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Thursday, June 8, 2017
Comey: Trump NEVER Under Investigation!
Andrea Noble and Stephen Dinan
Fired FBI Director James B. Comey said Thursday he was never asked to stop the bureau’s probe into Russian meddling into last year’s election, nor was President Trump ever under investigation, flatly refuting accusations Democrats have lobbed at the White House.
But he said he found “very disturbing” a request by Mr. Trump to forgo investigating former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and said he flatly rejects Mr. Trump’s stated reasons for his firing.
“Although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and the more importantly the FBI — by saying the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader,” Mr. Comey said. “Those were lies plain and simple.”
Mr. Comey was testifying to the Senate intelligence committee in one of the most-anticipated political showdowns in modern American politics.
In prepared written testimony released Wednesday Mr. Comey detailed a number of his interactions with Mr. Trump, saying that several one-on-one conversations were troubling. He was so disturbed by his first interaction with Mr. Trump during the transition that he began to take copious notes to record the conversations — a step he said he never took with former President Obama nor with former President George W. Bush.
“I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting,” Mr. Comey said.
He said Mr. Trump asked for “loyalty,” seemed to be trying to create a “patronage relationship” by repeatedly asking if Mr. Comey wanted to stay on in his job.
“He’s looking to get something for granting my request to stay,” Mr. Comey said.
The fired director also said Mr. Trump did in fact ask for dropping the investigation into Mr. Flynn. The president has specifically denied in a press conference that he had asked for the FBI to back off Mr. Flynn.
Mr. Comey declined to say whether he considered the request an obstruction of justice, saying only that he found it “very disturbing.”
But Mr. Comey declined to say whether he considered the request an obstruction of justice, saying only that he found it “very disturbing.”
He acknowledged Mr. Trump didn’t specifically ask him to drop the investigation, with the president saying only that he would “hope” it could be let go. But Mr. Comey said he understood it as a directive.
“I took it as a direction. I mean, this is the president of the United States,” the fired director said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Mr. Comey why he didn’t stand up to the president when he asked about the Flynn probe, which the former FBI director characterized as an open criminal investigation.
“Maybe if I were stronger I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation I just took it in,” Mr. Comey said.
Referencing Mr. Trump’s prior tweet about the possibility of tape recordings of their conversation, Mr. Comey said he hoped the evidence existed.
“I’ve seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey said.
After Mr. Comey was fired on May 9, President Trump gave an interview to NBC in which he called the FBI director “a show boat” and a “grandstander.”
The president’s deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders initially told reporters that the main reason for Mr. Comey’s dismissal was that the president and the Justice Department had lost confidence in him.
“The DOJ lost confidence in Director Comey. Bipartisan members of Congress made it clear that they had lost confidence in Director Comey. And, most importantly, the rank-and-file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director,” she said in a May 10 briefing.
Mr. Comey’s first interaction with Mr. Trump came in early January, when he went to brief the president on a “salacious” but unsubstantiated memo claiming Mr. Trump had hired prostitutes and engaged in unusual sexual practices in a Russian hotel.
Mr. Comey admitted Thursday that was a poor beginning.
“Our relationship didn’t get off to a great start given the conversation I had to have on Jan. 6,” he said.