President Donald Trump to FBI Director James Comey on 1.27.17: “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”
In response to which Comey said, according to a prepared opening statement prior to Thursday’s testimony, “I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.
“At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House,” Comey continues. “I said it was a paradox. Throughout history, some presidents have decided that because ‘problems’ come from Justice, they should try to hold the department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.”
Later on Trump returned to the “l” word: “He said, ‘I need loyalty.’ I replied, ‘You will always get honesty from me.’ He paused and then said, ‘That’s what I want, honest loyalty.’ I paused, and then said, ‘You will get that 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 it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term — honest loyalty — had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.”