The highly anticipated testimony of James Comey is now in the books: The former FBI chief was grilled by the Senate Intelligence Committee for about two and a half hours on Thursday. They now repeat the process, but behind closed doors. At one point, Comey accused the White House of lying about him, but he did not wade into the issue of whether he thought President Trump tried to obstruct justice in regard to the Michael Flynn investigation. ("He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go," Comey had quoted Trump as saying in his previously released opening statement.) Some highlights, via sources including CNN:
- 'Lies': After his firing, Comey says "the administration chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying the organization was in disarray, that it was being poorly led, that the workforce had lost faith in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple.”
- Key question: GOP Sen. Richard Burr, the committee chair, asked Comey if Trump asked him to stop the Russia investigation. Comey's response: "Not to my understanding, no."
- Key question, II: "Do you believe Donald Trump colluded with Russia?" asked GOP Sen. Tom Cotton. "That’s a question I don't think I should answer in an open setting," Comey replied. "When I left, we did not have an investigation focused on President Trump. But that’s a question that’ll be answered by the investigation, I think."
- Big quote: "I don't think it's for me to say whether Trump obstructed justice," Comey said to Burr.
- Big quote, II: "I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation."
- Why the detailed notes? "I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting," Comey said of Trump, when asked why he began chronicling their meetings.
- A distinction: GOP Sen. James Risch, referring to Trump's request on the Flynn investigation: "He did not direct you to let it go. He did not order you to let it go. He said 'I hope.'" Comey's takeaway: "I took it as a direction. He's the president of the United States, with me alone, saying, 'I hope this.' I took it as this is what he wants me to do."
- No Trump inquiry: "While you were director, the president of the United States was not under investigation, is that a fair statement?" Risch asked. "That is correct." replied Comey.
- Tapes: Comey told Sen. Dianne Feinstein that he'd seen Trump's tweet about possible tapes of their conversations. "Lordy, I hope there are tapes," he said.
- Russian hacking: "There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever," said Comey. "The Russians interfered in our election in the 2016 election cycle ... and that's about as unfake as you can get."
- Date night: Comey said he had to break a date with with his wife to dine with Trump, who had personally called to issue the invitation. "In retrospect, I love spending time with my wife, I wish I had been there that night."
- Just 'a matter': Comey said he felt "queasy" when Loretta Lynch, attorney general under President Obama, suggested altered language about the FBI's inquiry into Hillary Clinton's email. "I wanted to know, was she going to authorize us to confirm we had an investigation. And she said: ‘Yes, but don’t call it that. Call it a matter.’" He did so when announcing it.
- Memos: He said he has turned over all his Trump memos to special counsel Robert Mueller.
- Leak: Comey admitted asking a friend to leak his Trump memo to the press.
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