Comey explains why Trump's request for his 'loyalty' was so troubling

James Comey.
(Image credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

At his hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey expanded on comments detailed in his opening statement, published Wednesday, about President Trump's request for "loyalty."

As Comey wrote in his opening statement:

A few moments later, the president said, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." I didn't move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner. At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some presidents have decided that because "problems" come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work. [James Comey, via CNN]

During the hearing, Comey explained that Trump's question about his loyalty came "in context of asking me to stay" on as FBI director. Comey added he'd never before had a request for loyalty due to the fact that the position of FBI director — which enjoys a 10-year term — was established to prevent an individual from feeling like he owed loyalty to a specific president.

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Watch Comey explain why the question made him uncomfortable below. Jeva Lange

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