Former FBI Director James Comey testified, under oath, this morning before the Senate Intelligence Committee and started with stating the the White House lied and defamed him and the FBI by saying the bureau was in chaos and that he had lost FBI employees’ trust. For nearly three hours, Mr. Comey was questioned by committee members confirming that former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was under criminal investigation for his Russian connections at the time of his departure and he took Donald Trump at his word that he was fired because of that investigation.
Comey chose his words carefully regarding his meetings and phone calls with Trump declining to say, in open session, if he thought Trump colluded with Russia.
“Do you believe Donald Trump colluded with Russia?” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) asked.
“That’s a question I don’t think I should answer in an open setting,” Comey replied. “When I left, we did not have an investigation focused on President Trump. But that’s a question that’ll be answered by the investigation, I think.”
Comey also confirmed that Trump was not under FBI investigation at the time of his departure.
There was also the suggestion that there is classified information compromising Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III role in the Russian probe.
Comey was responding to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) about his prepared testimony for the Senate Intelligence Committee. In the testimony, which was released Wednesday, Comey said President Donald Trump asked him during a Feb. 14 Oval Office meeting to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn had resigned on Feb. 13.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Trump said, according to Comey’s testimony. Comey replied only that Flynn was a “good guy.”
FBI leadership chose not to inform Sessions about Trump’s questionable closed-door statements because they believed Sessions to be compromised on the Russia investigation, Comey reiterated Thursday.
There were some questions about why Comey didn’t just leave or refuse to take the calls from Trump by both Democrat and Republican senators. Specifically, regarding the dinner with Trump, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) asked:
“Why didn’t you stop and say, ‘Mr. President, this is wrong, I cannot discuss this with you?’” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked Comey.
“That’s a great question. Maybe if I were stronger, I would have,” Comey said. “I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in.”
As expected, Republican members tired to drag Hillary Clinton and her e-mail server into to the conversation without much success. Comey did explain that his decision to reveal the FBI investigation was prompted by former President Bill Clinton’s meeting with then AG Loretta Lynch on her plane. Sen John Cornyn (R-TX) asked why Comey did not call for a special prosecutor. Comey stated:
“I knew there was no case there. I knew that calling for the appointment would be brutally unfair,” he said.
During his questioning, Sen John McCain (R-AZ) came off as confused and befuddled trying to link Hillary to the Russian probe. Kevin Drum at Mother Jones observed:
How could Comey have finished up the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server last year, and yet the investigation of Russia’s interference in the election is ongoing. HOW CAN THAT BE? IT’S A DOUBLE STANDARD!!!
I have no idea what McCain is trying to say here. This is a bizarre line of questioning. He’s genuinely asking how it’s possible that an investigation of Clinton could be concluded while an investigation of Trump on a different subject hasn’t been concluded. Then he drooped a bit and referred a couple of times to “President Comey” before Comey stepped in and reminded McCain that he was right there. When McCain’s time was up, he puffed up his cheeks and shook his head as though he had uncovered something truly damning that no one else understood.
The morning session ended shortly after 1 PM ET. The hearing resumed in closed session in a secured communication facility (SCIF).
While Trump is already the most incompetent president, James Comey may be judged by history as being the most incompetent FBI director. From his violation of FBI rules disclosing of the end investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server and his biased statement; to the leaked letter to congress in October that the investigation was on again (It was later discovered that it was based on a fake e-mail that originated in Russia); to his meetings and phone calls with Trump, Comey appears to be, not only incompetent, but ignorant of his role as FBI director. It begs one to question why Pres. Barack Obama appointed him in the first place.