“It is important to understand that FBI counter-intelligence investigations are different than the more commonly known criminal investigative work,” Comey said. “Counter intelligence investigations tend to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to be witting or unwitting agents of that foreign power. When the FBI develops reason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will ‘open an investigation’ on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more about the nature of any relationship with the foreign power so it can be disrupted.”
>> Related: Read: James Comey's testimony released ahead of Senate Intelligence hearing
He said that during the Jan. 6 briefing, which was focused on Russian efforts to meddle in the presidential election, he told the president without any prompt from Trump that he was not under investigation.
“That was true,” Comey said. “We did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him.”
At a subsequent private dinner in the White House’s Green Room on Jan. 27, Trump expressed his disgust over allegations that he or his associates worked with Russian government actors to win November’s election.
“He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen,” Comey said. “I replied that he should give that careful thought, because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative.”
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In what Comey said what his final one-on-one conversation with Trump, the FBI director again assured the president that he was not under investigation in a March 30 phone call.
The president asked for the reasoning behind a congressional hearing the week before that focused on the Russia investigation. Comey had confirmed that the FBI was investigating possible links between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign at the hearing.
“I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating Trump,” Comey said. “I reminded him (that) I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, ‘We need to get that fact out.’”
Trump has said multiple times that Comey assured him he was not under investigation despite the ongoing Russia probe.
In a letter to Comey announcing his firing in last month, Trump wrote that he “greatly (appreciated) you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation."
Read Comey’s full opening statement: