Fired FBI Director James Comey is set to testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Thursday morning regarding whether or not President Donald Trump, a walking anorectal blockage, attempted to obstruct federal investigations surrounding Russia’s influence on the 2016 election. In advance of his testimony, his written opening statement has been made available online. In it, Comey recounts five separate encounters with Donald Trump, which range from awkward to inappropriate, and demonstrate several classic characteristics of an abusive or coercive relationship—including isolation, flattery, and threats.
In the statement, Comey writes that after his first meeting with then-President-Elect Trump, he established a practice of writing up notes immediately following their conversations, which turned out to be numerous:
I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This has not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone)—once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months—three in person and six on the phone.
Comey also details the January 27 dinner—which turned out to be just the two of them—where Trump asked if he intended to stay on as FBI Director, since, after all, Comey had taken a lot of abuse during the election and many people wanted that job.
“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,” Comey writes. “That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch.”
Comey writes that he later assured Trump that he would always tell the truth, though he was not on anyone’s side politically. The statement continues:
A few moments later, 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. We simply looked at each other in silence.
Comey says he explained to Trump why it is so important for the FBI and Department of Justice be independent of the White House—a lesson typically reserved for middle school students first learning about the checks and balances of the Federal Government. Toward the end of the dinner, Trump asked for loyalty again:
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 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.
Later in the statement, Comey recounts a February 14 counter-terrorism briefing in the Oval Office. Trump, according to Comey’s recollection, excused everyone in the room, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Comey’s boss.
Trump said, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn,” referring to the National Security Adviser who had resigned the previous day. Comey writes, “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. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.”
The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He 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.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”
Comey writes that immediately following the meeting, he reported the conversation to FBI senior leadership. Leadership resolved to keep the details of the conversation to themselves for the moment, and figure out what to do with it as the investigation moved forward.
On March 30, Trump called Comey again to stress that the Russia investigation was a “cloud” that was making it hard for him to do his job. “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.” He asked Comey what they could do to “lift the cloud.” Comey called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente to report the call, but did not hear back from him.
The last time Trump and Comey spoke was in a phone call on April 11:
On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.
He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.
White House officials told reporters last week that Trump plans to live tweet Comey’s testimony—a typically presidential move that doesn’t suggest any insecurity or desire to intimidate on Trump’s part.
The full statement, which is worth reading, is available here.