- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2017

President Trump repeatedly complained to former FBI Director James B. Comey of a “cloud” over his administration because of the bureau’s probe into Trump campaign figures’ dealings with Russia and asked that the FBI drop its probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Mr. Comey says in prepared testimony he’ll deliver to Congress on Thursday.

Mr. Comey said he did, in fact, assure Mr. Trump repeatedly that the president was not personally under investigation — backing up what the White House has said, and undercutting critics who have said the president is a target.

But overall, in recounting five interactions with the president, Mr. Comey describes a strange and strained relationship that, according to the former FBI director, appeared to be an effort to demand loyalty.

He emerged from one Jan. 27 meeting, just a week after the inauguration, saying he felt Mr. Trump was trying to pressure him by asking him — for a third time — whether he wanted to stay on as FBI director.

“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. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch,” Mr. Comey says.

The seven pages of testimony goes on to detail some of Mr. Trump’s asks in their interactions, including calling for a quick end to an investigation into Mr. Flynn, who had just resigned as national security adviser.

“He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Mr. Trump said, according to Mr. Comey, recounting a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office in February.

“I did not say I would ‘Let this go,’ ” Mr. Comey says.

Mr. Trump also asked that Mr. Comey “get out” information that the president himself wasn’t being probed.

“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,” Mr. Comey recalled.

Mr. Comey was so put off by his interactions with Mr. Trump — which included repeated calls and the troubling Oval Office meeting — that he demanded the Justice Department try to get the president to stop.

According to the prepared remarks, Mr. Comey twice spoke with Justice Department leaders to alert them about Mr. Trump’s interactions but appeared to have his requests for assistance rebuffed.

Mr. Comey said he first spoke to Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the Feb. 14 Oval Office meeting, which occurred after the attorney general and other top national security officials left the room.

“I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me,” Mr. Comey said. “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. He did not reply.”

Mr. Comey’s second request for guidance on handling the interactions with the president after a March 30 phone call, during which he said Mr. Trump asked him what the FBI could do to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation.

Mr. Comey said he called then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente to report the substance of the conversation. But he had yet to hear back from Mr. Boente before Mr. Trump called Mr. Comey again on April 11 to ask “what I had done about his request that I ‘get out’ that he is not personally under investigation.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Comey’s characterizations.

Mr. Comey also noted an instance of Mr. Trump’s interest in Virginia politics and its relationship to the bureau’s Deputy Director Andrew McCabe — who took over for Mr. Comey after his dismissal.

In 2015, Mr. McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe — a Democrat — ran for State Senate and accepted roughly $500,000 from Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s political organization. Mr. McAuliffe is a long time ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton and while Mr. McCabe has said he informed the FBI about his wife’s candidacy and sought ethics advice from the agency, critics have pointed to the relationship as troubling.

“In an abrupt shift,” Mr. Comey recalled, “he [Mr. Trump] turned the conversation to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying he hadn’t brought up ‘the McCabe thing’ because I had said McCabe was honorable, although McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and had given him (I think he meant Deputy Director McCabe’s wife) campaign money. Although I didn’t understand why the President was bringing this up, I repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honorable person.”

Mr. Comey’s testimony was released by the Senate intelligence committee, which will hear from the former director in public testimony Thursday.

The prepared remarks also offered a comparison between the frequency of Mr. Comey’s interactions with Mr. Trump during the first four months he was in office and his interactions with former President Barack Obama.

Mr. Comey said he spoke alone with Mr. Obama on two occasions, and never by phone. By contrast, Mr. Comey said he had nine one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump, including three in person and six by phone. The former director said he never felt the need to capture the essence of his conversations with Mr. Obama but felt “compelled” to do so with Mr. Trump, beginning immediately after their first meeting during the presidential transition — noting he began typing notes about the first meeting “on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out.”

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Wednesday afternoon that she found the timing of the released testimony “a little bit interesting.”

She said she didn’t know whether Mr. Trump had a chance yet to review Mr. Comey’s testimony. The president was holding an event in Ohio when the testimony was released by the Senate intelligence committee.

Andrea Noble, Dan Boylan and Dave Boyer contributed to this article.

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