US President Donald Trump asked ex FBI-Director James Comey to “lift the cloud” on the Russia probe from him and from his ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to his opening statement released in advance of his US Congress appearance set for Thursday.In one of the dramatic moments of the Trump presidency, Comey is due to testify Thursday about the circumstances of his recent firing by Trump.He will also discuss his personal conversations with Trump and his understanding of whether the president acted improperly in conversations about the probe into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia.According to the statement, in a March 30 telephone call, Trump called Comey and described the “the Russia investigation as ‘a cloud’ that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia.”Trump then asked what Comey “could do to ‘lift the cloud.’ I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well.” Trump then reiterated that the Russia probe was “interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.”In a separate February 14 meeting, Comey wrote that Trump told him that Flynn “is a good guy and has been through a lot. He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President.”Next, Trump said to Comey “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's statement said he replied “only that ‘he is a good guy.’ (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would ‘let this go.’”Comey then informed the FBI senior leadership of Trump’s requests.He wrote, “I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign.”He added, “Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency…The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide.”Comey also wrote about an earlier dinner with Trump in which the president demanded loyalty from Comey and the ex-FBI director made no promises, other than that he would be fair.
Trump asked Comey to shut down Flynn probe: source (credit: REUTERS)