Damnit Donald: James Comey Testifies in Senate Hearing

Raeesa Ashique - 3A Electrical
Posted on: June 19, 2017

James Comey, ex-FBI director, testified in an open Senate hearing on Thursday, June 8. He was fired in May, allegedly because of his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, although he does not buy this excuse. “It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said. “I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”

Comey had kept detailed memos on his laptop following all correspondence with Donald Trump, both before and after the election, which he had shared with the FBI leadership. He said this was necessary since he was “concerned [Trump] might lie about the nature of the meeting.” These memos were shared with the FBI leadership, but no one else, to avoid “infecting” the investigation.

Comey’s prepared written statement was released the day before the hearing, in which he shared details of their communication as follows.

January 6: Intelligence Community (IC) leaders met with Trump in a conference room at Trump Tower in New York to brief him and his new national security team on findings regarding Russian interference in the election. They were also debating whether to inform him of the nature of the investigation, so that he would understand that he was not being personally investigated; Comey decided to tell him this.

Note that an FBI counter-intelligence investigation is different than a criminal investigation; they are seeking information, rather than investigating a crime, and looking at whether an American was a “witting or unwitting agent” of foreign powers.

January 27: Trump and Comey had dinner in the Green Room. Trump asked whether he would like to continue his directorship, although Trump had previously expressed his wishes that Comey stay. “My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship.”

Trump then asked for loyalty, and Comey said that he can offer reliability, but can’t be counted on in the political sense Trump was alluding to. Trump reinforced, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” The two parties ended up agreeing on “honest loyalty”, although they probably interpreted this term differently.

Notably, the New York Times reported on this meeting last month in an account corroborated by Comey’s testimony, although Trump outright denied this version of this story.

February 14: In this Oval Office meeting, Trump said Michael Flynn, former national security advisor, had not done anything wrong by speaking with the Russian ambassadors back a December – Flynn ended up resigning because of misleading Vice-President Mike Pence regarding this conversation. Trump said, “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.”

Comey says he did not understand Trump to be referring to the larger investigation into Russia, but specifically into the Flynn case. However, he and other colleagues agreed this was still “very concerning”.

The New York Times also reported on this meeting last month, and Comey’s account once again coincides.

March 30: Trump called Comey, describing the Russia investigation as “a cloud” which was interfering with his ability run the country, and asked what they can do to “lift the cloud”. Comey replied that they are acting as quickly as realistically possible while maintaining integrity to the investigation, and reminded Trump that he is not being personally investigated; Trump repeatedly pushed to “get that fact out.”

Trump also suggested they look into whether his “satellite associates” had done anything wrong.

April 11: Trump again requested that it “get out” that he was not being personally investigated. Comey suggested the White House contact acting deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to that effect.

White House Responds

Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, responded the same day; he partly denied many of Comey’s statements, and finished with, “In sum, it is now established that the President was not being investigated for colluding with the or attempting to obstruct that investigation. As the Committee pointed out today, these important facts for the country to know are virtually the only facts that have not leaked during the long course of these events.”

Mueller Investigation

There were reports the same week that Rosenstein has appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to lead an inquiry into Trump’s possible collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Trump is also being investigated for obstruction of justice in relation to firing Comey, because of which he is again pointing fingers. He tweeted on June 16: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.”

According to the Washington Post, the FBI is also looking into Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor.

And the White House/Kremlin saga continues…