WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - Former FBI Director James Comey confirmed Wednesday that President Trump requested his loyalty and later urged him to drop the investigation into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to a preview of his highly anticipated testimony.
Comey, in a seven page opening statement filed with the Senate Intelligence Committee, outlined nine contacts with President Trump, including a Jan. 27 dinner in which Trump apparently said: "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.''
"I didn't move, speak or change my facial expression any way during the awkward silence that followed,'' Comey said of the exchange.
Later, in a Feb. 14 meeting at the White House, Comey said Trump strongly defended Flynn, saying that his former national security adviser "hadn't done anything wrong'' in his prior contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn had been fired one day prior for lying to administration officials about his communications with Kislyak.
"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go,'' Comey said, quoting the president. "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.''
Trump made Comey nervous enough that he started recording his meetings and calls with Trump immediately afterward in a series of memos, something he did not do with President Barack Obama, Comey said in his prepared testimony.
About their Jan. 27 dinner, Comey wrote, "My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was 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 the executive branch."
Trump abruptly fired Comey on May 9, as he was in the midst of a widening probe into whether Trump associates colluded with Russian officials who sought to influence the election by hacking Democrats.
Contributing: Ray Locker