Live coverage: Comey testifies at Senate hearing

FBI Director James Comey is returning to the Hill on Wednesday for his first public testimony since announcing the agency’s investigation into President Trump's campaign's ties to Russia. 

The Hill is providing live coverage of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing, which is nominally slated to be about general oversight of the FBI but expected to cover Comey's role during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

Session adjourned

1:59 p.m.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions Five takeaways from Mueller's report Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE (D-Calif.), who has now taken the reins of the hearing, thanks Comey for his stamina and adjourns the meeting. 

Comey will mull a public announcement of outcomes of Trump / Russia investigations similarly to Clinton. 

1:51 p.m.

Comey said he would "apply the same principles and reasoning" to making a similar public announcement about the outcomes of the FBI's investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia as he did to his announcement that charges would not be filed against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIt is wrong to say 'no collusion' 10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era And the winner of the Robert Mueller Sweepstakes is — Vladimir Putin MORE. Comey contends that the standard in Clinton's case was the extreme public interest and acknowledged during the hearing that Trump's case seemed to meet that standard. He would not, however, commit to the announcement in advance. The Clinton conference went beyond just saying that Clinton was in the clear; Comey also gave the opinion of the FBI that Clinton had been irresponsible in hosting a private email server.

Comey: FBI assisting on investigations on death threats against at least one travel ban judge

1:40 p.m.

Comey confirmed that the FBI was aiding in at least one of the U.S. Marshal's investigations into death threats against judges who ruled against President Trump's travel ban. Though he could not confirm the bureau's involvement in all cases — death threats have been sent to more than one judge — the FBI is aiding in investigating threats against U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii.

Leahy: Trump "goes beyond being stupid" on Muslim issues

1:15 p.m. 

Noting that President Trump's campaign statement advocating for a "Muslim ban" is still on his website, Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDurbin calls Mueller report findings on Trump team 'troubling' 20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems prep for Mueller report's release MORE (D-Vt.) said that he was "aware that stupid things are said during the campaign," leaving the statement online and continuing to provoke Muslims "goes beyond being stupid."

Justice Department IG has interviewed Comey

12:37 p.m.

The Justice Department Office of the Inspector General, which is investigating Comey's conduct leading into the 2016 elections, has interviewed Comey and likely will again, the director said. 

Comey insisted that while "I know this sounds like a crazy thing to say," he "encourages" the investigation. 

"If I did something wrong, I want to hear it," he said, adding that he believed he had handled the situation appropriately. 

Comey: 'I tried very hard' not to consider the political ramifications of Clinton announcements

12:28 p.m.

Comey pushed back on accusations that political considerations played a role in how he updated the public on the department's investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's private email server. 

"I knew there would be ramifications, I just tried not to care about them," he said. 

FBI couldn't prove intent against Abedin

12:20 p.m.

No charges were brought against longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin because “we didn’t have any indication that she had a sense of what she was doing was violation of the law,” Comey said.

Abedin had forwarded emails including classified information to her husband, Weiner, to print out for Clinton, Comey said. And proving intent was “the central problem” in the Clinton probe.

“That was our burden and we didn’t meet it.”

Comey: Would not have been appropriate to announce Trump investigation in name of fairness

12:16 p.m.

Comey flatly denied that announcing both the Clinton and Trump FBI investigations during the election season would have been the fair way to handle the simultanious investigations.

"I thought a lot about this" he said, noting that it would have been appropriate for him to come forward about Russian involvement - which he offered to do, and then President Obama initially rejected - but "that’s a separate question of do you confirm existence of a classified investigation that has just started."

Comey: WikiLeaks is 'intelligence porn'

11:58 a.m.

Comey differentiated between WikiLeaks, an “important focus” of investigations, and legitimate news sources.

“It crosses a line when it moves from being about educating a public on intelligence porn, just pushing out information … just to damage the United States.” He later added, “There’s nothing that even smells journalistic about some of this content.”

Comey said the focus of investigations would almost always fall on leakers during legitimate investigations

Cornyn offers apology that Comey was blamed for Clinton campaign loss

11:18 a.m.

Sen. John CornynJohn Cornyn Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Trump struggles to reshape Fed Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks MORE (R-Texas) began his questioning with a lengthy apology to Comey that Americans — including former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, in public events reported yesterday — blamed him for tilting the presidential election away from Democrats. It's a shame, he said, that anyone would blame "any reason but the flawed campaign and candidate herself."

Comey appears to suggest leak probe

11:10 a.m.

Comey seemed to obliquely confirm that the FBI is conducting an internal investigation into whether bureau officials inappropriately leaked information to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) about the Clinton probe during the campaign.

Asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) about Giuliani’s public claims that agents were talking to him, Comey replied, “I don't know yet, but there will be severe consequences if people were leaking."

He went on to refer to it as "a matter FBI is looking into.”

Leahy: Was it appropriate to comment on Clinton emails and not Russia? Comey: I think so
11:05 a.m.

Leahy asked Comey why he commented on the Clinton investigation but not the simultaneous Russia investigation that included the Trump campaign, including a letter to the legislative branch sent "at the most critical time possible." 

Comey argued that the Clinton investigation had been declared closed, which necessitated the update. 

Leahy went on to ask about the Russia investigation and whether or not it would be appropriate to introduce a special prosecutor, comparing the Russia investigation to the Valerie Plame investigation, which saw Plame, a covert CIA agent, unmasked following her husband's comments about President George W. Bush's claim that Iraq had nuclear weapons-grade uranium. Comey said the decision would be Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsAnd the winner of the Robert Mueller Sweepstakes is — Vladimir Putin The Memo: Mueller's depictions will fuel Trump angst Collins: Mueller report includes 'an unflattering portrayal' of Trump MORE's.

Comey: FISA Section 702 prevents stovepiped information
11:01 a.m.

Comey first called the controversial FISA 702 searches necessary to make sure evidence doesn't fall through the cracks.

These searches allow the National Security Agency (NSA) to tap foreign citizens overseas. They require no warrant, but U.S. citizens are not allowed to be targeted by them with efforts made to minimize citizens' data. But inadvertently collected data is compiled in databases shared with other agencies. 

"To do it otherwise is to risk us failing to connect dots," he said. 

Comey argued that blending 702 information into general search results was important to prevent stovepiping of information. 

"Nobody gets access to the 702 databases unless they've been trained," he said, later describing 702 searches as "critical." 

Classified documents were forwarded to Weiner: Comey
10:50 a.m.
 
Comey acknowledged that former Rep. Anthony Weiner's (D-N.Y.) laptop contained classified emails.  
 
"Somehow, [Clinton's] emails were being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information," he said during perhaps his most detailed accounting to date of his thinking on announcing the reopening of the probe. 

Comey defends Hill letter in closed Clinton probe
10:48 a.m.

Comey gave an impassioned defense of his decision to send a controversial letter in October alerting Congress that he had restarted the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server, then considered closed, “in a hugely significant way.”

Not speaking on the discovery of more emails related to the probe on Weiner’s laptop, Comey said, would have been a “catastrophic” act of concealment.

But, he insisted during a long, fierce speech during which he repeatedly rapped his hand on the table, “it makes me mildly nauseous to think we had an impact on the election.”

Comey denies being a source for media leaks
10:36 a.m.

Comey told Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost The 7 most interesting nuggets from the Mueller report Government report says new NAFTA would have minimal impact on economy MORE (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that he had "never" been an anonymous source in a media report about either the Clinton or Trump investigations, nor had he authorized anyone else to be one. 

Committee heads tee up split-screen hearing
10:29 a.m.

Opening statements from Grassley and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) set the stage for a hearing likely to take two different paths, with Democrats pushing Comey on his role in Clinton’s shocking November defeat and Republicans questioning the evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia.

Both concentrated on and criticized the bureau’s handling of the Clinton investigation in their opening statements — but for starkly different reasons.

While Grassley vented frustrations that the bureau hadn’t pursued Clinton more aggressively, Feinstein urged Comey to “clear up” why the FBI felt it was appropriate to disclose the Clinton probe but not the Trump investigation.

Grassley seeking update on 'going dark' problem
10:21 a.m.

Grassley noted during his opening statement that Comey has publicly worried about "going dark," the ability of terrorists and criminals to "erod[e] the effectiveness of one of the FBI’s core investigative tools, a warrant based on probable cause" by encrypting data. 

Comey has frequently argued that tech companies should aid the FBI with some form of backdoor access to encrypted data in the event that a warrant was issued for data when a suspect will not provide a password. Computer experts — and the House Encryption Working Group — agree that this is a perilous route. It can introduce new vectors for hackers to co-opt data and would do nothing to address encryption designed out of country or illegally, which, given encryption's basis on simple math, have already been developed worldwide. 

Grassley strikes stern tone
10:18 a.m.

Grassley opened Wednesday's hotly anticipated hearing with a litany of criticisms of the bureau's handling of the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server, accusing it of failing to follow up on "credible evidence of intent to hide federal records from Congress and the public" in its "haste to end a tough, politically charged investigation."

"A cloud of doubt hangs over the FBI’s objectivity," Grassley told a hearing room packed with journalists and onlookers. 

Comey's conduct under scrutiny
9:35 a.m.

Reporters trickled into the hearing room early Wednesday, prepared for fierce questioning on Comey's election conduct. 

In an appearance on CNN on Wednesday morning, Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMenendez, Rubio lead Senate effort to regulate Venezuelan sanctions Dem report questions State Dept. decision to revoke award to Trump critic Senate Dem calls on Trump to apologize for attacks on McCain MORE (D-Del.) said he plans to ask Comey why he commented publicly on ongoing investigations into Clinton prior to the election but did not comment on investigations into Trump.