Fired FBI director James Comey confirmed in a statement today that US President Donald Trump urged him to drop an investigation into his former national security advisor Michael Flynn, then under scrutiny for his Russia contacts.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy,” Comey quoted Trump as telling him on February 14 as they sat alone together in the Oval Office.
“I had understood the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with his false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December,” Comey said in a statement for the record ahead of his appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
“The president said, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.’ I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed,” Comey said.
BBC’s Anthony Zurcher said that it was like ‘a sneak preview of a blockbuster movie.’
He said, “Mr Comey is going to largely confirm all the reports that were circulating in the media about what took place during his private meetings with the president – the talk of loyalty, the pressure on the FBI to ease off its Flynn investigation, the multiple requests for public confirmation that the FBI was not targeting Mr Trump himself.”
A dossier compiled by a former British intelligence official had alleged that the Russian security services had compromising material on Trump, one of them being that he had been recorded consorting with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel.
However, Trump reportedly told Comey that there was no truth to allegations on him having relationships with Russian prostitutes.
Comey, who was fired by Trump last month, dropped the bombshell by his statement which many experts say could be seen as obstruction to justice.
According to Comey, Trump also made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information.
Comey recounted a January 27 private dinner in the White House Green Room with the president.
“‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,'” Comey quoted Trump as saying.
Comey continued: “I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence.”
Comey states that Trump asked him on several occasions to publicly state that he was not under investigation.
But Comey also confirmed in his statement that he told Trump he was not under investigation, as Trump asserted in his letter to Comey explaining his firing.
Comey said that he considered Trump’s request on Flynn “very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency” but decided to keep it “very closely held.” “The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide,” Comey wrote. “We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account.”
(With PTI inputs)