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In his opening statement, former FBI director James Comey said Trump requested 'loyalty' and urged him to drop the FBI's Michael Flynn investigation. USA TODAY

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WASHINGTON —  Former FBI director James Comey confirmed in stunning detail Wednesday that President Trump privately requested his loyalty and later urged him to drop the investigation into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to a preview of his highly anticipated testimony.

Comey outlined nine contacts with the president in a seven-page opening statement filed with the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he is due to speak publicly Thursday for the first time since he was abruptly fired in May in the midst of a widening FBI investigation into whether Trump associates colluded with Russian officials who sought to influence the presidential election by hacking Democrats.

These contacts included a hastily-arranged Jan. 27 dinner in which Trump made an unusual request to the FBI chief overseeing the Russia inquiry: “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.’’

“I didn’t move, speak or change my facial expression any way during the awkward silence that followed,’’ Comey said of the exchange. "We simply looked at each other in silence.''

Later, in a Feb. 14 meeting at the White House, Comey said Trump strongly defended Flynn, saying that his former national security adviser “hadn’t done anything wrong’’ in his prior contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn had been fired one day prior for lying to administration officials about his communications with Kislyak.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go,’’ Comey said, quoting the president. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.’’

Alarmed by the exchange, Comey said he prepared an "unclassified memo'' immediately after the conversation and later discussed it with FBI senior leadership.

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“I had understood the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December,'' Comey said. "I did not understand the president to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong … Regardless, it was very concerning given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.’’

Comey's testimony does, however, include a concession to Trump, confirming the president's previous assertions that the director informed him on three separate occasions that he was not a subject of the FBI's Russia investigation. Comey said he relayed the information to the president during his first Jan. 6 briefing with the then-president-elect, the Jan. 27 White House dinner and a March 30 telephone call.

Trump's lawyer immediately seized on information, claiming that it amounted to a public acknowledgement that Trump "was not under investigation in any Russian probe.''

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Former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to Congress on Thursday is one of the most highly anticipated events in politics. Veuer's Nick Cardona (@nickcardona93) has that story. Buzz60

"The President feels completely and totally vindicated,'' Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz said in a written statement. "He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda.''

Still, Comey's written statement is more than a simple recounting of conversations with Trump. It is remarkable for its detail, describing furnishings in the rooms where they met, their seating arrangements and their often wide-ranging discussions by telephone.

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In one of his six telephone contacts with the president, Comey said Trump called him directly at FBI headquarters March 30 and described the ongoing Russia investigation as "a cloud'' that was impairing the president's ability to lead the country.

"He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia,'' Comey wrote, referring to the sexually-charged contents of an unsubstantiated dossier that purported to link Trump to the Kremlin.

"He asked what we could do to 'lift the cloud.' I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn't find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this (investigation) was causing him.''

Toward the end of the extraordinary conversation, Comey said that Trump again stressed that the ''cloud'' of the Russia investigation was interfering with his ability to govern.

"He hoped that I could find a way to get out that he wasn't being investigated,'' Comey wrote. "I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could."

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Immediately after that March 30 call, Comey said he reported the conversation to then-acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had earlier recused himself from considering all Russia-related matters because he had failed to disclose his own previous contacts with the Russian ambassador during his January confirmation hearing.

"I did not hear back from him before the president called me again two weeks later'' to ask what Comey had done to "get out'' the word that Trump was "not personally under investigation.''

Comey said he ultimately told Trump to pursue that information through Boente's office, "which was the traditional channel'' for contacts between the White House and the FBI.

The director's encounters with Trump were so unusual and often uncomfortable, that Comey started memorializing the communications in memos, starting with his first Jan. 6 meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan where the director briefed the president-elect on the contents of an unsubstantiated and sexually-charged dossier purporting to link Trump to the Kremlin.

"I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the president-elect in a memo,'' Comey wrote, adding that he began to compose it "on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting.

Creating written records of immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past.''

Contributing: David Jackson, Ray Locker

Read the full statement:

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