Chairman Burr, Ranking Member Warner, Members of the Committee.Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. I was asked to testify todayto describe for you my interactions with President-Elect and President Trump onsubjects that I understand are of interest to you. I have not included every detailfrom my conversations with the President, but, to the best of my recollection, Ihave tried to include information that may be relevant to the Committee.January 6 BriefingI first met then-President-Elect Trump on Friday, January 6 in a conferenceroom at Trump Tower in New York. I was there with other IntelligenceCommunity (IC) leaders to brief him and his new national security team on thefindings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in theelection. At the conclusion of that briefing, I remained alone with the President-Elect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the informationassembled during the assessment.The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert theincoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salaciousand unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge ofthe material and its imminent release from the President-Elect; and (2) to theextent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could bluntany such effort with a defensive briefing.The Director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portionof the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the materialimplicated the FBI’s counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I woulddo it alone to minimize potential embarrassment to the President-Elect. Althoughwe agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBI’s leadership and I wereconcerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new President cameinto office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligenceinvestigation of his personal conduct.
It is important to understand that FBI counter-intelligence investigations aredifferent than the more-commonly known criminal investigative work. TheBureau’s goal in a counter-intelligence investigation is to understand the technicaland human methods that hostile foreign powers are using to influence the UnitedStates or to steal our secrets. The FBI uses that understanding to disrupt thoseefforts. Sometimes disruption takes the form of alerting a person who is targetedfor recruitment or influence by the foreign power. Sometimes it involveshardening a computer system that is being attacked. Sometimes it involves“turning” the recruited person into a double-agent, or publicly calling out the behavior with sanctions or expulsions of embassy-based intelligence officers. Onoccasion, criminal prosecution is used to disrupt intelligence activities.Because the nature of the hostile foreign nation is well known, counter-intelligence investigations tend to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to be witting or unwitting agents of that foreign power. When the FBI developsreason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will “open aninvestigation” on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more aboutthe nature of any relationship with the foreign power so it can be disrupted.In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI’sleadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump thatwe were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an opencounter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstanceswarranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking thequestion, I offered that assurance.I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Electin a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicleoutside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating writtenrecords immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. Ispoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) –
invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, butdecided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. Itwas unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although Iassumed there would be others.It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in thecenter of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering theroom to serve food and drinks.The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBIDirector, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlierconversations 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 duringthe previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that thiswas our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part,an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship.That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in theexecutive branch.I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added thatI was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word, but he could always counton me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody’s side politicallyand could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was inhis best interest as the President.A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during theawkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. Theconversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of ourdinner.At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and theDepartment of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox:Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because “problems” comefrom Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust inthe institutions and their work. Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job,saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things
about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, “I needloyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and thensaid, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will getthat from me.” As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided itwouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helpedend a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what heshould expect.During the dinner, the President returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, expressed hisdisgust for the allegations and strongly denied them. He said he was consideringordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen. I repliedthat he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that wewere investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was verydifficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me tothink about it.As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote adetailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with thesenior leadership team of the FBI.February 14 Oval Office MeetingOn February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counter-terrorism briefing of the President. He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat ina semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk. TheVice President, Deputy Director of the CIA, Director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and Iwere in the semi-circle of chairs. I was directly facing the President, sitting between the Deputy CIA Director and the Director of NCTC. There were quite afew others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs.The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group andtelling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by mychair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me.The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair andexchanged pleasantries with me. The President then excused him, saying hewanted to speak with me.When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, thePresident began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigne
the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anythingwrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he hadmisled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn,which he did not then specify.The President then made a long series of comments about the problem withleaks of classified information – a concern I shared and still share. After he hadspoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him.The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly.The door closed.The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is agood guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t doneanything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President.He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynngo. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a goodguy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was acolleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of myterm at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up andleft out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large groupof people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President.I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation aboutFlynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood thePresident to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connectionwith false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador inDecember. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broaderinvestigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but Itook him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and thecontroversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was veryconcerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infectthe investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend toabide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, therewas nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made littlesense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likelyrecuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so twoweeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General’s role was then filled in an actingcapacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role.