Trump wanted FBI head to ′lift cloud′ of Russia investigation | News | DW | 07.06.2017
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Trump wanted FBI head to 'lift cloud' of Russia investigation

James Comey described how US President Trump demanded loyalty from the former FBI chief and requested an adviser be let off the hook. Trump said he feels "vindicated" by Comey's statements ahead of his Senate testimony.

After spending the day promoting infrastructure projects in Ohio, US President Donald Trump responded on Wednesday evening to the release of Comey's prepared Senate testimony, saying that he felt "completely and totally vindicated" by the former FBI director's account. 

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"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," Trump's private attorney Marc Karowitz said in a statement on behalf of the president.

Read more: Why the question of how James Comey understood Donald Trump is so crucial

In his prepared remarks ahead of testimony to the US Senate set for Thursday, Comey described how Trump repeatedly called him and asked him to declare to the public that the president was not under investigation for alleged ties to Russia. "'We need to get that fact out,'" Comey recalled Trump as having told him. Trump also referred to the suspected ties among officials in his administration as well as campaign and transition teams with Russia as a "cloud" and asked Comey what could be done to "lift the cloud."

However, Trump's response did not address Comey's account that the president sought to "create some sort of patronage relationship" based on personal loyalty.

As the United States' domestic intelligence and security service, the FBI is part of the Department of Justice but operates largely independently.

Read: Full text of Comey's prepared testimony as published ahead of Senate hearing

Comey's statement

The US Senate Intelligence Committee published Comey's statement earlier on Wednesday. On Thursday, he is expected to discuss his claims of pressure from President Trump.

Comey detailed several meeting and phone calls with Trump in the seven-page document. At a one-on-one dinner in January, shortly after the new president took office, Trump allegedly asked if the then-FBI director intended to serve his full term.

"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," Comey says in the statement.

After Comey said he was not taking sides politically, Trump told him "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty," according to the notes.

"I didn't move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed," Comey says. "We simply looked at each other in silence."

Read more: Donald Trump and Richard Nixon: Parallels between Russia and Watergate

Comey claims Trump asked him to drop Flynn probe

Although the conversation soon moved on, Trump reportedly returned to the subject later, repeating that he needed "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,'" said Comey.

The document also confirms earlier reports on the FBI probe into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn and his ties to Russia. After an Oval Office briefing, Trump allegedly told Comey "I hope you can let this go," adding that Flynn did nothing wrong with his calls to the Russians and was a "good guy."

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Reports: Trump asked Comey to end Flynn probe

"I had understood the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with his false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December," Comey said in his prepared statement.

Trump eventually fired Comey as head of the FBI last month, with the administration justifying the move with Comey's alleged lapses on handling Hillary Clinton's emails. Trump himself later provided a different account to the US media.

"When I decided to just do it, I said to myself - I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story," Trump told NBC. However, Trump also denied having pressured Comey to drop the Flynn probe.