Former FBI director James Comey is testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee about of his meetings with President Donald Trump and whether the president pressured him to abandon a probe touching on White House relations with Russia.
In an unusual move, the committee released Comey’s prepared remarks on Wednesday afternoon. The seven-page document outlines his relationship with Trump, some details of which had already been leaked to the press in the weeks following his firing, including that the president asked Comey for his loyalty.
Trump fired Comey on May 9, faulting him for failing to find intelligence community leakers feeding information to the media.
The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner (D-VA), says this is not a “witch hunt” or “fake news,” but rather an effort to protect the US from a “new threat” which will not be going away anytime soon.
Comey said that although he understood when he was hired in 2013 that he “could be fired by the president for any reason or no reason at all,” the “shifting explanations” he was later told “confused me and increasingly concerned me.”
— Caleb T. Maupin (@calebmaupin) June 8, 2017
He said that President Trump repeatedly told him that he had “talked to lots of people” about him, and that he had learned Comey was doing a “great job.”
“So it confused me when I saw on TV that the president fired me because of the Russian investigation,” he said.
Comey said the Trump administration chose to “defame me and more importantly the FBI” by saying they had lost confidence in him.
Comey said he has “no doubt” that Russians attempted to interfere in 2016 election, or that they were behind the hacking of the DNC, or the intrusion into voting systems.
When asked whether confident votes had been altered, Comey said he had seen “no indication of that whatsoever.”
When asked whether Trump asked him to stop the Russia investigation, Comey responded by saying “not to my understanding, no.” He went on to say that no one had asked him to end the investigation.
Comey defended his decision to publicize email investigation results, after he was asked if he had learned anything since which would have changed that decision.
“Honestly, no. I think it was the best way to try to protect the justice institution, including the FBI,” Comey said.
Speaking about a January 6 meeting with Trump in Trump Tower, Comey said he felt he needed to create a written record of the meeting due to “circumstances, subject matter, and the person I was interacting with (Trump).”
“I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting,” he said, speaking of Trump, who was president-elect at the time of the meeting.
Most senators sitting spellbound. Heinrich, King, Burr, taking notes. Rubio & Collins whisper with each other amiably. #ComeyHearing
— Ed O’Keefe (@edatpost) June 8, 2017
“I think I did it after each of our nine conversations. I knew that there might come a day when I might need a record of what happened, to defend not just myself, but the FBI and our integrity,” Comey said.
When asked if the meeting with Trump was the only presidential meeting he ever felt the need to create a written record for, Comey said “that’s right, senator.”
Comey said that after inauguration, the president whispered in his hear that he was “really looking forward to working” with the FBI director.
Comey also spoke of having the feeling that Trump was “looking to get something in exchange for letting me stay in my job.”
He confirmed that Trump was not under investigation during his time at the FBI.
Referencing a probe into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, Comey said that Trump said “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go.”
When asked why he believes he was fired, Comey said: “I don’t know for sure, I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russian investigation…”
On the Flynn investigation, Comey said: “The controversy was whether Flynn lied to VP about nature of his conversations with Russians. What he wanted me to do is drop any investigation connected to Flynn’s account of his contacts with the Russians.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked Comey to confirm that the president asked three things of him: Be loyal; let the Mike Flynn investigation go; and tell the American people that I’m not personally under investigation.
Despite stating earlier in the hearing that he felt Trump was “looking to get something in exchange for letting me stay in my job,” Comey seemed to later backtrack during the questioning.
“I don’t know I would go that far. I got sense my job would be contingent on how he felt I conducted myself and whether I demonstrated loyalty,” he said.
Comey said he shared Trump’s three requests for him with the deputy director of the FBI and his counsel, the chief of staff, general counsel, and the number 3 person at the FBI, the head of the national security branch.
Asked once again about why he didn’t tell Trump that it was inappropriate to clear the room and ask him to let the Flynn investigation go, Comey said that he did speak with the attorney-general and the new deputy attorney-general.
“I told the attorney-general, it can’t happen that you get kicked out of the room and the president talks to me,” but said “I didn’t want to alert the White House until I figured out what we were going to do with this” in an investigative sense.