Friday, June 9, 2017

7 Unexpected Takeaways From James Comey’s Testimony

Former FBI Director James Comey didn’t let every cat out of the bag in his prepared opening statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee, released the day before his testimony.

“I understood that I could be fired for any reason and for no reason at all,” James Comey says.

The initial words under oath Thursday morning from Comey, who President Donald Trump fired May 9, barely resembled that earlier statement. And during questions and answers, he offered some surprises.

“Lordy, I hope there were tapes,” Comey exclaimed at one point to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., referring to a one-on-one dinner conversation with Trump in which his loyalty was a topic.

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He talked mostly about Trump, but also about the president’s vanquished opponent Hillary Clinton and political pressure from Loretta Lynch, former President Barack Obama’s second attorney general.

The ousted FBI director also reaffirmed several times that Trump never was personally under investigation. The hearing before the Senate committee, which lasted nearly three hours, also contained a few awkward exchanges.

Here are seven key points from Thursday’s much-talked-about event:

1. Neither Trump Nor His Administration Asked Comey to Back Off Russia Probe.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., asked whether there was any doubt Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Comey responded that there was no doubt.

“There’s no fuzz on this whatsoever,” he said at one point.

But Comey assured the committee the Russians’ actions didn’t change a single vote, to his knowledge.

Burr asked: “Are you confident that no votes cast in the 2016 president election were altered?”

Comey replied: “I’m confident. When I left as director, I’d seen no indication of that whatsoever.”

Burr followed up: “Did the president at any time ask you to stop the FBI investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 elections?”

Comey responded: “Not to my understanding, no.”

Burr: “Did anyone working in this administration, including the Justice Department, ask you to stop the FBI investigation of Russian involvement in the U.S. election?”

Comey: “No.”

In a statement read to reporters after the hearing, Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, said Comey’s testimony on this matter conflicted with “false press accounts.” Kasowitz said:

Mr. Comey has now finally confirmed publicly what he repeatedly told the president privately: That is, the president was not under investigation as part of any probe into Russian interference. Mr. Comey also admitted that there is no evidence that a single vote changed as a result of any Russian interference.

Mr. Comey’s testimony also makes clear that the president never sought to impede the investigation into attempted Russian interference in the 2016 election, and in fact, according to Mr. Comey, the president told Mr. Comey ‘it would be good to find out’ in that investigation if there were ‘some satellite associates’ of his who did something wrong.

2. A New Revelation About Loretta Lynch.

Burr later asked Comey whether his decision not to bring charges in the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state was a result of a private meeting between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton.

In a surprise, Comey said that was just one of the reasons.

“I had to do something separately to protect the credibility of the investigation, which meant both the FBI and the Justice Department,” Comey said regarding his July 5 news conference.

Comey also said Lynch, head of the Justice Department as attorney general, seemed to try to interfere with the probe of the Democratic nominee by pushing a political line.

“At one point, the attorney general had directed me not to call it an ‘investigation,’ but instead to call it a ‘matter,’ which confused me and concerned me,” Comey said. “But that was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude I have to step away from the department to close this case credibly.”

In his much-criticized press conference, Comey announced he wouldn’t recommend charges against Hillary Clinton for doing official business using a private email account and email server, but called her behavior reckless.

3. McCain Alleges Double Standard.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., sharply suggested that Comey’s FBI applied a double standard in concluding Clinton broke no laws in the email investigation, even though she potentially exposed classified material to ...
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