James Comey’s prepared testimony
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
James B. Comey
June 8, 2017
Chairman Burr, Ranking Member Warner, Members of the Committee.
Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. I was asked to testify today to describe for you my interactions with President-Elect and President Trump on subjects that I understand are of interest to you. I have not included every detail from my conversations with the President, but, to the best of my recollection, I have tried to include information that may be relevant to the Committee.
January 6 Briefing
I first met then-President-Elect Trump on Friday, January 6 in a conference room at Trump Tower in New York. I was there with other Intelligence Community (IC) leaders to brief him and his new national security team on the findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election. At the conclusion of that briefing, I remained alone with the President Elect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment.
The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge of the material and its imminent release from the President-Elect; and (2) to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing.
The Director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portion of the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the material implicated the FBI’s counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I would do it alone to minimize potential embarrassment to the President-Elect. Although we agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBI’s leadership and I were concerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new President came into office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence investigation of his personal conduct.
It is important to understand that FBI counter-intelligence investigations are different than the more-commonly known criminal investigative work. The Bureau’s goal in a counter-intelligence investigation is to understand the technical and human methods that hostile foreign powers are using to influence the United States or to steal our secrets. The FBI uses that understanding to disrupt those efforts. Sometimes disruption takes the form of alerting a person who is targeted for recruitment or influence by the foreign power. Sometimes it involves hardening a computer system that is being attacked. Sometimes it involves “turning” the recruited person into a double-agent, or publicly calling out the behavior with sanctions or expulsions of embassy-based intelligence officers. On occasion, criminal prosecution is used to disrupt intelligence activities.
Because the nature of the hostile foreign nation is well known, counterintelligence investigations tend to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to be witting or unwitting agents of that foreign power. When the FBI develops reason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will “open an investigation” on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more about the nature of any relationship with the foreign power so it can be disrupted.
In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI’s leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. 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.
I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) — once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months — three in person and six on the phone.
January 27 Dinner
The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.
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.
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.
I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as Director. And then, because the set-up 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, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner. At one point, I 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.
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.” I paused, and then said, “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. The term — honest loyalty — had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.
During the dinner, the President returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them. He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen. I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it.
As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.
February 14 Oval Office Meeting
On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counterterrorism briefing of the President. He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat in a semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk. The Vice President, Deputy Director of the CIA, Director of the National CounterTerrorism Center, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and I were in the semi-circle of chairs. I was directly facing the President, sitting between the Deputy CIA Director and the Director of NCTC. There were quite a few others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs.
The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me. The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me. The President then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me.
When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.
The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information — a concern I shared and still share. After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him. The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed.
The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”
The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President.
I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. 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. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. 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.
The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General’s role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role. 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. The investigation moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team members — or the Department of Justice lawyers supporting them — aware of the President’s request.
Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity 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. He did not reply. For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBI’s potential investigation of General Flynn.
March 30 Phone Call
On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as “a cloud” that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. 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. He 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.
Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week — at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the Deputy Attorney General until we briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, “We need to get that fact out.” (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.)
The President went on to say that if there were some “satellite” associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him.
In an abrupt shift, he 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.
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. 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.
Immediately after that conversation, I called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia-related matters), to report the substance of the call from the President, and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the President called me again two weeks later.
April 11 Phone Call
On the morning of April 11, 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. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.
He said he would do that and added, “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.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.
That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.
FFRK – Nemesis
Yeah I got into the official FFRK leaderboard on day 7. Not to bad when you restrict yourself to F2P.
When you look at the game design of this Nemesis End Boss fight, he does have some redicculous stats and skill set. High action speed, means he is doing way more actions than you can doe and with lots of aoe attacks your party will suffer. So the first few days of trying lots of dying. It wasn’t until day 4 that I manage to make some real progress and I could manage to survive the first couple of attacks.
On day 6 I got to the near end (a big part thanks to Relms BSB). With a couple of near victories enough struggle for that day. Decided to rest and try again the next day and then the killshot with Vanille doing her command2 attack.
So lately I been trying to work on my physical condition by picking up running as an activity. I used to like it… no actually I still like it. You just need to get past that initial wall of tiredness, once you get over it the runners high takes over.
I’ve been using the Nike+ plus app to track my progress, which is nice in design and usefulness. Today I discovered a milestone achievement badge. Apparently I made it into the green one 249 km. I completed the orange one for 49,9 km. There is a blue one for 999 km and even higher than that. Pfff I don’t think I’ll make it that far. Unless you do a 5k every day in a week for 52 weeks in a year. Nope, not going to try. I do wonder about people who do this kind of thing for a living. The pros like marathon runners or the crazy ones. They must have a strong will power to keep on going. Day by day.
I’m not there yet. All that I can do is take it step by step.
Final Fantasy Record Keeper
So the last couple of days I’ve been playing FFRK almost nonstop. iPhone in charger most of the time. I do really like the final fantasy. And this games does bring some good memories. I do still remember the best FFVII marathon I had, when it was released on the very first Sony Playstation. The new and amazing cut scenes, big polygon characters (way better then sprites at that time). And so much more. Sigh when I was young…hmmm now I sound old.
Anyways back to the point of video games. Video game addiction is a real thing. Sigh.
The other game that I’ve also been playing a lot is Hearthstone. Gold grinding, and saving up to buy the new adventure more of Blackrock mountain.
So looking at these to games now…all I do in them is grinding for gold. And saving it to buy something new. If real life was a video game…hmm what would I do for gold grinding then? What job would come close?
Gold/Gil grinding… Oh this brings back so many memories (you know the repetitive ones)
So tomorrow more information about this subject. Will it be a step forward or a step backward?
When I was younger I used to wear a watch all the time. From the simple digital one with calculation function to the analog one with just the time and date display. The most expensive one that I got was one from “Kinetic” with the special function that it charges itself with my body movements. Which was really cool at the time.
But then came the mobile phone. The nineties. A lot of different phones then from Ericsson to Motorola flip phone. The main reason I stopped wearing a watch was because the mobile phone then. When I wanted the time I just pull out my phone to see the time.
Then came the iPhone. The smart phone era. Still no watch. Pull out my iPhone to see the time and also the added bonus to see other information. Like incoming mail, appointments, weather and other information. Or simply ask Siri when you have your headphones one.
So tomorrow… 2015. A step backward or forward? I’m wondering. The conservative me, is asking the question: what will the added bonus of a watch bring me? Additional body measurement sensors for heartbeat, step counter, blood pressure and some more. This seems interesting at a certain point. But do you really need it? Yeah. Do you? For health reasons, it’s nice to know. But I wonder. How save the info will be? As in at first it’s my info and I do believe that Apple will have safety measures in place for controlling access to it. What I wonder is when it get mainstream and every one have them. Then the big and scary picture. Government and healthcare access. Required access to your information for healthcare policies and billing. As in pay more when you have a high blood pressure, or something like it.
More accurate movement tracking. With just some clicks, you’ll know where you are. Where you have been. And where you are going to… that’s the scary part. The prediction of where you are going to based on time and your current location. I certainly don’t want location based ads or discount pop-ups.
Apple Pay with the watch. Hmm interesting…no need for a wallet anymore. The era of the digital currency. No more paper money or metal coins. My wallet is already getting smaller with my ATM card and credit card. Actually I have a BookBook case as my wallet. It just has room for my iPhone, a couple of plastic cards openings and that’s it. There is no room for coins. Which is not really a problem to be honest. Spare change, just goes into my pants pockets. Hmm how will the future look like? Oops you can’t pay for that item because your phone or watch is out of battery power. Please find a charging point before continuing or chose an alternate payment option. I can already see this happening to me in the future.
So do you need it?
The consumer part of me, is wondering if it’s another hype product. A must have thing with a certain logo of a fruit. With mass consumerism now a days, there is a blurry line between having something for the functionality and ease of life versus having something for status and the point of just owning it.
Like having a car and the freedom to drive to where ever you want. Or choosing not to own a car, because you can do the same thing with public transport and your bicycle. It’s healthier for your body and good for the nature.
It’s a choice. A life style choice. The choice of landline vs broadband. A simple LCD phone vs a smart phone. So smart watch? A thing? Or not a thing?
You know what? I’m now thinking about a pocket watch. Yeah that’s also a perfect choice…
Friday the 13th…
So did something bad happen today? Ehm nope still the same. Nothing special. Was I extra special in everything that I did? I don’t think so.
I do wonder why it’s considered a bad day for most when you mention Friday the 13th or the number 13. Maybe I should look into it. Unlucky numbers.
My lucky number is 14. Why? Ehm I guess I was born on the 14th. Or that I have some good association with the number 14. It’s all about the memories that I linked to this number. And it would or could be another number I was born on a different day. Number 4 is also a good number for me. Anyways tomorrow it’s the 14th. The 14th of February….which means Valentine’s day. The day of bloody hearts. You know Saint Valentine and bloody sacrifices.
Back to number 13 then or Friday, the end of the week… what to do? What to do indeed. For me it’s not really weekend. Or more to the point I don’t really have a real work week. So everyday is a weekend or workday for me, when you work at home. To be honest I’ve been kinda lazy these couple of days. I didn’t do any coding at all. What I did do was read some books about Swift. Which can be considered studying, right? Maybe not. It was like read something and play Hearthstone. Read some more and do something else. Read it again and got distracted by another thing. Key word “Distraction”.
Hmm looking at the above. I think I need to “switch” things up, instead of waiting for…
So I’m subscribed to a lot of RSS feeds. When Google stopped their support to it… that was a sad day. But when Feedly picked that up… it was a good day. Currently using the Newsify app in my iPhone to read through all my RSS feeds.
When I analyse my habit using Newsify. Most of the time I just skim through an article to see if it’s interesting or not. When it seems so I read it, but when its a long one. I just use the quick share option and sent it to Pocket (formerly Read It Later). I’ve been doing this for years now. Also have the Pocket app of course. And when I have more time I use that to read those articles of interest. Nothing wrong with this habit. Or this way of gathering news and information. Seems faster then manually visiting all those websites one by one.
So when I got the new MacBook, one of the first app I installed was Pocket for OSX. Smooth download and install. But what shocked me was when I launched the app…so many unread articles…(in the thousands…) At that point I realised I was being a digital article hoarder! I’ve really gathered a lot of articles in these years that I wanted to read and never had the time to really read them.
So the last couple of days… no weeks… I’ve read a lot. Article after article. It feels good. To finally do the things I wanted to do. But at some point I also realise that most of the old articles where out of date and at no more interest. But still read them, so wasting time and energy right? Anyways there where also some articles, where I had real doubt on why I like them in the first place? Because when I read them… I really didn’t like them at all and putting them in the trash can was the right thing to do.
I ask myself now is: why did I chose to Pocket those articles at the first place? Was it my skimming habit of reading the headline and the first few sentences? Or is it something else? That’s the me at that thought it was interesting. And the me now…doesn’t see it at interesting at all. So did I changed that much? I guess so. Perspective changes in time. With habits, preferences and way of thinking all being malleable and not a solid unworkable metal thing.
So looking to my future self and asking what will happen or will I be doing next year? Or the year after it? Hello nice to meet you future me. This is the current me. What advice would you give me? Not that I would take it, because the me I know is kinda stubborn. Hmm topic went to a weird place. But to be honest would you take advice from your future self? Don’t do thing “A” because it will lead to thing “B”. But what about thing “C” the experience that you get from that decision? The thing called life, feelings and memories. So in this line of thinking, would you go back in time to change certain decisions that you made when you were younger? What impact would it have on the current you? I don’t know to be honest. I have some regrets on certain things. But then again those regrets led to some other things and decisions which where good. As it turns out. Anyways my advice to the current and future me: don’t skim through to much articles and auto Pocket them. Try to read them now, when they are current and relevant. I saves time and energy in the long way…
So what now? The current me is going to read some more “pocketed” articles. My aim is to finish them all. One way or another.