Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Friday directly contradicted President Trump’s claim that ousted FBI Director James Comey had asked Trump to have dinner a week after the President’s inauguration to ask to keep his job. He said that Comey told him he was “uneasy” about attending the dinner.
Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt on Thursday that Comey had requested to have dinner with him, and that he asked Trump at the dinner to keep him in his post as FBI director.
Multiple unnamed sources told the New York Times and NBC News after that interview that not only did Trump summon Comey to dinner on Jan. 27 and not the other way around, but also that Trump had asked at the dinner for Comey to pledge his loyalty to him. Comey reportedly refused.
Clapper told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Friday about a farewell ceremony Comey had hosted for him earlier the same day, Jan. 27.
“And Jim and I spoke briefly before the ceremony and he mentioned that he had been invited to the White House to have dinner with the President, and that he was uneasy with that because of even compromising the — even the optics, the appearance of independence, not only of him, but of the FBI,” Clapper recalled.
“But he was going that very night to the dinner. Did he explain why he felt he had to go?” Mitchell asked.
“Well, I think anyone who is serving office in the government, and you’re asked by the President for dinner, I think as professional courtesy, you’re in a difficult position to refuse to go,” Clapper said. “But I do know he was uneasy with it, just for the appearance of compromising the independence of the FBI, which is a hallowed tenet in our system.”
Mitchell asked about Trump’s claim that Comey had asked Trump to keep him in his job at the dinner, and that Comey had told Trump at the same dinner that he was not under an FBI investigation — one of three times Comey told him, according to Trump.
Comey has never said himself that he told Trump he wasn’t under investigation. Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday that “legal minds” and attorneys had said it wasn’t inappropriate for Trump to ask Comey whether he was being investigated — despite the question clearly violating Justice Department protocol.
“I would find that very inconsistent with what I know of Jim Comey,” Clapper said, noting that he wasn’t at the dinner and couldn’t know what was said.
“Moreover, anyone who’s in a position that’s subject to Senate confirmation — presidential appointment and Senate confirmation, which his is, mine was — understands that you serve at the pleasure of,” Clapper said.
“And it would really be, I think, inappropriate, and certainly in Jim’s case, out of character, for him to ask to stay on,” he continued. “I couldn’t imagine doing that myself, nor can I imagine him doing that either.”
Watch below via MSNBC: