Comey Testimony: Trump Faces Cost of Listening to Bad Advice

President Donald Trump’s closest advisers told him that firing FBI Director James Comey would be good politics.

Two people familiar with the matter say it was Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and chief of staff Reince Priebus who assured him the move would be hailed by Democrats still mad at how Comey handled the Hillary Clinton email probe.

The president is about to experience, yet again, the pitfalls of heeding their advice.

Comey, a physically imposing former prosecutor who exudes moral rectitude and speaks with a persuasive eloquence, is slated to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday in what could be the most dramatic Congressional hearing since the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s — if not the Watergate affair of the 1970s.

He will stride into the hearing room one day after his prepared testimony was released at his own request, ensuring that his account of his interactions with Trump would dominate not just one news cycle, but two.

In a dramatic and detailed written account, Comey said he told Trump that he personally was not under investigation, confirming an assertion by the president that many people had doubted.

But Comey also made a series of damaging allegations. Not only did Comey say that Trump pushed him to drop the probe into former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, but he also said Trump had called the FBI’s whole Russia investigation a “cloud” on his presidency — and then pressured him to “lift the cloud.” Comey stopped short, however, of accusing the president of obstruction of justice.

Related: Comey To Testify He Assured Trump He Was Not Personally Under Investigation

Comey’s statement also refers to a previously reported one-on-one dinner he had with Trump in the White House, in which he says the president asked for his loyalty and that he replied he could only offer honesty.

According to Comey, the president said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”

Comey wrote, “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, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.”

Later, Comey said he explained “why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some presidents have decided that because ‘problems’ come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.”

Related: My Dinner With Comey: Clapper, Others Dispute Trump Account of Comey Meeting

Comey also confirmed an earlier news report that Trump pressured him into dropping the FBI investigation of Flynn, pressure Comey considered inappropriate.

“I had understood the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December,” Comey wrote. “I did not understand the president to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign… Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.”

Comey said he and his aides at the FBI decided not to report the conversation to the Justice Department.

“After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed,” he wrote.

However, Comey said he did report to the acting attorney general another conversation with the president, on March 30. In that conversation, Comey says Trump repeatedly asked him to get the word out that he was not being investigated. That came after Comey revealed to the public that the FBI was investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian election interference effort.

“He described the Russia investigation as ‘a cloud’ that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country,” Comey wrote. “He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia.”

Trump, Comey continued, “asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud.’ I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.”

Comey added that he “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’s last interaction with Trump came on the morning of April 11, when he says, “The president called me and asked what I had done about his request that I ‘get out’ that he is not personally under investigation.

“I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that ‘the cloud’ was getting in the way of his ability to do his job.”




Image: James Comey speaks alongside outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller at the White House in Washington

James Comey, right, speaks alongside outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller after being nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama (not pictured) to replace Mueller, in the Rose Garden of the White House on June 21, 2013.