Five major takeaways from Comey testimony

Posted at 7:23 PM, Jun 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-08 19:23:50-04

It was nearly two-and-a-half hours of testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, but James Comey's statements had a few major themes.

  1. The Trump White House lied about Comey's firing: "The administration... chose to defame me," the former FBI director said, under oath.  "And, more importantly, the FBI, by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies plain and simple.
  2. Comey's account of Trump's conversations with him elevate questions of obstruction of justice: Senator James Risch of Idaho pointed out to Comey that in the former FBI director's own detailed recollection of an Oval Office conversation between the then-FBI director and the president, that Trump had said he'd "hope[d]" that Comey would lay off from a probe of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's meetings with Russians. Sen. Risch asked Comey if he was aware of any case during which a person had been charged for obstruction of justice or any other criminal offense for saying they hoped for an outcome. Comey answered: "I don't know well enough to answer. The reason I keep saying his words is I took it as a direction. He's the president of the United States, with me alone, saying I hope this, I took it as this is what he wants me to do."
  3. Comey responded, for the first time publicly, to Pres. Trump's threatening tweet: Comey also discussed President Trump's May 12th tweet that read: James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press! "I've seen the tweet about tapes," Comey responded in Thursday's testimony. "Lordy, I hope there are tapes," he continued.  Comey added that he'd never told Mr. Trump that the president's suggestion to have Comey back off from the Flynn investigation was wrong, and that he regretted that. "Again, maybe other people would be stronger in that circumstance," said Comey, "but that's how I conducted myself. I hope I never have another opportunity. Maybe if I did it again, I would do it better."
  4. Comey admitted that he had leaked to media a memo he'd written about the president's conversation regarding Flynn: "My judgment was I needed to get that out to the public square," Comey testified.  "So I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with the reporter. Didn't do it myself for a variety of reasons, but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. And so I asked a close friend of mine to do it."
  5. Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch asked Comey to downgrade his description of a probe into Hillary Clinton's emails: "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. "That was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude I have to step away from the department if we're to close this case credibly."