11 Things We Learned From Comey’s Testimony
Former FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday about his interactions with President Trump prior to his firing on May 9, and he did not disappoint.
Comey provided details about those interactions and the larger investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government to influence the election.
Here are 11 of the biggest revelations from Comey’s testimony.
Trump did not ask for closure of Russia investigation
“Did the president at any time ask you to stop the FBI investigation into Russian involvement?” North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr asked Comey.
“Not to my understanding, no,” he said.
That admission is significant given that Trump’s opponents have accused him of potentially obstructing justice by firing Comey and by asking him to publicly reveal that he was not a target of the Russia probe.
Obama’s attorney general meddled in Clinton email probe
Comey said he was “concerned” with Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s demand that he call the Hillary Clinton email probe a “matter” rather than an “investigation.”
“That concerned me, because that language tracked the way the [Clinton campaign] talked about the FBI’s work, and that’s concerning,” Comey testified.
“It gave me a queasy feeling,” he added.
Comey also testified that Lynch’s tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton late last June was one of the main reasons he decided to announce the findings of the FBI’s email investigation.
Comey hopes there are White House tapes
When Trump tweeted a warning at Comey last month suggesting that he had tape recordings of their conversations, Comey said he hoped the tweet was true.
“Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey says he thought at the time.
Trump “directed” closure of Flynn probe, but did not order it
Trump’s request in a Feb. 14 Oval Office meeting that Comey back off of investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn was interpreted by Comey as a direction but not as an order, he testified.
“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 Trump told him in the meeting.
Asked about that exchange, Comey gave a nuanced answer.
“I took it as a direction,” Comey said. “I mean, this is a president of the United States with me alone saying, ‘I hope this.’ I took it as, this is what he wants me to do. I didn’t obey that, but that’s the way I took it.”
Comey said he did not interpret Trump’s remark as an order.
The distinction could prove important if the Russia investigation turns to questions about potential obstruction of justice.
Flynn investigation is separate from Russia probe
Comey clarified that the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn is separate from the larger Russia probe.
The two investigations have been conflated by many reporters and political pundits.
Comey said that closing the Flynn investigation would not have impeded Russia investigation. He said he saw the two probes as “touching each other, but separate.”
Flynn was in “legal jeopardy”
But the Flynn probe presented legal problems for the retired lieutenant general. Flynn was fired on Feb. 13 for misleading Vice President Pence about the nature of his conversations with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
But Flynn may have also misled the FBI about those conversations when he was interviewed by investigators in January, just days after Trump’s inauguration.
Comey said that Flynn was in “legal jeopardy” over his statements about his phone calls with Russia’s ambassador.
Days after Trump asked Comey to back off of the Flynn investigation, CNN reported that the bureau indeed did plan to back off of the probe. The news outlet reported that Flynn appeared to have given conflicting statements about his calls with Kislyak, but that the bureau did not plan to pursue the case.
Comey destroys NYT story about frequent contacts
Comey described a bombshell Feb. 14 report in the New York Times as “almost entirely wrong.”
The Times reported then that U.S. investigators had intelligence showing that Trump associates had “repeated contacts with Russian intelligence.” (RELATED: Comey Calls Out Fake NYT Reporting)
But Comey made it clear that the article had almost no basis in fact.
“It was not true,” Comey testified.
“The challenge, and I’m not picking on reporters, about writing stories about classified information is the people talking about it often don’t really know what’s going on, and those of us that actually know what’s going on are not talking about it,” Comey added.
“And we don’t call the press to say, ‘hey you got this thing wrong about this sensitive topic,'” he continued. “We just have to leave it there…nonsense. But I can’t go on explaining why it’s nonsense.”
Comey arranged memo leaks
Comey said that he instructed a friend, Columbia Law School professor Daniel Richman, to leak details of transcripts of his memos to the media.
The New York Times first reported that Comey took contemporaneous notes following his meetings with Trump. In one memo, Comey said that Trump asked him to find a way to shut down the Flynn investigation.
Comey was asked why he used a third-party to release his memos rather than doing so himself. He said he relied on his friend in order to stave off an onslaught from reporters.
Richman may still have possession of the memos, Comey said.
Can’t discuss dossier or collusion
Comey said he was unable to discuss in an unclassified setting whether the FBI had been able to verify the information reported in a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.
A classified session scheduled for later Thursday will touch on the dossier, which alleges that the Russian government had blackmail material on Trump and that his campaign staff colluded with the Kremlin.
Comey briefed Trump on portions of the dossier in a Jan. 6 meeting. In prepared remarks provided to the Intelligence Committee, Comey referred to the dossier as “unverified.”
Comey likewise dodged a question asked later in the hearing about whether he has seen evidence of collusion between Trump and Russian operatives.
“That’s a question I don’t think I should answer in an open setting,” he said.
Accuses Trump of lying, defamation
Comey began the hearing with a bombshell allegation. He accused Trump and the administration of lying about his tenure at the FBI.
“And although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI, by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader,” Comey said. (RELATED: Comey Accuses Trump Admin Of Defaming Him, Lying)
He also asserted that the White House’s assertions that FBI morale was low, “were lies, plain and simple.”
Comey used “L-word” again
Comey began documenting his exchanges with Trump because he grew concerned that Trump would “lie” about their conversations.
“I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting,” Comey testified.
“It led me to believe I’ve got to write it down,” he continued, adding that “I knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what would happen, not just to defend myself but to defend the FBI.”