James B. Comey denied Thursday that he had ever initiated a conversation with President Trump, much less asked to have dinner with the president, as Trump has asserted to NBC.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) asked Comey whether a series of Trump’s statements about Comey reaching out to the president to arrange a dinner with him were true. Comey’s answers: “No sir,” “no,” and “I never initiated a communication with the president.”
Comey said Trump called him around lunchtime on the day they had dinner and asked if he would be free that night around 6 p.m. The president said he would have liked to invite Comey’s whole family, the former FBI director recalled, but promised to do that next time.
They eventually settled on 6:30 p.m., and Comey recalled he had to break a date with his wife in order to attend.
“In retrospect, I love spending time with my wife. I wish I’d met her that night,” Comey said, eliciting laughs.
King then asked Comey whether it was true that Trump had never asked Comey during their meetings to drop the Flynn investigation, as he also attested during an NBC interview.
“I don’t believe it is,” Comey said.
According to Comey’s prepared remarks, Trump began the meal asking if he wanted to remain as FBI director, even though Comey said the president “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,” Comey said. (The former FBI director did not note that the previous year, Trump had suggested Comey was corrupt for his actions during the Hillary Clinton email server investigation.)
Comey also said that he believed “the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship,” which he described as concerning.
“I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as director,” Comey said.
Comey also said that at the end of the meal, Trump said he was glad the FBI director wanted to stay on. Trump, in an interview with NBC News after firing Comey, offered a different account of the meal. He said it came about because the former FBI director requested the dinner, and then characterized the discussion about Comey’s job status.
“He wanted to stay on as the FBI head,” Trump said. “And I said I’ll, you know, consider and we’ll see what happens.”
Mark Berman contributed.