James Comey, during President Donald Trump’s first days in office, was asked if he would pledge loyalty to Trump, The New York Times reported on Thursday night.
Trump posed the question over a private dinner with Comey in January, The Times’ Michael Schmidt wrote, at a time when the FBI was trying to determine whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russian operatives to help him get elected.
Comey declined Trump’s request for loyalty at least twice during the dinner, according to two people close to Comey who were cited by The Times and had knowledge of the conversation.
Schmidt wrote: “Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not ‘reliable’ in the conventional political sense.”
Trump unsuccessfully asked for Comey’s loyalty again during the dinner and Comey again declined, The Times said.
Comey was fired from the FBI on Tuesday. The Trump administration has given conflicting reasons for why Comey was dismissed — until Thursday, when Trump declared he had planned to fire the FBI director all along.
Trump has often bristled at the Russia investigations, which are ongoing in the House and Senate as well as the FBI — often saying the notion that Russia meddled in US affairs to tip the presidential election in his favour was a Democratic Party excuse for its own major November defeat.
The president has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing — at points chastising lawmakers and the US intelligence community’s work on the matter.
Multiple people have been entangled in the Russia investigation, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committeeon Wednesday.
Carter Page, once a Trump foreign-policy adviser, is also among the persons of interest, as well as former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch Trump supporter, failed to disclose campaign-trail meetings he had with a Russian ambassador during his Senate confirmation hearings. Sessions has since recused himself from Russia-related investigative matters — though he appeared to have a role in Comey’s removal.
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