James Comey Senate hearing as it happened: 'Russians interfered in 2016 US election'

Auto Refresh Feeds
James Comey Senate hearing as it happened: 'Russians interfered in 2016 US election'
  • 22:46 (IST)

    Trump vows to survive and thrive

    President Donald Trump said that he and his supporters "are under siege" but "will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever."

    Trump spoke at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's annual conference at the same time as former FBI Director James Comey's was testifying before Congress.

    AP

  • 22:21 (IST)

    Comey hopes Trump releases all tapes

    Comey was asked about the possibility that Trump may have recorded their conversations. The president alluded to that possibility in a tweet after he fired Comey in May.

    In his Senate Intelligence Committee testimony, Comey said that he hopes there are tapes, adding the president should "release all the tapes." He says he's "good with it."

    AP

  • 22:16 (IST)

  • 22:06 (IST)

    Trump no liar?

    Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders disputed Comey's testimony when asked about it during an off-camera briefing at the White House, saying "I can definitely say the president's not a liar."

    AP

  • 22:03 (IST)

    Finally, Comey says it

    "I was not fired because of the Russia investigation, I think I was fired so that the Russia investigation can be changed in some way," Comey on why Trump got rid of him. 

  • 21:58 (IST)

    Comey leaves the door open

    Comey has not said if Trump’s conversations with him amount to obstruction of justice but he has repeatedly left the door open. Similarly, on the other side, there's enough meat in this hearing for them to slam the door shut on the "cloud". This is where special counsel Robert Mueller comes in, it's why being a fly on the wall in the closed door briefing is the bling of the day. 

  • 21:49 (IST)

    Kamala Harris slams Republican questioning of Comey

    California senator Kamala Harris begins with a touch of humor and sarcasm: “If a robber holds a gun to your head and says I hope you will give me your wallet, the word hope would not be of much relevance." (Laughs). “You don’t have to answer that,” she tells Comey, hammering away at Republican senators who had button-holed Comey about the word “hope” when Trump spoke of how he “hoped” Comey would “let it go”.

  • 21:47 (IST)

    Details on Christopher Wray awaited

    Even as Donald Trump has maintained his silence on social media, the details on the nomination of Christopher A Wray are awaited.

    Read about the nomination here

  • 21:40 (IST)

    Trump attorney will speak after Comey hearing

    President Trump's personal attorney Marc Kasowitz -appointed less than a month ago - will make a statement following James Comey's testimony. Trump hasn’t tweeted throughout Comey’s testimony. The Trump reset has begun, it’s inescapable after a hearing like this. 

  • 21:34 (IST)

    No votes were altered: Donald Trump Jr

  • 21:27 (IST)

    Comey speaks on Sergey Kislyak

    Comey puts an official stamp on what is well knownRussia runs a very robust intelligence op in America and makes a crucial note that Sergey Kislyak, Russian Ambassador to the US at the centre of the ‘Russia-Trump’ probe, is a diplomat and aware of the intelligence ops but not part of it. 
     

    Kislyak is the fourth Russian Ambassador posted to the U.S. after the breakup of the Soviet Union, his appointment coming during the crash of 2008, a news item that got buried and stayed there. Only until 2010. A full two years after he came to the US, Kislyak pulled out all stops to host a black-tie benefit for the Washington National Opera at a location that recreated haunting images of Russia’s past glory and cost at least half a million dollars.

    Kislyak is not just another career diplomat - he trained as a nuclear scientist, was spotted for his powerful intellect and pulled into foreign service in 1977. Even if we ignore all the years from 2008 to 2015, the extraordinary closeness of the Russians via Kislyak with the Trump campaign is not very secret - a lot of those photos are in public domain. "We do not interfere into internal affairs of the United States," both Putin and Kislyak have said. The question then becomes: Did Kislyak’s incidental entanglement help Trump’s campaign folks — mentioned as "satellite associates" in Comey's testimony — collude with the Russians on the fly?

  • 21:22 (IST)

    "Lordy, I hope there are tapes"

    Fired FBI Director James Comey said, "Lordy, I hope there are tapes," of his conversations with President Donald Trump.

    Three days after Trump fired Comey, the president had tweeted that Comey should hope there are "no tapes" of their conversations.​

  • 21:16 (IST)

    They'll be back: Comey on Russian hackers

    Russian state TV is making putty of the Comey hearing, starting its news bulletins with a 5 minute story on Washington’s big story -“ US senators are dreaming about the Kremlin, they are apparently still worrying about the topic of its alleged interference in the US election campaign," the anchor said.

    Putin recently brushed aside all talk of Russian interference in US Elections, making the distinction between the Russian state and patriotic hackers. Comey. however. is warning during the hearing that "they (the Russians) will be back. They will go at everything."

  • 21:14 (IST)

    Why should we believe you?

    'Why should we believe you?', they asked him and Comey gave the best answer he probably could in the high pressure circumstances: "Why should the US President kick out the Attorney General to speak to me alone in a room?"

  • 21:12 (IST)

    Comey speaks on Russian involvement in 2016 US Election

  • 21:09 (IST)

    What did the "cloud" mean? Trump's escape clause

    “So you think the "cloud" the President referred to meant the entire Russia investigation and not only the Flynn probe?" Yes, says Comey. There you have it. This thing is going to drag forever, interpretation of the Comey testimony is the sexiest job in America’s capital city after the laughs subside over that awkward thing Comey was told: “You’re big and strong, why didn’t you tell the President he was wrong?”

    The preoccupation with fact checking is one thing - this Comey hearing is something else entirely. It scars the image of the US President even more than it already is, but it also gives a four-year career extension for legal teams willing to prove the lexicon is so vague and problematic that obstruction of justice is just a liberal media fantasy. 

    It’s only if the Comey hearing gets Republicans scared about their own prospects that it becomes dangerous. Right now, it’s high entertainment, publishers are lining up at Comey’s door for his book on Trump and one ominous note for Trump baiters in a hurry for the quick-fix impeachment delusion. When Trump is criticised, nearly 80% of his supporters hear an attack on “people like me” ( according to a YouGov/ CBS poll). 

  • 20:54 (IST)

    Donald Trump Jr attacks Comey on Twitter

    President Donald Trump has so far stayed off Twitter during former FBI Director James Comey's testimony. But his eldest son hasn't. Donald Trump Jr is posting repeatedly during the closely watched testimony Thursday.

    He repeatedly defended his father and attacked Comey.

    Trump Jr. in particular seized on Comey's assertion that he interpreted the president's statement that he "hoped" the FBI would drop its probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

    Trump Jr. tweeted "you would think a guy like Comey" would know the difference between "hoping and telling."

    He also cast doubt on all of Comey's testimony and said he should "have actually followed procedure."

    AP

  • 20:43 (IST)

    Comey admits to dropping probe into Flynn after Trump's remark

    Former FBI director James Comey said he took "as a direction" President Donald Trump's remark that he hoped Comey would drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

    Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho asked if Comey was aware of anyone being charged with obstruction of justice because they expressed hope for a certain outcome to which Comey said he wasn't.

    But Comey added at his Senate hearing: "I took it as a direction," and noted that the remark came during a one-on-one meeting with the president of the United States.

    AP

  • 20:33 (IST)

    The nit-picking has begun:"Did he order you or did he say he hoped you could let it go?"

    Notice something? Comey's getting praise from across the aisle at the hearing. Also, a lot of the senators have been prosecutors so after the pleasantries, it's quickly gotten down to nit picking. "Did the President order you to do that or did he say he "hoped" you could?" "What's wrong with hoping"? are the kind of questions Comey is being asked on this part of his testimony:

    "The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then 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.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”

  • 20:20 (IST)

    Here's a brief timeline of all that led to James Comey's testimony before the Senate

    Read here

  • 20:17 (IST)

    Comey the notetaker tells us why he wrote it all down

    This question had to mark attendance today - why did Comey feel he needed to write stuff down? “Circumstances… I was alone…I was uncomfortable…I felt the need to put it down”, says Comey, a persistent notetaker whose resistance to the world’s most powerful office has made him the hero of the biggest news day since the US Election 2016. 

    From what’s going on so far, one thing is clear. Comey have saved a lot for this moment, not wasted it all on the teaser out ahead of schedule. 
     

    Comey’s note taking is not a new love, it’s an old habit. When he moved from a law firm to government service, he kept notes of conversations with seniors as a routine safety check. During his time with the Bush Administration, he wrote notes on his views against torture which set him apart from the conservatives. Trump called him a showboat, it’s a word that Trump’s side has latched on to - in their communications ahead of the Thursday hearing - “showboat”. 

    They couldn’t be farther from the precise quality that has brought Comey so far - the doggedness of a clerk. 

  • 20:11 (IST)

    Comey talks about 'massive spearfishing campaign' by Russia

    Comey said that there were a lot of Russian cyberattack and that he noticed them in late summer 2015.

    Comey said Russians targeted “hundreds, I suppose it could be more than a thousand” entities in an attempt to crack the US election.

    He said in late 2015 or early 2016 he became aware that data had been exfiltrated. The FBI undertook an effort to notify victims of the “massive spearfishing campaign.”

    Comey said that the Obama administration was looking for ways to fight the cyberattack.

  • 20:08 (IST)

    Attorney general told me not to call it an investigation and instead call it a "matter": Comey on the Clinton email investigation. 

  • 20:07 (IST)

    Comey: "I don't think it's for me to say" whether conversation he had with Trump regarding Flynn on 14 February "was an effort to obstruct."

  • 20:06 (IST)

    'I cannot answer that question, Mr Chairman'

    Did Trump tell Comey to drop the Russia investigation? "No", says Comey. 

    Did Trump tell Comey to drop the Flynn investigation? "Yes", says Comey.
     
    Expect the Trump camp to latch on to the first answer and the anti-Trump camp to grab the second one. Already, Comey has begun to say, "I cannot answer that in this open setting, Mr Chairman" to some parts of the questioning. Which of the senators in the closed session later will leak information - that's the hottest reporting beat in Washington DC today. 

  • 20:02 (IST)

    FBI is honest, strong and independent: Comey

    "I was confused by the initial explanation. It didn't make sense to me. The administration defamed me. Those were lies, plain and simple. And i'm sorry FBIhad to hear them and american people were told them," Comey said.

    "The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong, and the FBI is and always will be independent," Comey added on Thursday.

  • 20:01 (IST)

    Comey on Trump's claims 
     
     
    "I was confused when shifting explanations came forth after I was fired."
     
    "I was confused when I heard that the President had fired me because of the Russian investigation".
     
    Lies, plain and simple, says Comey about Trump's claims that the FBI was poorly led. 

  • 20:00 (IST)

    Couldn't be a better start for Comey. The Senate Intelligence Committee vice-chair has done a virtual PR job, repeating almost each word of the Comey testimony. Bring on the popcorn. 

  • 19:59 (IST)

    Comey looks relaxed

    It's on! Comey looks relaxed - he's a veteran of such high profile hearings. Important to note here that in the opening remarks, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee said clearly that there are multiple investigations already on, in parallel, on the same issue - Russia, Russia, Russia. "We must find out the full story, what the Russians did and why they were so successful", the committee said. They're saying what Comey has not said so forcefully. "The way you were fired by the President is shocking!", says the vice-chair of committee, Mark Warner. All gloves are off, less than five minutes into the hearing. 

  • 19:57 (IST)

    Comey on himself

    “And I have lived my entire career by the tradition that if you can possibly avoid it, you avoid any action in the run-up to an election that might have an impact, whether it’s a dog-catcher election or President of the United States. But, as I sat there that morning, I could not see a door labelled ‘no action here.’ I could see two doors, and they were both actions. One was labelled ‘speak’ and the other was labelled ‘conceal.’ ” - from a 2 May hearing on why Comey decided to open a probe into a Clinton camp computer 11 days before the election. 

  • 19:55 (IST)

    Blocking Comey? A trial balloon that popped

    It’s true that the Trump White House confirmed that Comey’s testimony won’t be blocked — all tied up with a bow and delivered to the waiting media early Monday this week. This has less to do with Trump and more to do with the awkward situation Trump has put himself in. He would have had a far easier time contemplating blocking Comey if he hadn't’t fired him first. 

    Comey’s two door theory - “Would you speak or would you conceal?”

    The Comey testimony comes in two acts. The public hearing at 10 am and then the doors closed version at 1 pm where Comey sits down with members of the Intelligence panel. Will there be stuff he won’t say in the public hearing which he may share with the panel? Most likely yes, although a lot of this is unchartered territory. Comey came up with a two-door theory recently when he was questioned about his Clinton email statements so close to the US Election day.  This was a 2 May appearance, exactly seven days before Trump fired him. 

    “Why was it necessary to announce, eleven days before a Presidential election, that you were opening an investigation on a new computer without any knowledge of what was in that computer? Why didn't’t you just do the investigation as you would normally, with no public announcement?”, Comey was asked just a few days before he was fired by Trump. 

    “Would you speak or would you conceal?”, he answered in what is seen as an attempt to rationalise his decision to open a new can of worms at the threshold of Election Day despite official rules and guidelines instructing prosecutors and law-enforcement officials not to bring sensitive cases, or make any public comments about such cases, close to elections — a matter that has given Democrats much grief.

    Did this May 2 testimony tell Trump something he did not know - that a Comey led FBI and the two door theory could potentially turn on him? And to understand Comey’s statements about Clinton as his leaning towards the right was naivete, not fact?

     

  • 19:47 (IST)

    Comey testimony is historic - Trump made it that way

    This is not the first time Comey will be testifying in Senate, he’s been doing this a a decent clip in recent months. He testified about the same Russians before a Senate Committee in March, he testified before a Judiciary Committe in May - all that was in the realm of the ordinary, when Comey was not the shiny bling who could possibly bring a Presidency to its knees. He was still FBI chief and and Trump had not fired him yet. After Trump kicked out Comey, two things happened that has made today’s Comey testimony the stuff of history - the New York Times and Washington Post scooped stories saying Trump asked Comey to let the investigation go. Everything changed. America was suddenly in Watergate territory, Nixon’s America of the 70s became the new small talk. 

  • 19:41 (IST)

     Parallel universe of 'Comey Day' reportage

    Seven pages of Comey’s testimony that are already public have all the ingredients for parallel universes to flourish in Washington, a dream town for lawyers. The Right’s favourite rag Breitbart has already punctured the Comey balloon nice and proper. Unless Comey is keeping the best for later when 19 Senators grill him, what’s already out is making one thing absolutely clear: Flynn, not Russia, is what Trump spoke to Comey about. Trump wanted Comey to probe the origins of the “salacious, unverified” dossier, Comey did not follow through - is Breitbart’s lead story after the Comey papers were outed ahead of the curve.

    Breitbart claims that the dossier about hookers and frolic in Russia is reportedly a ploy by the anti-Trump camp to malign the President and little else. 

  • 19:38 (IST)

    What “salacious” details?

    What are the “salacious”, “unverified” and “personally sensitive” details that Comey shared with Trump in the very first meeting on January 6 at Trump Tower? These were unsubstantiated reports on romps with prostitiutes, real estate deals ( or the promise of those) and planning the hacking of Democrats’ computers in partnership with the Russians. Like Comey says clearly in the prepared remarks, these were “unverified” but the fact that Trump and Comey met and this dossier was discussed became the basis for its media splash. 

  • 19:37 (IST)

    Will Trump be live tweeting?

    What’s Trump’s going to do when all cameras are on Comey? Watch or hit back? Most likely the latter, reports Washington Post. So far, Trump’s Twitter feed is eerily quiet on “showboat” Comey. Trump’s engagements for Thursday begin two hours after Comey’s hearing begins and he’ll be watching the Super Bowl with his legal team. So, technically, Trump is free when Comey’s speaking but will Russia-only lawyer Kasowitz be able to rein in his client from his beloved 140 character pastime?  Trump’s view of Comey has swung wildly in the last year, from high praise to calling him a “showboat” and then firing him. Connecting the dots now that Comey’s testimony teaser is out in the open, it figures that Trump lost his cool when Comey refused to pledge “loyalty” to Trump which Comey says Trump explicitly asked for. 

  • 19:34 (IST)

     “Totally vindicated”, says Trump’s Russia lawyer

    Marc Kasowitz Trump's newly appointed spokesman and lawyer on all things Russia, smashed a home run for his client: "Totally vindicated."

    "The President is pleased that Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the President was not under investigation in any Russian probe. The President feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda," Kasowitz said in his first and only statement since getting appointed while Trump was still on his Arabian excursion and deeply worried about the coming Comey bombshell. 

  • 19:29 (IST)

  • 19:28 (IST)

    "We are never on anyone’s side”

    Long before he was fired, Comey allowed a year’s permission for a film crew from USA Network inside the FBI New York office. In April 2017, the network rolled out the six part series titled - Inside the FBI, New York from the Emmy-winning Dick Wolf and Mark Levin. Comey is seen in several episodes. In one of the deleted scenes, he is known to have said: “We are never on anyone’s side. Sometimes, in a polarized world, it’s hard for people to even conceive of that.” Is it any surprise that Washington needs a drink this early on a Thursday morning? 

  • 19:23 (IST)

    Choose your favourite opinion and choose a section of Comey’s testimony to match

    Comey’s testimony shows why he deserved to be fired, reads The Wall Street Journal editorial while Left-leaning magazines are calling for hurrying up and turning the knives into the Trump camp even more. Today, Washington DC is not just Super Bowl for hacks; it’s a gift that will keep on giving for a town crawling with lawyers. Does what Comey said or is about to say amount to obstruction of justice? Will any or all of the 19 senators who question Comey be able to connect the dots and say that Trump's request for loyalty and that Comey not promising to drop the Flynn investigation led to Comey's firing? Choose your favorite opinion and choose a section of Comey’s testimony to match. Despite all the unsavory details in the Comey statement, Comey has gone on record and said what Trump has been pushing him to say - that Trump is not personally under investigation by the FBI.

  • 19:16 (IST)

    Watch out for Kamala Harris questioning Comey

    Look out for Indian origin Senator from California Kamala Harris grilling James Comey. A former prosecutor, Harris, after reading Comey’s testimony, said Trump asking Comey for "loyalty" is "completely inappropriate”. Barely 24 hours ago, in the same Capitol Hill location, Harris pressed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein over whether he would sign a letter to give Special Counsel Robert Mueller full independence from the Justice Department in his Russia probe. “I’m not going to back down”, says Harris about the Comey hearing. A Democrat in a blue state that would rather secede than deal with Trump, Harris is certain to get outsize media spray for her star turn on #ComeyDay.

  • 19:09 (IST)

    Comey Day: Covfefe cocktails, FBI breakfast specials

    No work’s getting done on Thursday in Washington DC. Wear your doggie chain to office, clock in and make a dash for the nearest bar. Even better, convert your corner office into one - in national interest. Wordsmiths are working overtime to coin fancy names for house specials and they don’t have to look far. ‘Impeachmint’ cocktails, ‘Covfefe’ sandwiches, ‘FBI’ breakfast special ( French toast, bacon and ice cream), and ‘Testimony’ have split Twitter and put wide grins on Washington’s wonkery circuit well before the weekend arrives. All this while the President is stone cold sober - Trump does not touch alcohol. 

  • 15:03 (IST)

    Washington on edge ahead of Comey testimony

    Fired FBI chief James Comey has confirmed that Donald Trump urged him to drop a probe into former national security advisor Michael Flynn, in a preview of hotly awaited testimony Thursday that could rock the foundations of the presidency.

    Comey's bombshell claim Wednesday fueled fresh allegations that Trump illegally tried to obstruct an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    In a written statement ahead of his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey detailed how Trump repeatedly raised the Russia case with him earlier this year, asking him to go easy on Flynn, who is accused of improper links to Moscow.

    AFP

  • 15:00 (IST)

Assurances to an incoming president that he was not under federal investigation. A president's unprecedented request for loyalty from an FBI director. A "very concerning" request from the president to end an investigation into a devoted presidential appointee. Lawmakers hungry for answers and frustrated by the reticence of national security executives to provide them.

It's been a month of extraordinary drama since President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey, rife with leaked details of private memos detailing awkward interactions with the president and the rare appointment of a special counsel to alleviate concerns of White House interference in an ongoing investigation.

Former FBI director James Comey. AP

Former FBI director James Comey. AP

A day before Comey's much-anticipated testimony before the Senate intelligence committee, the former FBI director's prepared remarks were officially released, bringing into public view new details in the Trump-Comey saga.

Here's how we got to this point, and here are some things to expect from the most anticipated congressional hearing in recent memory:

The backstory

The testimony, Comey's first public comments since his 9 May firing, unfolds against the extraordinary backdrop of an FBI investigation that has shadowed the Trump White House from the outset and threatens to cripple its agenda.

At the time he was fired, Comey had been overseeing the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign for months.

The White House's stated reasons for firing Comey were contradicted by the president himself, raising questions about whether Trump had fired Comey to derail the Russia investigation.

The White House initially said Trump was acting on the recommendation of Justice Department leaders, citing as justification a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that lambasted Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email server investigation. But Trump gave a different explanation when he said in an NBC News interview that he had already decided to dismiss Comey and was thinking of "this Russia thing" when he did so.

Trump's actions and justifications presented the possibility that Trump's intention was to obstruct justice.

Comey's testimony

Comey, a skilled raconteur who generally tilts in favor of openness, is well-accustomed to the spotlight and in particular to sensational congressional hearings, including one 10 years ago in which he revealed a dramatic hospital room clash with Bush administration officials.

Thursday's testimony before the Senate intelligence committee is expected to be his most dramatic yet.

The official release of Comey's remarks on Wednesday afternoon came shortly after the conclusion of testimony from Comey's former national security peers who refused to answer senators' questions about their own interactions with Trump. There have been reports that the president tried to pressure NSA director Mike Rogers and director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to publicly push back on the investigation.

The former director's prepared remarks answered many of the looming questions:

— Did the president ask Comey for his loyalty? Yes. "I didn't move, speak or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed," Comey said in his written testimony.

— Did the president ask Comey to stop investigating his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn? Yes. "I had understood the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December," Comey said.

— How often did Trump and Comey communicate with each other before he was fired? Nine times, Comey said. "Three in person and six on the phone."

— After one of these encounters, did Comey actually tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he did not want to meet with the president alone again? Yes. "I took the opportunity to implore the attorney general to prevent any future direct communication between the president and me," Comey said.

But Republicans are likely to press Comey on why he did not raise his concerns about Trump publicly or resign. Some may attempt to divert attention from Comey's remarks about Trump by focusing on two issues they've repeatedly seized on: Leaks and revealing the names of Americans in intelligence reports.

Any limits?

The White House said Monday it would not invoke executive privilege over Comey's upcoming testimony — officials predicted it would look bad otherwise.

Comey, who is used to not answering lawmakers' questions about ongoing investigations, is not likely to say anything on Thursday that could interfere with, or undercut, the ongoing federal investigation into Russia ties. That investigation is being led by Robert Mueller, Comey's predecessor.

Mueller was appointed as a special counsel by the department last month. The two former FBI directors are known to have warm feelings and respect for each other. A Comey associate has said he obtained Mueller's permission to testify.

On Tuesday, Trump was asked what his message for Comey would be. He said, "I wish him luck."

With inputs from AP


Published Date: Jun 08, 2017 11:13 pm | Updated Date: Jun 08, 2017 11:13 pm


Also See