On the day James B. Comey met President Trump for the first time, the now-fired FBI director had a mixed bag of information to give him, Comey testified publicly for the first time before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill.
Comey and the country’s top intelligence officials met with Trump two weeks before he was inaugurated to tell the president-elect — who repeatedly questioned whether Russia actually meddled in the 2016 presidential election — that Russian meddling ultimately sought to help him win. And during a private, potentially awkward meeting after that briefing, Comey also told Trump about a dossier of unsubstantiated and salacious allegations that Russian intelligence services had compromising information about the president-elect.
But Comey also said he assured Trump during the same private meeting on Jan. 6 that the president-elect was not being personally investigated by the bureau, the former FBI director said during his opening remarks, which were released publicly on Wednesday and widely reported on before he spoke live before a rapt television audience.
“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,” Comey said. “That was true. We did not have an open counterintelligence 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.”
Comey’s comments help verify something in Trump’s statement, in his letter firing Comey four months later, that the FBI director had said the president was not personally under investigation. (Trump said in his letter that Comey told him this three times, which Comey confirmed in his prepared remarks.)
While most of Comey’s prepared opening remarks paint a picture of a president who made the FBI director decidedly uncomfortable, his comments about Trump not being under investigation were quickly seized upon by Trump’s supporters, including his attorney and the Republican National Committee, as vindication for the president.