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Comey recounts Trump meetings, Clinton email probe: SC Blog:


SC Media's Executive Editor Teri Robinson live blogged former FBI Director James Comey testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday about his interactions with President Donald Trump.

12:40 - In his testimony Comey repeatedly explained to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that he was able to draw conclusions about the Clinton investigation because it "was a completed investigation and I had the chance to understand all the facts, this investigation [the Russian probe] was still going on." The two probes weren't in the same place. "On July 5, the FBI completed its investigative work in the Clinton probe." Again, he told McCain the Clinton investigation was about use of email server when McCain said he didn't understand why there seemed to be a double standard.

12:25 - "I didn't believe that Lynch could credibly decline the Cltinton investigation," Comey said a special counsel could have been a choice. After former President Clinton met her on the plane, he decided not to call on a special counsel because he knew there was "no case there." He said that the boomerang effect of correcting the record if Trump was investigated would be tremendous. Columbia Law professor Daniel Richman told CNN he is the Comey friend that gave the former FBI director's memos to the press. Comey reiterates he knows he was fired because in some way he was conducting the Russian probe pressured him, irritated him. "There's no doubt that it is my judgment I was fired because of the Russian investigation," to change the way the investigation was being done, "that is a very big deal."

12:15 - Couldn't answer in an open setting Sen. Kamala Harris's (D-Calif.) questions as to whether records were destroyed, concealment of interactions between Russians and campaign officials. He said he didn't know the reasons for Sessions's recusal nor if he reviewed any information/documents on the Russian probe before or after his recusal. He also said he never heard anything about Trump ever asking other members of the Cabinet for a loyalty oath. In theory Sessions should have access to information on Russian probe but Comey didn't know if he viewed anything. "The appointment of special counsel, especially considering who it is, should give great confidence to the American people," Comey said.

12:10 - In a follow-up call to the January 6 meeting where Comey briefed Trump on the dossier and Flynn probe, Trump denied the salacious acts recounted in the dossier and praised Comey's work. Comey refused to answer in an open setting whether there was collusion between Trump and Russia. He told Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., that he was pretty sure the bureau has not confirmed any interceptions of communications. Comey said he never found any circumstance that made him consider to resign.

12:10 - Again, the president didn't ask about Russian interference except on cursory level. The Russians are coming after America. They think this great experiment of ours is a threat to them. And they will keep coming back. Comey reiterated he hopes there are tapes of his conversations with the president. Comey doesn't know if there are the but president certainly does and Comey encouraged him to release tapes if they exist. "Lordy, I hope there are tapes," Comey said. The former FBI director praised the bipartisan committee. Trump never indicated that he was performing inadequately. He recalled an incident while boarding a helicopter when Trump called to check in and tell him he was doing a good job. Early testimony revealed that in the famous video clip of Trump shaking Comey's hand and whispering in his ear, Trump told him he looked forward to working with him.

12 p.m.  - After February 14, president didn't bring up Flynn nor any WH staff or DNI or NSA. The request didn't slow down investigation but he was fired and had no way of knowing what happened after that. Comey said the president in theory could direct that someone be investigated or not investigated, although we have norms to prevent that. If agents heard that president asked him to let the Flynn investigation go, it would have a chilling effect, he said. May stories based on classified information were "dead wrong." Comey said Clinton campaign was using euphemisms for the email investigation and was concerned that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch told him to refer to it as a "matter" not an investigation. He got a queasy feeling that it might seem like the FBI/Justice was aligning with the campaign. 

11:45 - Russian hacking, interference in the election is not a Democrat or Russian thing, it affects all Americans, Comey said. He said Trump was the one who invited him to the troubling dinner, he had to cancel plans with his wife, then joked it was one time he wished he'd gone out with his wife. Comey said he never initiated a call with the president. He also said he couldn't discuss Sessions's role in Russian probe. Props for quoting Beckett's Henry II - Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest. Confirms he knows of Russian bank in center of controversy but coldn't elaborate re: classified info.

11:33 - Donald Trump, Jr. unleashed a tweet storm disparaging Comey, questioning coercion claims, saying that "knowing my father for 39 years when he 'orders or tells' you to do something there is no ambiguity, you will know exactly what he means." Comey is asked why he continued to talk to the president on the phone, Comey said he reported the phone calls to his superiors. Comey gave his memos to a third party because the media was camped out on his driveway, he didn't want to "feed the seagulls."

11:31 - On alleged back channel proposed by Jared Kushner, Comey said it would spare the Russians the trouble of having to break into our systems. That would do the work for them.

11:27 - After Comey was fired, he said "the president tweeted on Friday that 'I hope they are not tapes.' I woke up the next morning and thought I needed to get it out, asked a close friend of mine to give memo to the press. I thought it might prompt a special counsel." Comey wrote down everything to protect himself and the bureau -- and the investigation. Trump never asked Comey what the U.S. should do to protect the U.S. against Russian interference but had numerous conversations with Obama about it. When asked why he should be believed about conversations with Trump, despite White House denials, Comey said look at the whole thing. Why did the president kick everyone out of the Oval Office if it was about something else? Look at consistency, track record and demeanor.

11:16 - Comey says he's sure that Mueller is now considering whether Trump obstructed justice as part of his investigation. Trump had "strong and defensive reaction" to the dossier. Comey didn't want "a J.Edgar Hoover situation...didn't want the president to be under the impression that the bureau was trying to do something to him." Statements that president wasn't under investigation referred to counter-intelligence probe but Trump also wasn't under any investigation at that time.

11:08 a.m. - Sen. Ron Wyden said timing of Comey's firing "stinks," noted president raised job prospects and brought up the Flynn probe. Comey didn't tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions about Trump's requests regarding Flynn, because he believed, due to his own Russian connections, Sessions was going to recuse himself. He and FBI leadership didn't want FBI employees to hear that the president had made the request, didn't want to stymie the investigation.

Comey told Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., didn't tell president that it was inappropriate to ask him to back off Flynn. He thought more about how to preserve the investigation.

Also, as stated in Comey's opening remarks, the President said if one of his satellites did something wrong, he'd want to know about it.

10:56 a.m. - Asked if fired because of the Russian investigation, Comey said "I don't know for sure, I take the president at word that I was fired because of the Russian investigation, something I was doing was putting pressure on him."

When Trump asked him to back off the Flynn probe on February 14 (Flynn had been fired the day before), Comey said it was awkward, "he was asking for something and I refused to give it."

"I was so stunned that president asked," Comey said, that he kept replaying it in his mind to remember it.

Michael Flynn was in legal jeopardy when Donald Trump asked him to let go of the investigation of Flynn, Former FBI Director James Comey told senators Thursday in much-anticipated testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, but said he could not speak to whether the president meant to obstruct justice 

"That's a conclusion the special counsel with look for," Comey said.

Comey was asked early on about Russian interference in the 2016 election, including hacks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and others. He also said he became aware of the "first cyber intrusion in the summer of 2015," and that those intrusions stretched far beyond the hacks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). 

While Comey didn't read his opening remarks, released yesterday in preface of the hearing, he referred to them, confirming that his first one-on-one meeting with Donald J. Trump was disconcerting enough to compel Comey to write down notes from the meeting "on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting." 

A series of meetings and phone calls between the two over the course of roughly four months had the former FBI director memorializing in writing presidential requests to drop the Flynn investigation and to make public that Trump wasn't under a counterintelligence investigation.

When asked why he recorded the conversations, Comey said circumstances (being alone with the president), the subject matter (an investigation of Trump associates) and "the particular person" (Trump). "The nature of the person that he might lie about our meeting led me to believe I had to write it down, write it down," said Comey. "I had never experienced that before."

Warner early on minced no words, detailing what he sees as an effort by the president to put the brakes on an investigation of Flynn and drawing connections between those efforts and Comey's eventual firing on May 9.

"The firing didn't pass any smell test - that [Comey] didn't handle Hillary Clinton's email [probe] appropriately," said Warner, noting the president himself belied that the next day, saying that Comey's firing "relieved great pressure."

Comey concurred in later testimony, recounting that when he heard the White House claim he was "fired because of decision I made during the election year, that didn't make any sense to me."

A visibly moved Comey also called Trump's assertions - in the aftermath of his firing- that the FBI was in disarray and poorly led "lies plain and simple."

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