One month ago, James Comey was addressing a room full of FBI employees in Los Angeles, when he realized that he was being pranked. On a television screen above the officers’ heads, a news network was reporting that President Trump had abruptly fired his FBI director. According to the New York Times, Comey complimented his fellow G-men on a “fairly funny” stunt.
Then Comey was asked to step into a side office — and, from there, into his newfound unemployment.
A lot has happened since May 9. Contrary to Trump’s naïve hopes, Comey didn’t take the Russia scandal with him into obscurity — in fact, he didn’t even take himself. On Wednesday, Comey allowed his opening statement at today’s hearing to be published in advance, and it confirmed every previous report of the president’s myriad attempts to undermine the FBI’s independence.
Now, Comey will tell his story to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and undergo its interrogation, in front of an audience of millions — including a reality-television president with a finger poised above his Twitter app.
So fire up some popcorn, call in sick, and enjoy “Washington’s Super Bowl” with Daily Intelligencer’s live analysis and commentary:
Nine revelations from this morning’s hearing.
The public session is over, the senators will interrogate Comey in a private session beginning at 1 p.m. Here are the most significant things we learned this morning.
1) Comey believes that the special prosecutor should look into whether Trump’s behavior toward him constituted obstruction of justice.
2) Comey says that the president is a liar, who defamed him and the FBI.
3) Comey suggested that the investigation into Michael Flynn does not overlap significantly with the investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He also suggested that a New York Times report that linked Trump associates to Russian intelligence officials was almost entirely false. Still, he did not feel comfortable saying, in open session, that he believes Donald Trump did not collude with the Russian government.
4) The FBI’s leadership all believed Sessions had no choice but to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, in light of facts that made his oversight of the matter “problematic.”
5) Speaking of problematic behavior from attorneys general: Comey says Loretta Lynch asked him to refer publicly to the Clinton email probe as a “matter,” rather than an investigation. This request made Comey “queasy,” as it tracked with the campaign’s own preferred rhetoric. The former FBI director says that the request contributed to his decision to keep Lynch at a distance from the investigation.
6) Comey believes he was fired because Trump disapproved of his handling of the Russia investigation. He believes this because Trump said on national television that this was the reason why Comey was fired.
7) Comey leaked his memos to the press with the hope that they would trigger the appointment of a special prosecutor.
8) In Comey’s telling, Trump once called him to explain why he was more certain than ever that there was no tape of him fornicating with Russian sex workers.
9) John McCain is too old for this.
And, in reverse chronological order, here’s a blow-by-blow of today’s hearing:
Is John McCain drunk?
John McCain rambling incoherently, seems to be collapsing the investigation into Clinton’s email server and the hacking of the Clinton campaign’s emails.
McCain is apparently insinuating that the FBI should be investigating Clinton for potentially colluding with the Russian government to undermine her own campaign.
John McCain's "double standard" theory doesn't make any sense at all. The Clinton and Trump/Russia investigations are two different things.— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) June 8, 2017
Have you tried shutting down and restarting your Senator John McCain?— Anthony De Rosa 🗽 (@Anthony) June 8, 2017
The president appears to be successfully exercising self-restraint.
Meanwhile, the White House confirms that Trump has confidence in attorney general Sessions (a statement it was not comfortable making days ago).
Does Trump have confidence in AG Sessions? Sarah Sanders: "Absolutely. The president has confidence in all of his cabinet."— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) June 8, 2017
John Cornyn takes his turn as Trump’s defense counsel. Asks Comey if he thinks firing the FBI director is a good way for a president to kill an investigation. Comey says no, but admits he’s biased, given that he’s the one who was fired.
Cornyn ostensibly suggesting that Trump couldn’t have fired Comey with the intention of killing the Russia investigation, since that would be a stupid thing to do. And everyone knows Donald Trump never does stupid things.
White House claims that the president (a cable news addict) hasn’t had much time to take in this morning’s proceedings (the biggest television news event of the year, thus far).
Sarah Sanders on whether Trump watched the Comey hearing "I don't know if he’s seen much of it."— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) June 8, 2017
Sanders says Trump spent the morning meeting Mattis, Tillerson and McMaster.— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) June 8, 2017
Asked whether he believes Trump colluded with the Russian government, Comey says he can’t answer that in an open session – but stipulates that he does not mean to single anything nefarious with his silence.
Comey disputes the veracity of a bombshell New York Times report on Trump associates’s contacts with Russian intelligence.
Comey agrees with Cotton reference to NYT Feb 14 story as "almost entirely wrong"
this story --> https://t.co/tQHrH5g5xj— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) June 8, 2017
Tom Cotton asks about the interactions Comey didn’t record in his written testimony. Comey says that Trump called him to say that he had reflected more on the salacious claim in the Christopher Steele dossier, and “had thoughts about why it wasn’t true” (that he had paid Russian sex workers to urinate in front of him).
"He thought about it more and had thoughts about why it wasn't true... the unverified and salacious parts." That is, the PEE TAPE.— Josh Barro (@jbarro) June 8, 2017
"Hey Jim, how's it going? I was just thinking about that tape you told me about and the more I think about it, the more it's def not real."— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) June 8, 2017
Comey reiterates that Trump has his full permission to release tapes of their conversations.
Earlier, Comey likened Trump expressing the “hope” that the investigation into Flynn would disappear to an anecdote about Henry II. Specifically that king’s complicity in the murder of his Archibishop of Canterbury–Thomas Becket– in 1170.
Specifically, Henry II reportedly said: “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest,” in the presence of his aristocratic cronies, which they took as direction to kill him.
Paul Ryan suggests that a man who spent a year-and-a-half imploring Americans to make him their president can’t be expected to understand the basic responsibilities that come with that job.
Paul Ryan on Trump and the Comey testimony: "He's just new to this."— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) June 8, 2017
Comey felt he couldn't say one word in an open setting about the Russian bank VEB, whose head secretly met with Kushner. Telling.— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) June 8, 2017
Senator Angus King references these remarks from Trump, gets Comey to confirm that they were lies.
On May 18, Trump was asked if he “at any time urge[d] Comey in any way, shape or form to close or to back down the investigation into Flynn"— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) June 7, 2017
He responded, "No." Then repeated, "No. Next question."— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) June 7, 2017
Earlier, senator Risch suggested that no one had ever been held legally responsible for obstruction of justice, merely for expressing a “hope” that was interpreted as a command.
That appears to be untrue.
Huge revelation Comey told Rosenstein about his concerns with Trump - yet he still wrote the memo justifying his firing. Needs follow up.— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) June 8, 2017
In his conversations with Comey, Trump expressed concerns about Michael Flynn’s fate, the damage the “pee tape” allegation had done to his reputation, and the FBI director’s loyalty.
He never expressed concerns about Russia’s attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the 2016 election.
"I don't remember any conversations," Comey says, where Trump expressed concern about Russian meddling— Robert Costa (@costareports) June 8, 2017
Specifically, Comey said he leaked his memos to the press through a close friend of his at Columbia law school. You can watch a CNN interview with that friend here.
Comey leaked his memos to the press following Trump’s tweet threatening to release tapes of their conversations – with the specific intention of triggering the appointment of a special prosecutor(!)
Trump made a lot of poor decisions in the aftermath of Comey’s termination. But in hindsight, this tweet may be the single most ill-advised.
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Comey explains why he voluntarily informed Trump that he was not under investigation: The FBI director first met the president-elect to brief him on the infamous Christopher Steele dossier, and wanted to make it clear that this was not a “J. Edgar Hoover situation” – he was not trying to hold this over the president’s head as a kind of blackmail. May be first time an FBI Director has been so snarky about The Founder.
Comey refers to facts about Sessions and Russia that made the attorney general’s oversight of the investigation “problematic.”
Asked why the FBI did not inform Sessions of Trump’s specific acts of interference, Comey says that the bureau’s leadership team was convinced that Sessions would have to recuse himself from the Russia probe, eventually.
! Comey says there was facts that would make Sessions involvement in the Russia investigation “problematic” but he can’t discuss in public pic.twitter.com/H1rNT4SBN1— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) June 8, 2017
Rubio suggests he finds it mildly outrageous that no one leaked word that Trump wasn’t under investigation, given how many other details of the FBI’s probe have made it to the press.
(People did leak word that Trump wasn’t under investigation to the press.)
Not true Marco Rubio. We've reported on numerous occasions that the President himself was not personally under investigation.— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) June 8, 2017
Rubio emphasizes key point for team Trump: Comey doesn’t believe Trump ever asked him to drop the investigation into his campaign’s Russia ties. When Trump asked him to “lift” the “cloud” of the Russia investigation, Comey understood the president to be asking him to publicly announce that the president was not personally under investigation.
Don Jr. speaks for the defense.
3/3 Knowing my father for 39 years when he "orders or tells" you to do something there is no ambiguity, you will know exactly what he means— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 8, 2017
Comey admits that he wasn’t as firm with Trump as he ought to have been. Calls his efforts to cut short conversations “cowardly."— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) June 8, 2017
Comey: I was fired because of the Russia investigation.
Asked why he believes he was fired, Comey replies, “I don’t know for sure” but:
Comey: "I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation."— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) June 8, 2017
Senator Risch plays Trump’s defense attorney: Notes that Trump didn’t command Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn, but said “I hope” you will drop the investigation.
Comey confirms that Trump didn’t command him to drop the investigation with “his words.” But insists that he interpreted the president’s words as a command, seeing as they came in private (after Trump asked him to pledge loyalty).
Risch maintains that Trump was merely voicing an abstract wish – he “hopes” Comey lets Flynn go the way he hopes the Yankees win the pennant.
Comey throws shade at Jeff Sessions. On the day Trump infamously asked his attorney general to leave the room, so he could speak with the FBI director alone (about dropping the investigation into Flynn), Comey says Sessions appeared to know that he shouldn’t honor that request, but did any way.
Comey adds a persuasive new interpretive point to his published account. He believed Trump thought he “gave away” Comey’s chance to stay in the job for nothing, and was trying to reopen the negotiation even after Comey had already stated his desire to keep his position.
Comey says when they were in the blue room and Trump whispered in his ear, he said: "I really look forward to working with you."— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) June 8, 2017
"I really look forward to working with you," Trump whispers to Comey, in this photo, according to the latter's testimony pic.twitter.com/kAkoupwwGW— Ali Gharib (@Ali_Gharib) June 8, 2017
Comey answers one of the questions unanswered in his pre-hearing testimony: Why did he take detailed memos of his every meeting with Trump, even before the president started trying to undermine his independence.
Answer: Unlike other presidents, Trump is a known liar.
Comey has now said twice in this hearing essentially that he thinks Trump is a liar. pic.twitter.com/xrVTRr5H44— Domenico Montanaro (@DomenicoNPR) June 8, 2017
Comey indicates special prosecutor is looking into Trump for obstruction of justice.
Comey declines to give his opinion on whether the actions he describes Trump taking constitute obstruction of justice.
Flag: Comey doesn't want to opine on Trump trying to obstruct, but says "That's a conclusion I'm sure the special counsel will work toward." pic.twitter.com/0WVe6dTN8t— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 8, 2017
Comey just made it pretty clear Mueller is going to investigate obstruction of justice. A bombshell for the WH.— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) June 8, 2017
Comey declines to say that the FBI hasn’t confirmed any criminal allegations in the infamous Steele dossier.
Burr: Had the FBI confirmed any criminal allegations in the Steele dossier?
Comey: I can't answer that in an open setting.— Eric Geller (@ericgeller) June 8, 2017
Burr seems to have expected a different answer.
Comey: The Trump administration defamed me and the FBI.
Comey claims that initially, he was inclined to accept his dismissal quietly and return to private life. But the administration gave an explanation for his firing – that the Justice Department disapproved of his handling of the Clinton email investigation – that didn’t make sense “for a whole bunch of reasons.” Namely, that there had been so much “time” and “water under the bridge” since the decisions on that investigation were made.
And then Trump began suggesting publicly – and, to Russian officials – that the firing was linked to the investigation, and Trump’s desire to relieve the “pressure” that investigation put him under.
And then, Trump “chose to defame” Comey and the FBI.
Comey: Admin "chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI, by saying that the org was in disarray, that it was poorly led..."— Eric Geller (@ericgeller) June 8, 2017
The fact that Comey feels comfortable using this language testifies to his confidence in his support among the FBI’s rank-and-file.
Warner continues to remind us what we know: Trump asked Comey to pledge loyalty, and, then, to demonstrate that loyalty by dropping the FBI’s investigation into Flynn and doing something to “lift” the “cloud” the Russia investigation had cast over his administration.
Warner also references yesterday’s hearing with America’s top intelligence officials, who refused to say whether or not the president asked them to encourage Comey to let Flynn go easy.
Burr indicates that the committee’s Republicans plan to grill Comey on his handling of the Clinton email investigation today. Just a few weeks ago, the GOP was perfectly content with that investigation, while Democrats were eager to castigate Comey over it.
In his opening statement, the committee’s ranking Democrat Mark Warner keeps the focus on what we already know about Trump and Russia, including the president’s “unexplained affection” for Vladimir Putin.
Trump disputes Comey’s account.
Comey is seated. Richard Burr is saying niceties.
Burr to Comey: 'This is your chance to set the record straight'June 8, 2017
Meanwhile, Trump is officially disputing Comey’s claim that he demanded the FBI director pledge personal loyalty to him.
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Source: Trump `disputes' Comey's claim that he asked for loyalty and to let go of the Flynn probe.— Ken Thomas (@KThomasDC) June 8, 2017
Yesterday, Trump claimed he felt “vindicated” by Comey’s testimony.
Preet Bharara, one of the U.S. attorneys whom Trump fired, has a front row seat.
Bharara has been unflinching in his criticism of the president.
Obstruction aside, it's NEVER ok for a POTUS privately to ask an FBI Director to drop a criminal investigation. Extraordinary, wrong & dumb. https://t.co/Axwjoaw8F7
Source : http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/06/liveblog-james-comey-testifies-on-trump-to-the-senate.html