Former FBI director comes out with his side of story

Mr Donald Trump
Mr Donald Trump

Former FBI director James Comey had nine one-on-one conversations with United States President Donald Trump in the four months before he was fired. The talks formed the basis of his opening statement to a Senate panel yesterday. Here are some of the key points from the testimony.

LET THIS GO

Mr James Comey, who had been leading an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in last year's US election, confirmed reports that President Donald Trump had urged him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Mr Comey said Mr Trump had told him Mr Flynn was "a good guy and has been through a lot".

"He (Trump) then said, '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.' "

A PATRONAGE RELATIONSHIP

According to Mr Comey, a dinner on Jan 27 with Mr Trump began with the US President asking whether he wanted to stay on at the helm of the FBI, which Mr Comey interpreted as "an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship".

"A few moments later, the President said, 'I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,' " Mr Comey recalled.

Mr Comey said he did not reply, but Mr Trump repeated his demand for loyalty at the end of dinner.

"I replied, 'You will always get honesty from me.'

"He paused, and then said, 'That is what I want, honest loyalty,' " recalled Mr Comey.

LIFT THE CLOUD

In one of their last telephone conversations, Mr Comey said that Mr Trump spoke of his exasperation at how the focus on the Russia investigation was beginning to dog his presidency.

"He described the Russia investigation as 'a cloud' that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country... He asked what we could do to 'lift the cloud'," Mr Comey recalled.

"I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could and that there would be great benefit, if we didn't find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasised the problems this was causing him."

NOTHING TO DO WITH HOOKERS

Ahead of Mr Trump's inauguration, the two men met in New York, where Mr Comey briefed the President-elect on what he called "salacious and unverified" claims that would soon emerge in the press involving prostitutes at a Moscow hotel which Mr Trump visited in 2013.

Mr Trump angrily dismissed the reports when they were published in early January, and Mr Comey recalled how the claims still rankled with the President when they spoke in March.

"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," said Mr Comey.

TRUMP NOT BEING PROBED

Mr Trump has claimed that Mr Comey told him three times that he was not under investigation for alleged Russia links.

In his statement, Mr Comey said that prior to his Jan 6 meeting with Mr Trump, he discussed with the FBI's leadership team whether he should assure the then President- elect that he was not being probed.

"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 President-elect Trump's reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance," Mr Comey said in the statement.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2017, with the headline 'Former FBI director comes out with his side of story'. Print Edition | Subscribe