Media were determined to report “salacious and unverified” accusations regarding Donald Trump, his 2016 election and Russia, former FBI Director James Comey says in written testimony submitted on the eve of his Thursday appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Describing his first meeting with then-President-Elect Trump, Comey says the Intelligence Community (IC) was aware that media possessed unverified material they would imminently report – even though it was “salacious and unverified.”
Regarding any media “effort to compromise an incoming president,” Comey says IC leaders thought they might be able to “blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing”:
“I first met then-President-Elect Trump on Friday, January 6 in a conference room at Trump Tower in New York. I was there with other Intelligence Community (IC) leaders to brief him and his new national security team on the findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election. At the conclusion of that briefing, I remained alone with the President-Elect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment.
“The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge of the material and its imminent release from the President-Elect; and (2) to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing.”
Comey says he was chosen to brief Trump privately to “minimize potential embarrassment to the President-Elect” and reassure him if feared he might be under investigation:
“The Director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portion of the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the material implicated the FBI’s counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I would do it alone to minimize potential embarrassment to the President-Elect. Although we agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBI’s leadership and I were concerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new President came into office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence investigation of his personal conduct.”