Comey worried about Trump lying; said Russian interference on election ‘happened’ (Updated)

by George Jared ([email protected]) 659 views 

Former FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday (June 8) before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.

Editor’s note: Story updated to include comments from some members of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation.

Former FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday (June 8) he felt compelled to memorialize his conversations with President Donald Trump because he thought the president would lie about the conversations.

During an open hearing Comey said Trump didn’t order him with words to directly stop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, but when he told him “I hope you can let this (investigation into Flynn) go,” his intention was obvious. Comey’s refusal to shutdown the criminal investigation into Flynn’s ties with Russia is the reason he was fired May 9, he said.

“I took it as a direction … he’s the president of the United States,” Comey said.

At least twice during the hearing, Comey said he was fearful the president would lie about him. Trump “defamed” him and the FBI with lies, the former director said. It was clear during one dinner earlier this year with the president that his job was contingent on his loyalty to Trump. He wouldn’t say if he thought the president obstructed justice. He made it clear that Russia did interfere in our elections, but no actual votes cast were tampered with.

“The Russians interfered with the 2016 election … there’s is no fuzz on that. It’s not a close call. It happened,” he said.

Comey said he’s sure the special council appointed to probe collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia will examine whether Trump obstructed justice over the conversation Comey had with the president about Flynn. The former director did say Trump was not under investigation while he was at the FBI.

Before his firing, Comey met with Trump nine times, an unheard of number of meetings, he said. Trump pressured Comey to publicly state the president was not the subject of investigations into Russian election tampering. Comey, appointed by then President Barack Obama in 2013, said he had conversations with Obama and former President George W. Bush, but he never recorded them because he didn’t think it was necessary.

After his first meeting with Trump on Jan. 6, he immediately typed the conversation moments after it happened. He was compelled by a “gut feeling” and by the circumstances that Trump might misconstrue what was said.

“I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting … I was a bit stunned,” he said.

During a Feb. 14 meeting with Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the president’s personal adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner were asked to leave the room. It was during this meeting Trump brought up Flynn. It was clear Sessions and Kushner visibly knew this private meeting was inappropriate, Comey said. He later asked Sessions to not leave him alone with Trump again.

Comey didn’t let FBI agents examining the Russia investigation know the president wanted it shutdown. He never intended to comply with the request, he said. When asked if he thought Trump was involved in collusion with the Russians during the election, Comey refused to answer the question during the public hearing. A closed-door session was slated for the afternoon.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., told Talk Business & Politics he didn’t have time to watch the hearing live, but he’s spoken with his colleagues on the committee and thinks it went well. From the little bit he’d seen from the hearing, it doesn’t appear like there was a lot of new information divulged, he said.

The Feb. 14 conversation between Trump and Comey is one person’s word against another person’s word, Boozman said. He doesn’t think Trump obstructed justice when he asked Comey to let the Flynn investigation go.

“No, I don’t think that’s the case at all,” he said.

When asked if he was concerned that Trump said he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation, Boozman said it was time for Comey to go. He’d become a “distraction” and many Democrats and Republicans were displeased with how he handled the Hillary Clinton private server investigation and how the Russia investigation was being handled. The president seemed surprised by the backlash instigated by the firing, he said.

Boozman said he supports a thorough investigation. The American public deserves the truth, and he doesn’t think the president colluded with the Russians, he said.

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., sits on the intelligence committee and questioned Comey. His office didn’t respond to specific questions about the hearing. His communications department released a statement saying he was “pleased” that Comey chose to testify at the hearing. Cotton was part of a closed door hearing after the public hearing with Comey.

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, issued this statement after the hearing: “I am very appreciative of former FBI Director, James Comey, and his willingness to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee this morning. We no longer have to rely on the press and anonymous sources for the facts. As I have said before, the American people deserve the truth. I am grateful for the thorough and complete investigation to come.”

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, told Talk Business & Politics he doesn’t think the meeting between Trump and Comey over Flynn qualifies as obstruction of justice. Comey himself said there is no evidence the president colluded with the Russians, Crawford said. It’s reasonable Trump met with Comey nine times in fours months, even though he only met with President Obama twice in three years.

“After numerous cyber-attacks and many other attempts to undermine our government and democracy, I think it was entirely appropriate for President Trump to meet with his FBI director,” Crawford said.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said he was in committee meetings during the day and missed Comey’s testimony. He said he will watch the hearing, and didn’t want to make any judgments until he did. Westerman didn’t know the details of the meeting Feb. 14 between Trump and Comey, and he said he would have to know the context of the “loyalty” dinner in January before making any assessments.