WASHINGTON (AP) — Former FBI Director James Comey will say in his opening statement to a congressional hearing that President Donald Trump told him, “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty” during a January dinner.
Comey is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday. His prepared statement was released Wednesday afternoon.
Here are some key excerpts:
The president and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the Green Room at the White House. … It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.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. 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. …
I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my 10-year term as director. And then, because the setup made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the president.
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. The conversation then moved on …
Near the end of our dinner, the president returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions and many others. 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.” … As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the 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….
Trump abruptly fired Comey last month.
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