Former FBI Director James Comey says President Trump asked him for a pledge of loyalty and repeatedly requested he help "lift the cloud" of the Russia probe by publicly denying the president was being investigated, according to prepared remarks submitted to the Senate.
In what will be his first public comments since he was fired by Trump in May, Comey on Thursday will appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which published the prepared statement on its website Wednesday.
Sens. Richard Burr and Mark Warner, the committee's ranking Republican and Democrat, said they decided to make they statement available a day early. Several media outlets reported that Comey himself had requested it be released early.
Trump's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, told media the president "feels completely and totally vindicated" by Comey's stating that he told Trump he was not the subject of a counterintelligence probe.
"The President is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the President was not under investigation in any Russian probe," Kasowitz said. "The President feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda."
Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he wouldn't comment on Comey's written testimony until after senators are able to hear from, and question, the former FBI director on Thursday.
"I'm not going to make any any comments on the hearings until after tomorrow is over," Burr said.
Here are the key points from Comey's statement:
1. Comey says he personally briefed Trump on the Russia dossier.
Comey says he briefed Trump at Trump Tower in New York on “salacious and unverified” material that was about to be reported publicly in the media. He said this was done in order give Trump advance knowledge of the material before its publication and to provide a “defensive briefing” to blunt an attempt to compromise the then-president-elect.
Comey alleges the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told him to deliver the information to Trump since he was staying on as FBI director, and to do so alone to “minimize potential embarrassment to the president-elect.”
2. Comey says he told Trump he was not personally under a counterintelligence investigation.
In his statement to the Senate, Comey distinguished counterintelligence investigations from criminal investigations, writing the former “tends to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to be witting or unwitting agents” of a foreign power.
After making the distinction, Comey said he told Trump — without the president directly asking the question — that he was not under a counterintelligence investigation.
“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,” Comey wrote.
3. Comey then decided to start keeping immediate records of his conversations with Trump.
Comey says he felt compelled to document his conversation with Trump in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower immediately after the meeting.
“Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward,” Comey wrote. “This had not been my practice in the past.”
4. Comey says he believes Trump tried to establish a patronage relationship by asking him if he wanted his job.
During a private dinner between the pair at the White House, Comey says Trump asked him if he wanted to stay on as FBI director, something Comey described as “strange” because he says the president had already told him twice he would keep his job.
Comey believes that Trump was having him ask for his job to “create some sort of patronage relationship.”
5. Trump told Comey, “I need loyalty; I expect loyalty,” but the FBI director pledged only honesty.
Comey said there was an awkward silence after the president allegedly told him, “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 wrote.
Toward the end of the dinner, Comey says Trump repeated his need for loyalty, and that he responded with, “You will always get honesty from me.”
“That’s what I want, honest loyalty,” Trump said, according to Comey, who then responded, “You will get that from me.”
“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,” Comey wrote.
6. Comey says Trump asked him to personally investigate the Russia dossier allegations, but Comey told the president to think it through carefully because that could create a narrative that he was under investigation.
According to Comey, Trump told him he was considering ordering the FBI to investigate to prove the allegations never happened. Comey said he told the president to “give that careful thought” because an investigation might create a narrative that Trump was personally under investigation.
Comey said Trump told him he would think further about asking for an investigation.
7. Comey says he was asked to stay back alone with Trump, but Sessions and Kushner lingered.
After a counter-terrorism briefing with others in the Oval Office, Comey alleges Trump asked him to hold back for a private discussion.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions “lingered” and was asked to leave, and Jared Kushner also stayed back to “[exchange] pleasantries,” but was then excused by the president, according to Comey.
8. Comey says Trump brought up Michael Flynn and asked him to "let this go."
According to Comey, Trump brought up Michael Flynn, who had just been ousted as national security adviser for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his meetings with Russian officials.
"He's a good guy and has been through a lot," Comey alleges Trump told him of Flynn.
"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," Comey says Trump told him. "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."
Comey said he agreed Flynn was a good guy, but denied ever saying he would "let this go."
9. Comey says he believes the president was referring to Flynn's lying about meeting with Russians in December, but "could be wrong."
Comey wrote that he interpreted the president as requesting he drop "any investigation of Flynn in connection with the false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December."
"I did not understand the president to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign," Comey wrote. "I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency."
10. Comey says he didn't tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions of the Trump conversation, but asked that it never happen again.
Comey says he spoke with his FBI leadership team about the meeting with Trump, concluding “it made little sense" to report it to Sessions, whom they correctly assumed would ultimately recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
However, Comey wrote that he spoke with Sessions in person to discuss Trump’s concerns about intelligence leaks and to “implore the attorney general to prevent any future direct communication between the president and me.”
“I told the AG that what had just happened — him being asked to leave while the FBI director, who reports to the AG, remained behind — was inappropriate and should never happen,” Comey wrote. “He did not reply.”
11. Comey says he didn't tell FBI investigators of the president's request in order "not to infect" them.
Comey says he and the FBI senior leadership decided “it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide.”
12. Comey says Trump asked what could be done to "lift the cloud" of the Russia investigation.
Comey says Trump phoned him to discuss the Russia probe, calling it a “a cloud" that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country.
In the phone call, Comey says Trump denied having anything to do with Russia or being involved with “hookers in Russia.”
“He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud,’” Comey wrote.
Comey says he told the president that agents were investigating the matter as quickly as possible.
13. Comey says the president asked him to publicly deny the president was being investigated.
In a discussion on Comey’s appearance before a congressional hearing in which he confirmed an investigation into Russia’s alleged ties to the Trump campaign, Comey alleges Trump repeatedly said they need to “get the fact out” that the president was not personally being investigated.
“I did not tell the president that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change,” Comey wrote.
“He finished by stressing ‘the cloud’ that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated,” Comey added. “I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.”
14. Comey says Trump brought up now–Acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, whose wife had run for the Virginia Senate as a Democrat.
Comey says Trump then abruptly shifted the conversation to Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the FBI who took over as acting chief upon Comey’s firing. He said the president told him he hadn’t brought up “the McCabe thing” because Comey had vouched for him as being honorable.
Comey wrote that Trump was speaking of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton ally, donating to McCabe’s wife, who was running for the Virginia Senate.
15. Comey says he contacted the Justice Department to tell them of the call, but did not hear back.
According to Comey, he “immediately” called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente to inform him of the call and seek his guidance. (Sessions had recused himself from the Russia probe by this point.) He says he did not receive a response.
16. Comey says Trump called him to ask what he had done to "get out" that he was not being investigated.
In what Comey says was his and Trump's final conversation, the former FBI director says Trump called him to ask what he had done about the request to “get out” that the president was not personally under investigation.
17. Comey says Trump told him "the cloud" was impeding his ability to do his job.
Comey says Trump again told him “the cloud’ was interfering in his ability to do his job. Comey says he told the president that his staff should reach out to Boente because that was “the traditional channel.”
18. Comey says Trump told him the president had been "very loyal" and that they "had that thing."
Comey says Trump told him, “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,’” Comey wrote.
REACTION FROM CONGRESS
Several members of the Senate Intelligence Committee said they had not yet seen Comey's prepared testimony.
Warner, the top Democrat on the committee, said he had only had a "quick look," adding, "I think it's important that we review it, and it's going to be an interesting day tomorrow."
Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russian interference, said Comey’s testimony “raises very troubling and disturbing questions about the president’s attempts to make the investigation into Michael Flynn go away.”
Castro added that while he hopes Comey will give senators a “fuller explanation … of what exactly the president asked him to do” on Thursday, he'd like the former FBI director to brief the House Intelligence Committee as well.
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said he had heard Trump use the term “cloud” before after being given a brief rundown of Comey’s testimony by BuzzFeed News (the senator said he just received it from his staff).
Grassley said the president had discussed the “cloud” of the Russia investigation in the context of needing to maintain relationships with other countries, saying that it "hurts his credibility in international relations." Grassley later clarified that he may have heard Trump use the word on TV.
In response to Comey’s description of Trump’s request for loyalty, Grassley said, “If it’s a general statement of loyalty, that’s one thing.”
But, he added, “No president should expect a person in Comey's position to compromise anything in their job because of quote-unquote loyalty."
Lissandra Villa contributed to this report.
An earlier version of this post misspelled Gov. Terry McAuliffe's name.