Former FBI Director James Comey gave the Senate Intelligence Committee a simple warning on Thursday: Don’t trust President Donald Trump.
In his testimony, Comey told the committee about various White House mistruths, and he alleged multiple attempts by Trump to influence active FBI investigations. Trump’s willingness to bend the truth concerned Comey at their first one-on-one meeting, at Trump Tower on Jan. 6, in which Comey first informed Trump that the president-elect was not, at that time, under FBI investigation.
“I was talking about matters that touch on the FBI’s core responsibility and that relate to the president-elect personally,” Comey said. “And I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting… it led me to believe I gotta write it down, and I gotta write it down in a very detailed way.”
As time went on, these concerns were not allayed by the behavior of the White House, Comey said. Trump kicked senior staff out of the Oval Office after a February 14 meeting so that he could speak privately with Comey in order to, in Comey’s account, direct him to drop the FBI investigation of fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
“Lordy, I hope there are tapes [of that conversation],” Comey said about the encounter, referring to Trump tweets in May indicating that he had recordings of the conversation.
And in May, the Trump administration was struggling to get its message straight about why exactly Trump fired Comey, at one point saying that it had to do with an FBI in crisis. Comey says this characterization was flatly untrue.
“The administration then chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI, by saying the organization was in disarray,” Comey said of the White House’s media spin after his May 9 firing. “Those were lies, plain and simple.”
Once Donald Trump tweeted that the FBI director should hope that there weren’t tapes of their conversations, Comey said, he was moved to leak his notes about their interactions. His hope, he said, was that the account would help get a special counsel appointed, because he did not trust the DOJ and FBI to be able to continue the investigation with the White House overtly fighting it.
“I woke up middle of the night Monday night concerned that there might be corroboration, might be a tape,” Come said. “So I asked a friend of mine to share content of my memo with a reporter” in order to “get a special counsel appointed.”
That memo, whose existence was first revealed by the New York Times, later prompted Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint ex-FBI Director Bob Mueller as special counsel to handle the Russia investigation.