A White House representative said President Donald Trump will stand by his statement that he did not ask for "loyalty" from former FBI Director James Comey. Comey testified in front of a Senate committee June 8 and said Trump asked him for "honest loyalty."
The Associated Press reports that in a meeting with reporters, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump had not read transcripts of Comey's testimony. In regards to Comey's statement that Trump asked for "loyalty," Sanders responded that she "can't imagine the president not standing by his own statement."
According to prepared testimony, Comey said Trump directly asked him if he wanted to remain with the FBI, and pressed further, saying: "I need loyalty. I expect loyalty."
Comey testified he told Trump he would offer his honesty and that when Trump explicitly asked for “honest loyalty,” Comey paused before replying "you will get that from me."
Comey testified that he leaked memos he wrote about meetings with Trump to a close friend and law professor at Columbia Law School, who then gave those memos to The New York Times. Contained in the memos was Trump's directive to Comey to pledge loyalty.
When The New York Times detailed the accounts in the memos on May 11, the White House was quick to refute the claims. In the article, the newspaper reported that Trump painted a starkly different picture of the interaction, saying that Comey initiated the meeting and that the notion of pledging loyalty was never brought up.
The New York Times also describes a potential disconnect in the president's mind. FBI directors are intentionally given 10-year terms to make them independent of the White House. Trump, a political neophyte and likely unfamiliar with Washington protocol, might not have understood that FBI directors are not political loyalists.
The idea of loyalty stemmed from Trump seemingly seeking to end the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Comey's FBI was looking into potential ties between Flynn and Russian intermediaries, and memos of conversations between Trump and Comey show that Trump had called Flynn a "good guy" and hoped Comey "can let this go."
Comey also testified that he told Trump he was not personally under investigation for potential Russia ties. Trump's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, said in a statement that the president felt relieved by Comey's testimony, according to CNN.
"The President is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the President was not under investigation in any Russian probe," said Kasowitz in a statement.
"The President feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda."