JAMES CLAPPER: Comey was 'uneasy' about having dinner with Trump

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said James Comey was "uneasy" about having dinner with President Donald Trump in January.

Clapper told MSNBC on Friday that Comey, the former FBI director whom Trump abruptly ousted on Tuesday, had mentioned he was invited to the White House for dinner shortly after Trump's inauguration.

"He said he was uneasy with that because of compromising — even the optics, the appearance of independence," Clapper said. "Not only of him, but of the FBI."

Clapper said Comey accepted Trump's invitation out of "professional courtesy."

"You're in a difficult position to refuse to go," Clapper added. "But I do know he was uneasy with it."

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper
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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on "Worldwide threats to America and our allies" in Capitol Hill, Washington February 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, left, and Director of the National Security Agency Admiral Michael S. Rogers, talk before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled 'Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States,' January 5, 2016.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, prepares to testify before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled 'Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States,' January 5, 2016.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement accompanied by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (R) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford after a meeting with Obama's national security team at the Treasury Department in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (L) and United States Cyber Command and National Security Agency Director Admiral Michael Rogers prepare to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill January 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. The intelligence chiefs testified to the committee about cyber threats to the United States and fielded questions about effects of Russian government hacking on the 2016 presidential election.

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyber threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 5, 2017.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement at the National Counterterrorism Center in Mclean, Virginia, December 17, 2015. Standing with the President (L-R) are: Nicholas Rasmussen, Director, National Counterterrorism Center, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, James Clapper, Director, Office of National Intelligence, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary John Kerry, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and James Comey, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigations.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

CIA Director John Brennan (L) and the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, (R) prepare to testify at a House (Select) Intelligence Committee hearing on "World Wide Cyber Threats" on Capitol Hill in Washington September 10, 2015.

(REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies about 'world wide cyber threats' during an open hearing of the House (Select) Intelligence Committee at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center September 10, 2015 in Washington, DC. Clapper said that the budget uncertainty of sequestration has posed a challenge to how the United States faces cyber attacks from countries like China that could undermine U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (R), enters the hearing room with the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services chairman, John McCain, (R-AZ) (C) at the Dirksen Senate Office Building February 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. Clapper and Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart , the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, both testified on a range of topics including Muslim extremist groups and cyber threats to U.S. security.

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US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (L) greets French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve prior to meetings at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in McLean, Virginia, February 19, 2015.

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James Clapper (L), Director of National Intelligence listens to testimony during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, October 2, 2013 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony on oversight of the foreign intelligence surveillance act.

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Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper (L) and Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano (R) share a few words before US President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on June 21, 2013 to announce his nomination of Jim Comey to be the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). Comey, a deputy attorney general under George W. Bush, would replace Robert Mueller, who is stepping down from the agency he has led since the week before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

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Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper (3rd R) leaves a joint closed door meeting with the Senate and House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, on June 7, 2012 in Washington, DC. The joint Intelligence committee met with Clapper to discuss administration leaks of classified information.

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From left, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director David Petraeus take their seats for the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee hearing on 'World Wide Threats' on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

In this photo provided by The White House, (L-R) National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper listen as Leon Panetta, Director of the CIA speaks during a meeting in the Situation Room on May 1, 2012 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama's national security team held a series of meeting to discuss Osama bin Laden.

(Photo by Pete Souza/White House Photo via Getty Images)

US Director for National Intelligence James Clapper (L) speaks with FBI Director Robert Mueller at the launch of the strategy to combat transnational organized crime at the White House in Washington on July 25, 2011. The United States Monday unveiled a series of sanctions aimed at cracking down on international organized crime, including gangs from Russia, Japan and Mexico and the Italian Mafia.

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

CIA Director Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and FBI Director Robert Mueller testify during a hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee February 16, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The hearing was to discuss the U.S. intelligence community's assessment of threats to national security.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies during a hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee February 16, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The hearing was to discuss the U.S. intelligence community's assessment of threats to national security.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller, Office of National Intelligence Director James Clapper, Centeral Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta testify before the the House (Select) Committee on Intelligence at the U.S. Capitol February 10, 2011 in Washington, DC. While testifying to the committee, Panetta confirmed that he had intelligence that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may be stepping down today. The U.S. intelligence leaders testified to the committee in an open hearing about 'world wide threats' before moving into a closed briefing.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama stands alongside retired General James Clapper, Obama's nominee for director of national intelligence, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, June 5, 2010.

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The Senate Select Intelligence Committee holds a confirmation hearing to hear the testimony of nominee James Clapper to fill the vacancy of director of National Intelligence (DNI), on Capitol Hill Tuesday July 20, 2010.

(Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images) 

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During the dinner, Comey refused to pledge his loyalty to Trump at least twice, The New York Times reported on Thursday. Comey said he'd pledge his "honesty," according to The Times.

Trump's abrupt dismissal of Comey has led to allegations, particularly from Democrats, that the FBI may have been closing in on compromising material while investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In a letter announcing Comey's firing, Trump said Comey had assured him in three separate conversations that he wasn't under investigation. Trump reiterated this in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt on Thursday.

The FBI and the congressional intelligence committees are investigating Russia's election interference and the Trump campaign's ties to Kremlin officials. Clapper said on Friday that he didn't know whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

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Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations
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Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Sergey Kislyak

Outgoing Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak is the Russian official U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions -- communication Sessions denied during his Senate committee hearing testimony.

R. James Woolsey

Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has cooperated with Mueller's investigation and worked with Michael Flynn and was present at a meeting where they discussed removing the controversial Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen from US soil. 

(Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

The American intelligence community accused Putin in Jan. 2017 of ordering a campaign to undermine trust in the American electoral process, developing a clear preference for Trump as president. "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the report read.

James Comey

Comey publicly confirmed in March an FBI inquiry into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. “The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” Comey stated.

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

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Trump's former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was fired following the revelations that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence over conversations he had with Serge Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US. Clapper said that he didn't think Flynn had the "skill set" to be national security advisor.

On Friday morning, Trump tweeted that the Russia investigation was a "witch hunt" and that there was "no collusion" with the Russian government.

"James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" Trump said.

Clapper added that "morale in the FBI was very high" under Comey's leadership. "I witnessed personally the very high esteem and respect people in the FBI have, and still have, for Jim Comey," Clapper said.

Andrew McCabe, the acting FBI director, echoed this sentiment in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, contradicting the narrative coming from the White House.

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