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Sessions, Kushner may not have wanted to leave Comey with Trump, he says

On Feb. 14, Comey and other intelligence officials joined Trump and White House aides in a crowded Oval Office for a planned counterterrorism briefing.

The meeting ended with Trump telling the group he wanted to speak to Comey alone, the former FBI director recalled. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a top adviser, both lingered, but Trump excused them, Comey said in his prepared remarks.

During his testimony Thursday, Comey said that he did not think it was a coincidence that both men were slow to leave the room.

“My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn’t be leaving, which is why he was lingering,” Comey said of Sessions. Comey also said much the same of Kushner.

In his prepared remarks, Comey said that once the two men left the room, Trump brought up a name that had been dominating the news that week: Michael Flynn, who had been Trump’s national security adviser until he was dismissed following revelations about potentially illegal contacts he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Trump told him Flynn had done nothing wrong, Comey recalled, and while he had unspecified other concerns about the retired lieutenant general and intelligence official, he brought up the investigation into Flynn’s actions.

“He is a good guy and has been through a lot,” Trump said, according to Comey’s submitted remarks. After again saying that Flynn did nothing wrong with his calls to Russians, Trump added: “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.”

Comey said he only agreed that Flynn “is a good guy,” but he said he came away believing that Trump was “requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December.”

Comey also said he did not believe Trump was discussing the broader probe, opened the previous summer, into possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign. “Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency,” Comey said in his prepared remarks.

James Comey testimony: Updates and reaction

Former FBI director James B. Comey is set to testify today in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.; a closed hearing is to start at 1 p.m.

Comey’s testimony was previewed on Wednesday in written remarks in which he describes President Trump’s demand of loyalty and the investigations.