WASHINGTON — Former FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday that he felt compelled to keep a detailed written account of his conversations President Donald Trump in part because of “the nature of the person.”
“I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so I thought it really important to document it,” he said, referring to a Jan. 6 briefing with Trump.
“I knew that there might come a day that I would need a record of what had happened, not just to defend myself but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution, and the independence of our investigator function,” he added. “That’s what made this so difficult, it was a combination of circumstances, subject matter and the particular person.”
That statement is significant because Comey had not taken such measures when speaking with former Presidents Barack Obama or George W. Bush.
“I didn’t feel with President Bush the need to document it in that way, again because of the combination of those factors just wasn’t present with either President Bush or President Obama,” Comey told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Thursday.
In written testimony made available Wednesday, Comey describes in detail several one-on-one conversations with Trump, beginning with a Jan. 6 briefing at Trump Tower in New York related to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.
“I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo,” Comey’s testimony reads. “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 practice was not one Comey had kept in the past, he says.
“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,” the testimony reads. “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.”
Comey goes on to detail two in-person meetings, including a one-on-one dinner Jan. 27 at the White House that Comey said made him feel “uneasy” and during which he claimed Trump said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” During a Feb. 14 meeting in the Oval Office, the day after the firing of national security adviser Michael Flynn, Comey said Trump tried to persuade him to drop an investigation into Flynn. And during a March 30 phone call, Trump reportedly asked Comey what could be done to “lift the cloud” on the Russia investigation.
Comey was fired by Trump last month.
Read Comey’s full testimony here.
This article has been updated with comments Comey made during his live testimony.