Former FBI Director James Comey was so concerned that his contacts with President Donald Trump jeopardized the agency's independence that he documented all of them and gave the records to his aides, a longtime friend said Thursday.
"He had to throw some brushback pitches to the administration," Benjamin Wittes, a friend of Comey's who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The New York Times.
The contacts include a telephone call shortly after taking office in which Trump asked Comey when federal officials would announce that he was not under investigation for alleged Russian ties, the Times reports.
Also detailed was a conversation during a January dinner in which Trump allegedly asked Comey to pledge his loyalty, as well as a meeting in the Oval Office the next month where Trump asked him to end the agency's probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's ties to Moscow.
Trump has denied making the Flynn request.
In response, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told the Times Thursday in a statement that "the sworn testimony" of both Comey and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe "make clear that there was never any attempt to interfere in this investigation.
"As the president previously stated, he respects the ongoing investigations and will continue working to fulfill his promises to the American people," Spicer said.
Congress has sought copies of Comey's memos for its two Russia investigations.
However, two people who have read the documents told the Times that they "provide snapshots of a fraught relationship between a president trying to win over and influence an FBI director, and someone who had built his reputation on asserting his independence, sometimes in a dramatic way."
Wittes, a Trump critic who is editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog, told the Times that "he never intended to publicly discuss his conversations with Mr. Comey."
However, after the Times reported that Trump had sought Comey's loyalty in the dinner meeting, Wittes said that "he saw Mr. Trump’s behavior in a 'more menacing light' and decided to speak out," according to the report.
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