Trump, Russia and Comey: Where it all stands

Ousted FBI Director James Comey has offered his testimony, and President Trump and his lawyers have come back with their response.

In one of the most memorable congressional hearings in U.S. history, Comey called the president who fired him a liar, and said he believed he had been directed to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump disputes Comey’s recollection, and on Friday said he is “100 percent” willing to give his own version under oath.


The president could get that chance, with former FBI Director Robert Mueller helming an investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election and ties to Trump’s campaign.

Democrats believe there is evidence Trump sought to obstruct that probe, and Comey himself said he expected Mueller, his predecessor at the FBI, to look into it.

Here is where the drama now stands, as the dust settles.

Comey nudges Mueller toward obstruction of justice

Comey in his prepared testimony presented detailed accounts of five key conversations with Trump, offering his interpretation of events.

The key part of Comey’s testimony is a Feb. 14 Oval Office meeting with Trump, when he says the president cleared the room before saying, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

Comey told the Senate he believes he was being directed to end the investigation of Flynn.

Trump and his defenders say it was merely an innocent conversation, and that it is by no means proof of obstruction of justice.

Legal experts say that Comey’s account gives Mueller reason to dig around.

“Mueller will certainly explore the reasons that Trump sought to end the investigation of Flynn, and if he finds corrupt intent, that is a huge problem for Trump,” Bill Jeffress, a lawyer at international law firm Baker Botts LLP, said.

But views are decidedly mixed on whether there is really obstruction of justice.

Legal expert Alan Dershowitz has said that Comey's testimony provided no evidence of obstruction of justice, arguing that the president was within his legal authority to direct the head of the FBI to stop investigating anyone. 

“I think this puts an end to any claim that President Trump obstructed justice,” Dershowitz said on Fox News. “You can't obstruct justice by simply exercising your power under the Constitution.”

Heat falls on Sessions

Comey’s testimony put new scrutiny on Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThose predicting Facebook's demise are blowing smoke If bitcoin is 'digital gold,' it should be taxed like gold The metaverse is coming — society should be wary MORE and his contacts with Russian officials.

Sessions is now due to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

The former FBI director told lawmakers that the bureau had decided against informing Sessions of the Flynn meeting because agents believed Sessions would soon have to recuse himself from any Russia-related investigation.

“We were also aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic,” Comey testified.

Sessions has now disclosed two contacts with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak before the presidential election, neither of which he revealed during his Senate confirmation hearing in January. The Justice Department has said that Sessions held the meetings in his capacity as a senator.

After Comey offered additional testimony in a closed session with the Senate Intelligence Committee, reports surfaced that he disclosed a possible third meeting between Sessions and Russian officials at campaign event in April 2016.

Lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee have not confirmed this publicly, but they indicated that they are looking for more information from the attorney general.

“The committee is going to be requesting documents and an interview with the attorney general, and there are some unanswered questions,” Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE (R-Maine) said on MSNBC Friday. 

Republicans aren’t breaking with Trump

Republicans aren’t showing many signs of breaking with Trump, despite his declining approval rating and the Russia story.

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' MORE (R-Wis.) defended Trump at a news conference following the hearing, saying Comey’s account just showed Trump’s inexperience in government.

“The president’s new at this,” Ryan said, adding that the president didn’t understand the protocols between the Department of Justice, FBI and White House.

Ryan and other Republicans have echoed the White House in highlighting Comey’s statement that Trump was never under investigation while he led the FBI.

Still, there is plenty of evidence of GOP unease.

“Let me make very clear that the president never should have cleared the room and he never should have asked you as you reported to let the investigation go,” Collins told Comey during the hearing.

A former GOP aide said the Comey testimony did little to change the GOP strategy.

“I don’t think this moves the ball in any direction,” the former aide told The Hill. “There wasn’t anything that came out of that yesterday that would cause Republicans to break from Trump that they didn’t know already.”

Democrats are going on offense

Democrats are putting their shoulders into the argument that Trump may have obstructed justice.

“I think there’s certainly evidence that was presented in his testimony that the president may have sought to interfere or obstruct the investigation,” Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffJan. 6 panel may see leverage from Bannon prosecution An unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Stoltenberg says Jan. 6 siege was attack on 'core values of NATO' MORE (D-Calif.), a former lawyer and the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinIt's time for Congress to guarantee Medigap Health Insurance for vulnerable Americans with kidney disease Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Democrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos MORE (D-Md.) reacted to the testimony by pushing for further investigation by Mueller.

“Such inappropriate actions cannot be simply written off to a learning curve,” Cardin said. “I trust special counsel Mueller is looking more deeply into these interactions and their intent to derail a legitimate investigation into criminal activity.”

Other Democrats are zeroing in on Sessions, amid speculation about a third meeting with Russian officials.

Comey and Trump tensions deepen

Comey made it clear at Thursday’s hearing that he is unhappy with his firing. He also said he had leaked notes of his meeting with Trump for the express purpose of getting a special counsel appointed.

Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz fired back by accusing Comey of leaking “privileged communications” with Trump and disputing key portions of his testimony. Kasowitz is said to be pursuing a complaint against Comey for his handling of the memos.

Trump broke his silence on Friday, labeling Comey a “leaker” and claiming complete vindication.

“No collusion, no obstruction. He’s a leaker,” Trump said at a press conference Friday afternoon.

“James Comey confirmed a lot of the things that I’ve said,” he said. “Some of the things he said just weren’t true.”