Live coverage: Comey testifies on Trump
The Hill is providing live coverage of the hearing, which is expected to detail former FBI Director James Comey’s interactions with President Trump leading up to his firing and the FBI’s investigation into Russian election meddling.
Trump lawyer to make statement from D.C.
President Trump is on his way to speak at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to the Majority” event at a hotel in Washington.
His lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, is expected to give a statement upon arrival, according to the White House pool.
Watch Trump live here.
White House says Trump no ‘liar’
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back on Comey’s testimony on Thursday, saying President Trump is “not a liar.”
Earlier, Comey accused the Trump administration of defaming him and the FBI following his firing.
“The administration chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly run,” he said.
Comey: I’m ‘between opportunities’
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) congratulated Comey for appearing before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing as a private citizen.
“I’m between opportunities now,” he replied.
Comey calls New York Times bombshell on Russia ‘almost entirely wrong’
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked Comey if he would describe a bombshell New York Times report that ran in February about alleged collusion between Trump officials and Russia as “almost entirely wrong.”
Comey affirmed that the report was inaccurate.
The Times story ran on Feb. 14 with the headline, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence.”
It is one of several instances throughout the day that Comey has warned that many stories based on classified information leaked to the press are inaccurate.
“There have been many, many stories based on — well, lots of stuff but about Russia that are dead wrong,” Comey said.
Comey says it’s Mueller’s job to ‘sort out’ obstruction of justice question
Comey told Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that he is unsure whether Trump’s actions signify obstruction of justice, but he said that it is special counsel Robert Mueller’s job to find out.
“Do you believe this will rise to obstruction of justice?” Manchin asked.
“I don’t know,” Comey replied. “That’s Bob Mueller’s job to sort that out.”
Mueller is leading the federal probe into Russian election interference, having been appointed by the Department of Justice last month in the wake of Comey’s ouster.
Comey: ‘Release all the tapes’
Comey told Manchin that he wasn’t aware of there being any tapes of his conversations with Trump, but said he would consent to their release if there were any.
“It never occurred to me before the president’s tweets,” Comey said. “I hope there are.”
“Release all the tapes. I’m good with it,” Comey said.
Trump wrote on Twitter following Comey’s firing, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Comey “queasy” over former AG Lynch’s involvement in Clinton case
Comey said former Attorney General Loretta Lynch instructed him to describe the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server as a political “matter,” not an investigation.
Comey said the request made him “queasy” because it matched with what Clinton’s political campaign was saying. And he noted it was untrue because there was an active political investigation.
“She said … call it a matter. I said why would I do that?” Comey recalled. “She said, just call it a matter … So that concerned me because that language tracked the way the campaign was talking about the FBI’s work and that’s concerning.
“I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but it gave the impression that the attorney general was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way it was being described in a political campaign,” Comey said. “It was inaccurate. We had an investigation open for the federal bureau of investigation, we had an investigation open at the time. That gave me a queasy feeling.”
Comey says some media reports about Russia ‘dead wrong’
Comey said that some media reports, purportedly based on intelligence about the Russia investigation, have been “dead wrong.”
“There have been many, many stories … about Russia that are just dead wrong,” Comey said in response to Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.).
Paul Ryan: ‘I didn’t clear my schedule’ for Comey hearing
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) held a press conference Thursday in the midst of the Comey hearing.
He said he hasn’t been watching and didn’t clear his schedule for the blockbuster event. But he raised eyebrows when he said Trump’s government inexperience might have led to problems the administration now faces.
“I’m not saying it’s an acceptable excuse. It’s just my observation,” Ryan told reporters.
Ryan says he hasn’t been watching Comey hearing today. “I didn’t clear my schedule for a hearing in the Senate today.” But he read testimony
— Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) June 8, 2017
Ryan dismisses notion that Rs would demand impeachment if a Dem president was accused of same things as Trump. “I don’t think we would.”
— Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) June 8, 2017
.@SpeakerRyan on Trump’s government inexperience leading to problems: “I’m not saying it’s an acceptable excuse. It’s just my observation.”
— Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) June 8, 2017
.@SpeakerRyan says that Trump “wasn’t steeped into the ongoing protocols” of whats appropriate in terms of discussions w/ Comey.
— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) June 8, 2017
Comey says Trump denial of Flynn request inaccurate
Comey said that Trump’s public denial that he urged the FBI director to back off its investigation into Michael Flynn was inaccurate.
Trump said “No. No… next question,” when asked about press reports about the Flynn request during a news conference on May 18. Comey confirmed to the committee in written testimony that Trump asked him privately to “let go” of the Flynn probe.
Comey was asked by Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) if Trump’s statement at that news conference was accurate.
“I don’t believe it is,” Comey said.
Comey describes reporters as hunger-crazed seagulls
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) pressed Comey on why he had an associate leak the contents of his personal memos to a New York Times reporter.
Comey said he instructed a friend — a Columbia University professor — to act as a conduit of the memos, rather than deliver the memos to the media writ-large himself.
“I was wary, the media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point,” Comey said. “I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide. I worried it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach if it was I who gave it to the media. I asked my friend to make sure this gets out.”
Comey said he leaked the memos to spur the Justice Department to tap a special counsel for the Russia investigation.
Comey says Trump not under investigation at time of his firing
Comey said that Trump was not under investigation at the time of his dismissal on May 9, in response to questioning from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine.).
According to his written testimony, which Comey verbally repeated during the hearing, the FBI director told Trump that he was not personally under investigation by the bureau in conversations about the Russia investigation.
Comey hints at ‘facts’ about Sessions
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Comey about his written statement that the FBI leadership decided not to keep Sessions in the loop.
“Our judgement was that he was very close and inevitably going to recuse himself,” said Comey, later adding that the FBI had some information that may have amounted to a conflict of interest for him to continue and that career Justice officials were advising Sessions to step aside.
“We were also aware of facts I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make continued involvement in a Russia investigation problematic,” he said.
Rubio defends Trump against leaks
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who was derided by President Trump as “Little Marco” on the campaign trail, vigorously questioned Comey on Thursday about his treatment of Trump.
Rubio said that every aspect of the Russia investigation and the Comey-Trump relationship leaked to the press, with one big caveat:
“Do you ever wonder why, of all the things in the investigation, the only thing never leaked is the fact the president was never personally under investigation?” Rubio asked.
“I don’t know,” Comey responded. “I find matters that are briefed to the gang of eight are pretty tightly held, in my experience.”
“Lordy, I hope there are tapes”
Here is an exchange that will burn up the airwaves: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Comey why he didn’t stand up to Trump at their Oval Office meeting.
In his response, Comey said that he was too stunned to stand up to Trump. Then, he expressed hope that there are “tapes” of his conversations with Trump, referring back to a warning that Trump leveled against Comey on Twitter about media leaks.
“You are big, you are strong. I know the oval office and I know what happens to people when they walk in. There is a certain amount of intimidation. Why didn’t you stop and say, Mr. President, this is wrong, I cannot discuss this with you?” Feinstein asked.
“Maybe if I were stronger, I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in and the only thing I could think to say, because I was playing in my mind to remember every word he said, I was playing in my mind, what should my response be? That’s why I very carefully chose the words,” Comey said. “I’ve seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”
“Again, maybe other people would be stronger in that circumstance. That’s how I conducted myself. I hope I never have another opportunity, maybe if I did it again I would do it better,” Comey said.
Comey believes he was fired because of Russia probe
Comey said that he believes he was fired because of his handling of the Russia investigation, referring to Trump’s own public statements suggesting that the probe played into his decisionmaking.
“I don’t know for sure,” Comey said when asked why he believes he was fired by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). “I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russian investigation.”
Comey referred back to details of his written statement, which details interactions in which Trump expressed that he believed the investigation was clouding his administration.
CNN reporter: Trump lawyer celebrated Comey statement
A CNN reporter said President Trump’s outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz, was seen celebrating Wednesday night at the Trump International Hotel in Washington after former FBI Director James Comey’s prepared testimony was published.
“I’m told Kasowitz seen at Trump hotel last night celebrating, buying cigars, saying: ‘We won… it’s clear Trump didn’t do anything wrong,’” CNN correspondent Jim Acosta tweeted Thursday.
I’m told Kasowitz seen at Trump hotel last night celebrating, buying cigars, saying: “We won… it’s clear Trump didn’t do anything wrong.”
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) June 8, 2017
Kasowitz did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
Trump and his allies claim that Comey’s prepared testimony “vindicated” the president because the former director said he told the president he was not a subject of a counter-intelligence investigation.
In the same vein, the Republican National Committee touted a tweet from Daily Wire editor Ben Shapiro, who wrote, “Comey says Trump didn’t ask him to stop the Russian investigation. There goes the leftist narrative.”
Comey says Trump didn’t ask him to stop the Russian investigation. There goes the leftist narrative. Boom.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) June 8, 2017
Comey won’t characterize Trump’s Flynn request as a direct order
Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) pressed Comey on whether the president’s request Comey drop the Flynn investigation was a direct order.
In his prewritten statement, Comey quoted Trump as saying. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting Flynn go. He’s a good guy.”
Risch noted that “I hope” doesn’t sound like it was an order.
“Not in his words,” repeated Comey. But he later added, “The reason I say not in his words is I took it as a direction. I mean, this is the President of the United States with me alone saying ‘I hope this.’ I took it as this was what he wanted me to do.”
Comey says he sensed Sessions knew he shouldn’t leave before Flynn conversation
Comey said that he believes Attorney General Jeff Sessions sensed that he shouldn’t be leaving the room when Trump asked to speak privately with Comey at a February meeting in the Oval Office.
It was then that, according to Comey’s testimony, Trump asked him privately to let go of the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Comey explained that he sensed that both Sessions and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, lingered because they thought they shouldn’t be leaving the room. Eventually, they did leave–at which point Trump made the Flynn request.
“Something big is about to happen,” Comey recalled of his impression when Trump asked other officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, to leave him alone with the FBI director. “I need to remember every single word that is spoken.”
Comey says he kept notes because he doesn’t trust Trump to tell the truth
Warner asked Comey why he kept personal memos about his meetings with Trump. The former FBI director said it’s because he didn’t trust Trump to tell the truth about their meetings.
“The nature of the person,” Comey said. “I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting, so I thought it really important to document.”
Comey said he didn’t have to do the same thing with former presidents Bush and Obama.
“I knew there might come a day when I might need a record of what happens, not only to defend myself but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution and the independent investigative function,” Comey said. “That’s what made this so difficult.”
Comey details Russian intrusion efforts
Comey said that he first became aware of Russian cyber intrusions in late summer 2015. He described the intrusion attempts as a “massive effort to target non-governmental and near-governmental targets.”
He said that there were hundreds, possibly thousands, of attempted intrusions.
Comey demurs on question about obstruction of justice
Under questioning from GOP chairman Burr, Comey would not say whether he believed Trump’s request that he end the investigation into Flynn was obstruction of justice.
“There was an open criminal investigation in his connection with the Russian contacts and the contacts, themselves,” Comey said. “So that was my assessment at the time. I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work toward to find out the intention and whether that’s an offense.”
Comey said he had no doubt Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election but said no one asked him to end the investigation into meddling.
Comey: Trump administration ‘defamed me’
“The administration then chose to defame me, and more importantly, the FBI, by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly run,” Comey said during opening remarks. “Those were lies, plain and simple.”
Comey was referring to the administration’s explanation for its firing of the FBI director. The White House said that Comey had lost the confidence of rank-and-file FBI agents.
Warner says testimony shows Trump tried to influence Comey
Vice chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) in his opening statement said that Comey’s written testimony indicates that Trump tried to “influence or at least coopt” the FBI in its Russia investigation.
“The president himself appears to be engaged in an effort to influence or at least coopt the FBI,” Warner said, calling Comey’s testimony “disturbing.”
Earlier, Warner made a point of emphasizing Comey’s integrity, calling him a “straight shooter.”
“We haven’t always agreed on any issue … but I’ve never had any reason to question your integrity, your expertise, or your intelligence,” Warner said.
The Democrat said that Comey’s firing and his written statement “raise separate and troubling questions that we must get to the bottom of.”
Comey’s opening statement raises new questions for GOP chairman
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr said he was impressed by Comey’s “candor” and his detailed descriptions of encounters he had with President Trump.
But Comey’s seven-page opening statement provoked new questions for Burr.
“Did the president’s request for loyalty…alter your approach to the FBI investigation into General Flynn or the broader links to the campaign?”
“Did individuals in the trump orbit rise to the level we could define as collusion?:
Burr also referenced back to the 2016 campaign.
“Why did you decide to publicly announce the FBI’s recommendations that the department of justice not pursue criminal charges?,” Burr said. “You have described it as a choice between a bad decision and a worse decision. The American people need to understand the facts behind your actions.”
Burr gavels in
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) gavels the meeting to order, saying, “We must keep these questions above politics and partisanship. It’s too important.”
Tensions high as hearing nears
Thirty minutes before the hearing, the scene outside of the hearing room was chaotic — loud and crowded with a distinct mood of excitement.
The line of spectators hoping to vie for one of the open seats started forming at 4 a.m., according to Capitol Hill police, and by 9:30 stretched around the block.
There are 88 public seats.
Police pleaded with those in line to keep the hallways clear as the din of voices echoed through the open lobby of the Hart office building.
— Katie Bo Williams (@KatieBoWill) June 8, 2017
Inside, almost half of the room was taken up with press tables, long folding tables stacked end-to-end with every seat taken.
View from my seat. pic.twitter.com/3zctUilF4U
— Katie Bo Williams (@KatieBoWill) June 8, 2017
Just after 9:30, two glasses of ice water were set out for Comey. He is reportedly en route from his Virginia home.
Hottest ticket in town
There will not be an empty seat inside room 216 of the Hart senate office building. Lines of observers are waiting to get in. Reporters and news anchors are stationed at every point. A full-blown media frenzy is underway.
Long line of Capitol Hill interns waiting to enter the Comey hearing. Some tell me they arrived outside Hart senate building at 3am pic.twitter.com/MQ2oOHRGq5
— Josh Haskell (@joshbhaskell) June 8, 2017
Many reporters and cameras waiting for Senators by the back hearing room entrance pic.twitter.com/LaggRx1y1l
— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) June 8, 2017
Comey testimony a must-see for Trump
President Trump will reportedly watch former FBI Director James Comey’s congressional testimony along with his lawyers and advisers at the White House.
White House officials told news networks that he will tune in for at least part of the hearing from a dining room inside the executive mansion. He’ll be accompanied by at least three members of his legal team, including outside counsel Marc Kasowitz, according to NBC News.
The president’s advisers had hoped to keep him occupied during Comey’s testimony, in which he’s expected to say that Trump asked him to “lift the cloud” of the FBI’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. But Trump apparently had different ideas.
Aides have not ruled out the possibility that Trump could tweet to rebut Comey in real time. But some outside advisers believe that would be a mistake.
“I would highly urge the president not to refute anything during he testimony,” said former campaign official Sam Nurnberg. “Because then it could be read back to Comey and he could address it. And that doesn’t help anybody. The Democrats are counting on it.”
News footage captures Comey leaving his home
News crews captured live footage of Comey leaving his home in Virginia ahead of the hearing.
Former FBI Director James Comey leaving his house (via C-SPAN) pic.twitter.com/Oah4Bx6xMN
— Jenny Vasquez (@JennVasquez_DC) June 8, 2017
Meanwhile, news crews and spectators were hovering about Capitol Hill awaiting the former FBI director’s arrival. Footage posted to social media showed the massive line to get into the hearing more than two hours before it’s scheduled start time.
Here’s the line to get into the James Comey FBI hearing this morning. pic.twitter.com/RTf9xAYAmC
— Al Drago (@Al_Drago) June 8, 2017
RNC distributes talking points
The Republican National Committee, led by new chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, will be running the effort to push back on Comey’s testimony. An army of RNC staffers is on standby to make sure Trump’s side of the story gets told.
Late Wednesday night, the RNC distributed talking points to reporters — replete with “suggested tweets” — as it seeks to influence coverage of Comey’s testimony.
The top talking point that Republicans will look to hammer home in the coming days is:
“President Trump feels completely and totally vindicated by Former FBI Director James Comey’s opening testimony and is eager to move forward. Director Comey’s opening statement confirms he told President Trump three times that he was not under investigation. The testimony also confirms that President Trump did not impede or engage in obstruction of justice of the investigation.”
In his opening remarks, Comey outlined the three times he told Trump he was not a direct target of the FBI investigation.
But much of Thursday’s hearing will focus on whether Trump sought to bury an investigation into his former national security adviser and whether the president improperly interfered with the broader investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The GOP will also argue that Trump fired Comey knowing that it would “would be detrimental to his presidency.” They will cast him as incompetent and divisive and will say that firing him was “the right thing to do.”
Republicans will reiterate that there is “no evidence to support any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”
Preet Bharara has reserved seat
Much of the world is getting set to watch James Comey’s testimony, and that includes some big names in the audience at the Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing room.
Preet Bharara, the former federal prosecutor in New York who was fired in a controversial move by President Trump earlier this year, has a reserved seat.
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) June 8, 2017
Bharara has repeatedly criticized Trump, including on Twitter after Comey released his opening statement on Wednesday.
“Obstruction aside, it’s NEVER okay for a POTUS privately to ask an FBI director to drop a criminal investigation,” he tweeted. “Extraordinary, wrong and dumb.”