Loyalty, the leak and Michael Flynn: A timeline of the Trump-Comey saga

WASHINGTON — Fired FBI director James Comey’s explosive testimony sparked a swift response from the White House and President Donald Trump’s legal team, who have actively disputed several claims Comey made while under oath.

Comey covered a lot of ground during his June 8 hearing — not only detailing the nine interactions he had with the President but also revealing that he himself had instructed a friend to leak unclassified memos about interactions with Trump.

He repeatedly called Trump a liar, told lawmakers that he believed he was fired over the Russia investigation and provided details into several controversial meetings the President.

Comey: Trump demanded loyalty

The former FBI chief also wrote a revealing description of Trump’s efforts to win his loyalty during their first dinner in January.

Trump, Comey wrote in a statement to the committee, told him: “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty” during their first dinner in January. Comey went on: “I didn’t move, speak or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed.” Comey then replied, “you will always get honesty from me.” He said the President responded, “that’s what I want. Honest loyalty.”

Trump denies that he ever said that to Comey.

“I hardly know the man, I’m not going to say, ‘I want you to pledge allegiance,'” Trump said June 9. “Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance?”

“I hope you can let this go”

Comey said that Trump asked him to drop FBI investigations into Flynn centering on his calls with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition, which eventually led to his dismissal as national security adviser after it emerged he had lied about the conversations to Vice President Mike Pence.

He wrote that Trump said: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

“I replied only that ‘he is a good guy.'” Comey wrote, describing a private meeting with Trump in the Oval Office on February 14, then added: “I did not say I would ‘let this go.'”

The exchange took place after a meeting between Trump and senior intelligence and homeland security officials, after which the President asked to speak to the FBI Director alone.

Comey said in his testimony that he understood the President to be requesting that he drop the investigation into Flynn, who had resigned the day before. But he says he did not understand Trump to be referring to the wider Russia investigation.

Asked June 9 whether he told Comey he hoped the FBI director would let the Flynn investigation go, Trump said: “I didn’t say that.”

Comey leaked his memos after Trump tapes tweet

It was a May 12 tweet from Trump, Comey told the Senate intelligence committee, that spurred him to leak contents of his memos documenting interactions with the President to the press.

“The President tweeted on Friday, after I got fired, that I better hope there’s not tapes,” Comey said. “I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night, because it didn’t dawn on me originally, that there might be corroboration for our conversation, there might be a tape.”

Comey, who wrote memos after his meetings with Trump, had shared the documents with fellow FBI officials. Asked during the Senate hearing if he shared the memos elsewhere, Comey explained he asked a “good friend” who is a “professor at Columbia law school” to be an intermediary with the press.

“My judgment was I needed to get that out into the public square. So I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter,” Comey said.

“I didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons, but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel, so I asked a close friend of mine to do it,” he said.

But Trump and his loyalists are raising questions around Comey’s decision.

“It is obvious that whomever was the source for the May 11, 2017 New York Times story got that information from the memos or from someone reading or who had read the memos,” wrote Trump’s personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz in a June 9 statement.

“This makes clear, as our statement said, that Mr Comey incorrectly testified that he never leaked the contents of the memo or details of the dinner before President Trump’s May 12, 2017 tweet,” the statement said.

The Comey-Trump timeline as we know it

January 6, 2017: Comey briefs Trump at Trump Tower on the findings of an intelligence community assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election. At the conclusion of that briefing, he remains alone with the then-President-elect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment.

“I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo,” Comey testified on June 8.

“To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward,” according to Comey’s June 8 testimony.

January 22, 2017: Trump jokes Comey has “become more famous than me” during a White House visit. They have an awkward embrace, and Trump tells Comey that he looks forward to working with him.

January 24, 2017: The New York Times reports that Trump asked Comey to stay on as FBI director.

January 27, 2017: Comey and President Trump have dinner in the Green Room at the White House and Trump tells him “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,” according to Comey’s June 8 testimony. The New York Times would report the details of this dinner on May 11, citing “two people who have heard his account of the dinner.”

February 13, 2017: Trump fires national security adviser Michael Flynn.

February 14, 2017: Trump urges Comey to drop Flynn investigation at Oval Office meeting, according to Comey’s June 8 testimony.

According to Comey, Trump said “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Comey testified that he replied only that “he is a good guy.” The New York Times reported the same information on May 16.

February 15, 2017: Comey tells Attorney General Jeff Sessions to never to leave him alone with Trump again, according to memos reported by the New York Times on June 6 and Comey’s testimony on June 8.

March 1, 2017: Trump asks Comey to publicly announce that he’s not under investigation. The New York Times would later report this interaction on May 18.

March 20, 2017: Comey confirms FBI investigation of Russian meddling and possible collusion during a House hearing.

March 22, 2017: Trump asks Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to intervene with Comey to back off Flynn investigation. The Washington Post would report this story on June 6. Coats has not commented on the report.

March 30, 2017: Trump calls Comey at the FBI and describes the Russia investigation as “a cloud” that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia, according to Comey’s June 8 testimony.

Comey said Trump asked what could be done to “lift the cloud.”

April 11, 2017: Trump calls Comey and asks what he has done about his request to “get out” that he is not personally under investigation, according to Comey’s testimony.

April 26, 2017: Rod Rosenstein is sworn in as deputy AG and begins assessing Comey’s future.

Early May 2017: Comey asks Rosenstein for more resources for Russia investigation, according to a New York Times report.

Early May 2017: Trump reportedly starts to consider firing Comey, Sessions/Rosenstein look for rationale.

May 2, 2017: Trump tweets that Comey gave Clinton “a free pass” and that the Russia story is a hoax.

May 3, 2017: Comey, testifying before senators in a committee hearing, says he’s “mildly nauseous” at the idea he influenced the election when he reopened the Clinton email investigation. Still, he defended his decision to do so.

May 7, 2017: Trump decides that he needs to fire Comey, according to the New York Times.

May 8, 2017: Trump tweets the investigation into Russia’s possible collusion with his campaign is a “total hoax” and a “taxpayer funded charade.”

May 8, 2017: Trump meets Sessions and Rosenstein to discuss firing Comey.

From White House press release: “On Monday, the President met with the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General and they discussed reasons for removing the Director.”

May 9, 2017: Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein sends a letter to Sessions about firing Comey, says Comey can’t continue to do his job because of how he handled the Clinton email investigation. Sessions agrees with that assessment.

May 9, 2017: Trump fires Comey, effective immediately. In his dismissal letter, Trump cites a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who wrote in an attached memo that Comey’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s email server was to blame.

Trump says Comey told him three times that he was not under investigation in his written statement to Comey about his firing.

That evening, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, sandwiched between reporters and a large shrub in the White House driveway, says Trump arrived at his decision after receiving the memo from Rosenstein that day. Spicer says the White House didn’t order DOJ to find a reason to fire Comey, according to the Washington Post.

CNN reports that federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former national security adviser Michael Flynn as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the election. CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before Comey’s firing.

May 9, 2017: Rosenstein reportedly threatens to resign amid White House spin over Comey firing, according to The Washington Post. He has denied this report.

May 10, 2017: White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Comey’s firing had nothing to do with the Russia investigation and his actions at the FBI were “atrocities.”

May 11, 2017: Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe tells members of the Senate intelligence committee that Comey had “broad support” among the FBI’s rank and file, contradicting the White House.

May 11, 2017: Trump, in an interview with NBC News, says he had already decided to fire Comey before receiving Rosenstein’s recommendation. “Regardless of the recommendation I was going to fire Comey,” Trump tells NBC.

Trump also says he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he made the decision.

May 11, 2017: The New York Times publishes a story recounting Comey’s one-on-one dinner with Trump where the president asked for his loyalty according to “two people who have heard his account of the dinner.” In Comey’s written testimony he revealed that this dinner took place on January 27.

May 11, 2017: The White House denies that Trump asked for a loyalty pledge from Comey.

May 12, 2017: Trump threatens Comey about leaks and hints that he taped their conversations.

May 12, 2017: Spicer declines to say whether there are recording devices in the White House.

May 12, 2017: Comey associates say he wants to testify in public, according to The New York Times.

May 13, 2017: Trump denies that he demanded a loyalty pledge from Comey

May 15, 2017: Comey tells a friend to leak details of his memos to the press, according to his June 8th testimony.

May 16, 2017: The New York Times reports that Trump privately urged Comey to drop Flynn investigation, citing Comey’s memos for the first time. Comey would later testify about this on June 8.

May 16, 2017: White House denies Trump urged Comey to drop Flynn investigation.

From CNN: A White House official says in response to the New York Times/Comey memo story, “While the President has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the President has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn.”

May 17, 2017: Rosenstein appoints former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead Russia investigation.

May 17, 2017: CNN reports Comey prepared extensively for his meetings with Trump, he kept copious notes, and didn’t share those memos with Sessions or Rosenstein.

May 18-19, 2017: Rosenstein tells lawmakers he stands by his memo that led to Comey’s firing.

May 18, 2017: Trump denies he pressured Comey to drop Flynn investigation.

May 18, 2017: Trump again says he relied on Rosenstein’s recommendation when deciding to fire Comey, even though he previously said he was going to fire Comey no matter what.

May 19, 2017: CNN reports that Comey now believes Trump tried to influence him.

May 19, 2017: Comey agrees to testify publicly before the Senate intelligence committee.

May 22, 2017: CNN reports Mueller was briefed on the Comey memos and that his investigation will include obstruction of justice, and that Comey will likely be a witness in Mueller’s probe.

May 23, 2017: Comey’s friend Ben Wittes says Comey thought Trump’s team was dishonorable.

May 31, 2017 — Trump cites Carter Page’s comments that Comey gave false or misleading testimony.

May 31, 2017 — CNN reports that Comey plans to testify about his Trump conversations.

June 8, 2017 — Comey testifies that the Trump administration lied about the reason for his firing, because Trump previously told him on several occasions that he was doing a great job.

June 8, 2017 — Comey testifies that he was never asked to stop the overall Russia investigation.

From June 8 Senate intelligence committee hearing:

Sen. Burr: Director Comey, did the president at any time ask you to stop the FBI investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 US Elections?

Comey: Not to my understanding, no.

Sen. Richard Burr: Did any individual working for this administration, including the justice department, ask you to stop the Russian investigation?

Comey: No.

June 8, 2017: Comey testifies that he felt like Trump was directing or ordering him to drop the Flynn investigation, even though Trump only expressed his “hope” that Comey would let it go.

June 8, 2017: Comey testifies that he believes he was fired because of the Russia investigation.

June 8, 2017: Comey says he hopes there are tapes and that they are released. He also says that Trump’s May 12 tweet prompted him to ask a close friend to leak the memos to the media on May 15 in hopes it would lead to a special prosecutor.

June 8, 2017 — Trump’s attorney Marc Kasowitz says Trump never tried to impede the Russia investigation and denies that Trump ever told Comey to “let Flynn go” and never demanded a loyalty pledge.

June 8, 2017 — Kasowitz says Comey’s memos described “privileged information” and Comey’s statement that he was prompted to release the memos after Trump’s May 12th tweet about tapes was false. Kasowitz cites a May 11 New York Times story that about Trump and Comey’s one-on-one dinner even though that story never attributes information to Comey’s memos.

June 9, 2017: Kasowitz followed up with an additional statement on June 9th that said “It is obvious that whomever was the source for the May 11, 2017 New York Times story got information from the memos or from someone reading or who had read the memos.”

“This makes clear, as our statement said, that Mr Comey incorrectly testified that he never leaked the contents of the memo or details of the dinner before President Trump’s May 12, 2017 tweet,” the statement said.