President Donald Trump asked James Comey to pledge loyalty to him during a one-on-one dinner days after his January inauguration, multiple sources close to the ousted FBI director told both the New York Times and NBC News.
Comey, who, according to the Times report, reluctantly accepted the dinner invitation at the White House, told the President instead that he’d provide him with “honesty” and declined to answer questions about the bureau’s ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to influence the 2016 election.
This account, which was backed up by unnamed current and former FBI officials who spoke to NBC News, differs wildly from the account Trump provided in his own conversation Thursday with the network’s star anchor, Lester Holt.
Trump told Holt that Comey requested the dinner and asked the President to keep him in his post as FBI director. He also reiterated, as he wrote in his letter dismissing the FBI Director on Tuesday, that Comey told him three times he was not personally under investigation as part of the Russia probe.
An unnamed former senior FBI official told NBC News that Comey would never have said such a thing to the President, as it is a breach of protocol to comment on ongoing investigations.
“He tried to stay away from it,” the former official told NBC. “He would say, ‘look sir, I really can’t get into it, and you don’t want me to.'”
The White House disagreed with these characterizations of the dinner, telling the Times that those accounts were not accurate.
“The integrity of our law enforcement agencies and their leadership is of the utmost importance to President Trump,” Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the newspaper. “He would never even suggest the expectation of personal loyalty, only loyalty to our country and its great people.”