Key moments in James Comey’s Trump-Russia testimony

By and | 06/08/2017 10:44 AM EDT Updated 06/08/2017 12:20 PM EDT

James Comey
AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski
James Comey on Thursday confirmed reports that President Donald Trump demanded the loyalty of his then-FBI director and pressured him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

A month after Trump abruptly fired him, Comey appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee to deliver highly anticipated testimony about his interactions with the president.

Here are the highlights from Comey’s testimony, the first time the former FBI chief has spoken publicly since his firing.

Comey says he orchestrated memo leak to prompt special counsel

I needed to get that out into the public square, and so I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a 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.

– James Comey, ex-FBI chief

The former FBI director told lawmakers that after he was fired, he asked a “close friend” to leak to a reporter the contents of one memo he wrote about his interactions with Trump.

Comey said he hoped leaking the memo, which he considered a private document, might spur the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation.

He said he asked a friend, identified as a professor at Columbia Law School, to tell a reporter what was in the memo instead of doing it himself because he was “wary” of all the media attention surrounding his abrupt departure from the FBI.

“The media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point,” Comey said. “I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide. I worried it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach if it was I who gave it to the media, so I asked my friend, ‘Make sure this gets out.’”

Comey says ‘Lordy’ he hopes there are tapes

James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) described Comey as “big” and “strong” but asked why he didn’t have the strength to tell the president directly that his request to drop an investigation into Flynn was wrong and something he shouldn’t discuss with him.

“Maybe if I were stronger, I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in,” Comey said, adding that he tried to preserve the president’s words in his head as he mulled an adequate response.

“And look, I’ve seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey said.

Comey says when he was fired, Trump wasn’t personally under investigation

Comey said in his written testimony he had assured then-President-elect Trump that he was not under investigation by the FBI when the two met at Trump Tower on Jan.6.

“Was the president under investigation at the time of your dismissal on May 9?” asked Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Comey’s response was brief: “No.”

Comey felt ‘queasy’ when Lynch told him to call Clinton probe a ‘matter’

I wanted to know, was she going to authorize us to confirm we had an investigation. And she said: ‘Yes, but don’t call it that. Call it a matter.’

– James Comey, former FBI director

Comey said he pushed back on then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s directive last year to refer to the then-ongoing probe into Hillary Clinton’s email practices as a “matter,” not an investigation. In hindsight, he said, maybe he should have resisted harder.

Comey said he figured the media would ignore the difference in language, “and that’s what happened.”

“I said, ‘We have opened a matter.’ They all reported the FBI has an investigation open,” he said.

Comey said his concern was that Lynch’s term aligned with rhetoric from Clinton’s presidential campaign, “which was inaccurate” because the FBI had an open criminal investigation. “And so that gave me a queasy feeling,” he said.

Comey says he worried that Trump might lie about their interactions

I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so I thought it really important to document.

– James Comey, ex-FBI chief

Comey told lawmakers he draft memos about his talks with Trump in part because he did not trust the president to tell the truth about them later.

“That combination of things I had never experienced before, but had led me to believe I’ve got to write it down and I’ve got to write it down in a very detailed way,” Comey said.

“I knew that there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened, not just to defend myself, but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution and the independence of our investigative function,” he said.

Citing Trump, Comey says he was likely fired over the Russia probe

I take him at his word there. Look, I could be wrong. Maybe he’s saying something that’s not true. But I take him at his word, at least based on what I know now.

– James Comey, ex-FBI director

Comey acknowledged to lawmakers that he can’t know for sure why Trump fired him abruptly last month, but the former FBI director cited the president’s comments to the media to argue that he was probably fired because he was overseeing the Russia investigation.

“I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said. “Something about the way I was conducting it, the president felt created pressure on him that he wanted to relieve. Again, I didn’t know that at the time. But I’ve watched his interview. I’ve read the press accounts of his conversations.”

Comey accuses the administration of lying

Those were lies — plain and simple.

– James Comey, former FBI director

Comey disputed the Trump administration’s initial explanation for his abrupt firing, rebutting the notion that he was a poor leader who had lost the confidence of his workforce. “I am so sorry that the FBI work force had to hear them, and I’m so sorry that the American people were told them,” Comey said, referring to the “lies” he said the administration told.

Warner calls Comey’s opening statement ‘disturbing’

This is not how a president of the United States behaves. Regardless of the outcome of our investigation into those Russia links, Director Comey’s firing and his testimony raise separate and troubling questions that we must get to the bottom of.

– Mark Warner, Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman

In his opening statement, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) called the contents of Comey’s prepared testimony “disturbing.”

Burr praises Comey as honest public servant

I want to say personally, on behalf of all the committee members, we’re grateful to you for your service to your country, not just in the capacity as FBI director, but as prosecutor, and more importantly, being somebody that loves this country enough to tell it like it is.

– Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

Burr concluded the hearing by praising Comey for his service to the country and for his honesty.

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