Former director of the FBI James Comey released on Wednesday the opening statement he prepared for scheduled testimony on Thursday, and notably absent from the seven-page document was any kind of smoking gun implicating President Donald Trump in obstruction of justice.
In fact, after weeks of anonymously sourced reporting on the so-called Comey memos at the FBI, the prepared remarks indicated Comey never thought Trump asked Comey and the FBI to drop the agency’s investigation into Russian hacking during the 2016 election and the possible involvement of U.S. persons.
The prepared remarks, released to the media on Wednesday, contained several other surprises, but none of them damaging to Trump.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Comey told Trump he was not under investigation on three separate occasions and the first time, he told Trump unprompted.
On Jan. 6, Comey said he met Trump in Trump Tower, then began typing up a memo the moment he returned to his car, as to keep proper notes.
Comey said he offered the assurance to then-President-elect Trump during a briefing. Before that meeting, he spoke with the FBI’s leadership team about whether he should inform the president the agency was not investigating him.
“We did not have an open counterintelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted,” Comey said. “During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.”
Comey also said Trump had dinner with Comey in the White House on Jan. 27. It was just the two men. During that dinner Trump asked the then-FBI director for advice on a public statement he could make on the investigation.
“I replied that he should give that careful thought,” Comey wrote in his prepared statement, “because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t.”
Trump also spoke to Comey during a March 30 phone call. Trump told Comey there was a “cloud” over the presidency, and that he wanted to do something to lift that 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. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him,” Comey wrote.
Comey reiterated that Trump himself was not the subject of any investigation.
“I explained we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump,” Comey wrote, “I reminded [Trump], I had previously told him that.”
Comey will testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.