Comey: Trump campaign sought information on Flynn
— The man who once served as FBI director is telling the nation’s top law enforcement agency he tried to recruit a special counsel to investigate the president’s team.
Comey, speaking at the bureau’s annual meeting Tuesday, told agents he had a meeting with Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in July 2016 and asked him to look into a dossier that had circulated that alleged that the Trump campaign was involved in Russian interference in the 2016 election.
But Comey said he told Manafort that he wanted to know if there was any evidence to support the dossier’s claims, according to a person familiar with the exchange.
Comey’s testimony Tuesday follows weeks of controversy surrounding the president and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The president fired Comey last month, and Flynn resigned days later.
Comey said that as soon as the conversation ended, he left the meeting and did not report it to the White House.
But he later said he was aware that Trump had spoken with Manafort.
The person familiar told Recode that Comey told the bureau that he had been “extremely nervous” when he walked into the meeting.
Comey was sworn in as director of the FBI in 2018, after nearly a decade in the job.
Comey served as director from 2013 to 2017 and had been under pressure from lawmakers for his handling of the Russia probe.
He was one of the first federal law enforcement officials to publicly acknowledge the existence of the dossier.
Comey told agents that the meeting with Manafort took place in July and he told them the dossier was a “fraud” that was “full of garbage.”
Comey said the dossier had been made up by people he had never met and he said he asked Manafort to “not to put it out there.”
He said he did not know who was behind the dossier, and he did find out only after his meeting with the former Trump campaign adviser with whom he spoke about the meeting, the person familiar said.
Comey has said the meeting was about Flynn’s meeting with a Russian lawyer in July, not about Russia’s alleged interference in last year’s presidential election.
Comey testified that he told the former campaign chairman he did this to avoid a conflict of interest.
Comey also told agents there was no evidence that he or anyone else involved in the FBI ever leaked classified information.
He said no FBI agents ever attempted to compromise the integrity of any FBI investigation.
Comey gave a detailed account of the meeting he had with Manafort in which he discussed the FBI’s Russia investigation and he asked for Manafort’s help in finding “persons associated with the Russian government who may have information useful to the investigation.”
The person briefed on the meeting said Comey had a “good” conversation with Manafort about the dossier and about how the FBI would be able to obtain documents.
Comey declined to answer questions about his conversations with the president or Manafort, but he did say that the president had a personal friendship with him and had encouraged him to “be very loyal.”
Comey told Agents that he and Manafort were not “coaching” each other about the investigation and that he didn’t want to “go down that path.”
Comey testified he was in “good spirits” during his remarks.
Comey and Manafort are in private discussions about the FBI probe, which began last month.
Trump fired Comey in May amid reports of an ongoing FBI investigation into possible ties between his campaign and Russia.
The New York Times reported Monday that the White Court, the president-elect’s private legal team, was working on ways to remove Comey from the Russia investigation.
Trump, who has said he fired Comey because of his handling the Russia inquiry, later denied the report, saying he was fired because of the investigation into him.
Comey did not testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, but told a news conference Tuesday he believes he and the president “will continue to work cooperatively toward a common goal.”
He also said the FBI “needs to be more careful and more transparent.”
The White House said Wednesday that the FBI had completed its investigation into Russian interference and would not comment further.
The House Intelligence Committee will hold its first hearing on the Russia matter Wednesday.
Comey took part in a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
He has also testified before the House Judiciary Committee and has appeared before the Joint Congressional Committee on Intelligence.
The committee is investigating possible ties Trump and his associates have with Russian officials.
Comey had previously told the House Intelligence committee he believed he could be fired if he made false statements in his testimony before Congress.
He also testified publicly about his interactions with Trump, but did not reveal that he spoke with the President in person.