll hear Comey read to the Senate intelligence committee at the start of his testimony tomorrow.
1. Comey Documented His Encounters With Trump
Comey's testimony will quickly confirm reports that suggested the former FBI director kept contemporaneous notes about his interactions with the president, some of which he found questionable or troubling. This was not, according to his prepared remarks, how he'd previously handled meetings with Obama. In Trump, he express concern for his disdain for the proper boundaries between the bureau and the executive branch, especially in the context of an ongoing investigation of his campaign.
2. Trump Tried To Create A "Patronage Relationship"
According to Comey, he had a one-on-one dinner with Trump on Jan. 27, just one week after his inauguration, in which Trump asked if he wanted to continue in his job, and noted that he'd understand if he wanted to walk away, given all the "abuse" he'd taken since the election. Considering the private nature of the dinner, and the fact that he'd already told Trump he wanted to stay on as FBI director, Comey interpreted this as an attempt to create a "patronage relationship," to recast them as, in a sense, partners and collaborators.
3. Trump Demanded Comey's Loyalty
This is quite the damning statement. Trump, for his part, denied asking Comey for his loyalty, but also insisted it wouldn't be inappropriate to ask for his loyalty to the country.
4. Trump Denied The Salacious Steele Dossier Rumors
The controversial and still-unverified dossier collected by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele included some lurid and startling sexual allegations about Trump, allegations which Comey says the president specifically denied during their dinner. Even further, he suggested he might order Comey to disprove the existence of a sex tape, a course of action the FBI director cautioned against.
5. Trump Urged Comey To Drop The Mike Flynn Investigation
During a later meeting at the White House, Comey says Trump asked everyone else to leave the room so that they could speak privately, then began urging him to let go the investigation of recently resigned national security adviser Flynn. Like many of the biggest takeaways in the statement, this was previously reported, but it's now being confirmed by Comey himself. He also says he didn't perceive Trump as talking about the broader Russia investigation, but specifically Flynn's part of it. Given the importance of the FBI's independence, Comey found the conversation "very concerning."
6. Comey Asked Sessions Not To Leave Him Alone With Trump
This story broke earlier this week, and it's similarly corroborated in Comey's remarks ― after the meeting in which Trump isolated Comey to talk about Flynn, Comey spoke with Sessions, and told him such an unexpected one-on-one between himself and the president "should never happen."
7. Trump Asked Comey What He Could Do To "Lift The Cloud"
In a Mar. 30 phone call, Trump asked Comey if he could do something to "lift the cloud" of the FBI's investigation, and again denied engaging in any of the sordid sexual activities alleged by the Steele dossier. Interestingly, Comey also says Trump told him he assumed he was being recorded when he visited Russia, ostensibly as a means of saying he wouldn't be so foolish as to be caught on tape in such a a compromising position.
8. Trump Said It'd Be "Good" To Know If His Associates Did Anything Wrong
He also suggested that it'd be good for him to learn whether any of his associates did anything improper regarding Russia, but that he hadn't done anything, and wanted Comey to publicly say he wasn't under investigation. According to the statement, Comey did indeed privately inform Trump that he was not the target of a counterintelligence investigation prior to his inauguration, although whether he was under any other form of investigation ― or whether that's become the case since after Comey's firing ― is not known.
9. Trump Claimed He'd Shown Loyalty To Comey
During Comey's last-ever conversation with Trump, he says the topic of loyalty came up once again. Specifically, Comey says Trump claimed to have shown him loyalty in the past, about "that thing." Comey maintains he has no idea what Trump meant by that, and that he neither replied to the remark nor asked about it further.
10. Comey Organized The Leak Of His Bombshell Memo
During his testimony, Comey said that he purposefully leaked his memo about his exchanges with Trump. “The president tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I’d better hope there are not tapes,” the former FBI head said. That, Comey explained, prompted him to then ask “a friend of mine to share” his memo with a journalist. As the Washington Post noted, that friend was Columbia Law School professor Daniel Richman and it was the New York Times' Michael Schmidt, who received the memo.
Comey defended his decision to share his memo, saying during questioning: "As a private citizen I felt free to share that. I thought it very important.”
Sen. Roy Blount asked Comey why he didn't give the memo to the media directly. In one of the lighter moments of testimony, Comey responded, "The media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point. I was worried it was going to be like feeding seagulls at the beach."
11. Unsharable Details About Session's Need To Recuse
Twitter certainly took notice when Comey noted that there were "facts that I cannot discuss in an open setting" that made Attorney General Jeff Sessions' "continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic."
Sessions' recused himself from any investigations related to Russian interference in the election in March. Just this past week, multiple outlets reported that Sessions offered to resign, in part after Trump was displeased that Sessions recused himself from the investigation. Neither the White House nor the attorney general confirmed that report.
12. Comey Hopes There Are Tapes & He Wants Them Public
Just days after Trump fired Comey from his post at the FBI, the president tweeted what some saw as a threatening message. On May 12, he tweeted "James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"
However, Comey is all for any tapes being shared to show how their exchanges went. "I've seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes," the former FBI head said. "The president surely knows if he taped me. If he did, my feelings won't be hurt. Release all the tapes. I'm good with it."
13. Trump's "Tapes" Tweet Actually Prompted The Comey Memo Leak
Trump may ultimately rue the day he decided to threaten Comey with "tapes" that may or may not exist. That tweet came the Friday after Comey was fired by the president. According to the testimony the former FBI gave, it was that tweet that led him to ask a "good friend" — who we now know is Richman — to leak his memo, detailing his exchanges with the president.
14. Lynn's Clinton Email Probe Handling Made Comey "Queasy"
The Trump administration was far from the only object of interest of Comey's testimony. Comey said it was then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch's infamous meeting with Bill Clinton on the tarmac at a Phoenix airport that lead him to speak about the Clinton private server investigation. Moreover, he noted that he was concerned that Lynch directed him to call the investigation as a "matter" and not, well, a criminal investigation. Specifically, he said of Lynch's direction, "That gave me a queasy feeling."
15. Comey: Trump Fired Me Over The Russia Probe
Comey made it crystal clear during his testimony that he believes it was his oversight of the investigations into Russian interference with the 2016 election that ultimately cost him his job. "There’s no doubt," the former FBI director said. "I was fired because of the Russia investigation. The endeavor was to change the way [it] was being conducted.”
It's no stretch to say that Comey's testimony, as well as the questions he fields from the committee, could help establish whether or not Trump engaged in obstruction of justice ― although Comey himself will reportedly not argue that. It'll be carried on all the major news networks, and for convenience's sake, you can also easily watch it online through the YouTube stream embedded above.