Tension in Washington ahead of Comey testimony on Trump, Russia probe

Fired FBI chief James Comey has confirmed that Donald Trump urged him to drop a probe into former national security advisor Michael Flynn, in a preview of hotly awaited testimony Thursday that could rock the foundations of the presidency.

Comey’s bombshell claim Wednesday fueled fresh allegations that Trump illegally tried to obstruct an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In a written statement ahead of his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey detailed how Trump repeatedly raised the Russia case with him earlier this year, asking him to go easy on Flynn, who is accused of improper links to Moscow.

Trump complained the investigation was a “cloud” over his administration that needed to be lifted, Comey said.

And at a private White House dinner on January 27, just days after the Republican billionaire took office, Comey said Trump appeared to want to “create some sort of patronage relationship” with him.

“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,” Comey said.

Comey did not say whether he thought the president’s actions amounted to obstruction, a serious crime that could lead to impeachment.

But he called Trump’s approaches “very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.”

He also described trying to insulate himself and the Federal Bureau of Investigation from political pressure in the weeks before Trump fired him on May 9, as the president complained about the Russian probe and labeled it “fake news.”

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Adeeko Ademola

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