Image Credits: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Today’s hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee marked a pivotal point for the Trump Administration. Former FBI Director James Comey, who was released from his position on May 9th, testified in front of the committee today. There was a cloud of speculation surrounding what he was going to say, and how this would affect the current investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. A lot was said today, so let’s break it down.
Comey’s opening statement was released to the public yesterday via the Senate Intelligence website. Opinions regarding his statements swirled on social media, with comments from all ideologies both condemning his actions, discharging Trump of wrongdoing, and praising Comey for how he handled the “awkward” interactions with the President.
Comey confirmed that there was no FBI investigation into President Trump’s actions. His opening statement clarified that he did indeed inform the president on numerous occasions that he was not under investigation.
During the hearing, Comey informed the committee of a private dinner between himself and the President. At that dinner, he claims the President asked if he “liked his job” and said that he expects “loyalty.” The former director admitted that he felt somewhat pressured. He knew this conversation was in reference to his job, and if he would stay in the position.
The former Director testified that he wrote memos to himself of what President Trump said. He did so he would not misrepresent their conversations. This was also an effort to prevent the President from lying. Comey said that he sent the memo to a friend, who then released it publicly. He said he felt it was important for the public to know. He did not leak it himself because he did not want to be “feeding seagulls at the beach.”
During this private meeting, the President supposedly told Comey he hoped he could see that “[Flynn was] a good guy,” and said that he hoped Comey could “let this go.”Comey said he felt directed to end the Flynn probe, though Senator Risch said that no one has ever been charged for hoping.
Jeff Sessions & Russia
Prior to Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusal from the investigation into Russian interference, Comey and FBI leadership had opted not to share the investigation’s information with the AG. Comey testified that they expected a recusal from the AG. He did not find it appropriate to publicly announce why they came to that conclusion.
Comey was also asked if he believed it was appropriate for an Attorney General to recommend his firing over an investigation he was recused from, and Comey declined to answer saying, “I think it’s a reasonable question. If the president has said I was fired because of the Russia investigation, why was the attorney general involved in that chain? I don’t know.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation due to meetings with Russian diplomats, and perceived conflicts of interest.
Former Director Comey indicated during the hearing that he does believe he was fired because of the Russia investigation as he has “heard [the President] say so.”