Dear Commons Community,
I have to confess that I spent three hours yesterday watching James Comey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Some parts were riveting; some repetitive; and some we will hear again in some format in the months to come probably as part of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation. Here are highlights, points of contention, and interesting moments.
- President Trump has repeatedly denied that Russia interfered in any way in the 2016 election, dismissing the story as “fake news.” During the hearing, Comey said he has “no doubt” that interference did happen and will happen again.
- Comey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and other officials attended a briefing at the White House on Feb. 14. According to Comey, Trump asked to speak to him alone after the briefing and, during the ensuing conversation, said “he hoped you can let this go,” in reference to the FBI’s investigation of Flynn.Trump has denied this. Senator Risch made the point that “hope” is not a directive to do something. A quote attributed to Henry II before he supposedly had Thomas Becket killed – “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest” was used by Comey in response to King’s question about how Comey interpreted language like “I hope” as a directive from the President. Sen. Harris commented when a robber puts a gun to your head and says “I hope you give me your wallet” – one understands what “hope” means.
- Comey said that during a Jan. 27 dinner, Trump told him, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” Trump’s private attorney, Marc Kasowitz, said the president “never” asked for loyalty “in form or substance.”
- In a May interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt, Trump claimed the January meeting took place because Comey “wanted to have dinner” with the president. On Thursday, Comey said it was actually Trump who invited him to dine at the White House.
- After Trump fired Comey on May 9, Trump administration officials claimed the FBI rank and file had lost faith in their director. Comey testified Thursday that “those were lies, plain and simple.”
- There was a brief interesting comment from Comey about former Attorney General Loretta Lynch interfering with the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
- Senator John McCain seemed confused and completely out of it during a series of questions about FBI investigations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
This hearing was more than political theater. The veracity of Trump and Comey were at the heart of many of the questions. I, admittedly with a certain bias, would give Comey the edge on a truth test. Regardless, supporters of Trump will see positives in this hearing. Detractors of Trump will see the exact opposite.