"I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." James Comey describes meetings with Donald Trump

James Comey says that Trump seemingly pressured him on "letting Flynn go" and saying he's not under investigation

By Matthew Rozsa

Published June 7, 2017 2:26PM (EDT)

James Comey; Donald Trump   (Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com/Getty/Jim Watson)
James Comey; Donald Trump (Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com/Getty/Jim Watson)

Former FBI Director James Comey's opening remarks for Thursday's Senate testimony has just been released, and if its contents are true, could contain damning information about conversations that he had with President Donald Trump before he was fired.

Comey began taking detailed notes on his conversations with Trump, he wrote, even though "this had not been my practice in the past." As Comey explained, although he only spoke with President Barack Obama twice in person and never on the phone, "I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone."

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He mentions a dinner on Jan. 27 that, although Comey had assumed it would involve other guests, wound up only containing the two of them.

"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," Comey wrote. "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."

Comey explained that he felt "concerned" because his impression was that "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."

When Comey then said that the president could rely on him to always tell him the truth, he said Trump replied, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." After an awkward silence, the conversation moved on to other subjects, but Comey writes that Trump reiterated how he needs loyalty, with Comey insisting that he would only promise his honesty. Eventually they agreed to "honest loyalty," although Comey acknowledges that Trump may have understood that phrase differently than Comey did.

Comey also described how, on Valentine's Day, Trump asked to speak with Comey alone about former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had resigned on the previous day.

"The president began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the vice president," Comey write. "He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify."

Trump also reportedly told Comey, "I 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."

Comey said that, on multiple occasions, Trump described the Russia investigation as a "cloud," and asked Comey what he could do to "lift the cloud." Trump said multiple times that he wanted people to know that he wasn't under investigation.

Comey writes that Trump continued to complain about "the cloud" of the Russia investigation and told the FBI Director that "I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know." Comey admits that he did not ask Trump what he meant by "that thing" but simply advised him to have the White House Counsel contact the Acting Deputy Attorney General.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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