Almost exactly a month after President Trump fired the former FBI director, James Comey testified before a Senate Intelligence Committee about his interactions with the commander-in-chief.
Comey hadn't spoken publicly since his termination, so there was a lot to clear up. The hearing centered around the FBI's probe into the Trump campaign's potential ties to Russia and Comey's discussions with President Trump, from before the inauguration in January up until Trump fired him May 9.
After Comey was ousted, The New York Times reported that Trump asked him to stop investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn, called him "a real nut job,"and said firing Comey took "great pressure" off him.
The reason Congress is interested in Comey's interactions with Trump boils down to this: If President Trump fired him in order to stop the FBI's probe into his campaign's ties to Russia, it could be deemed obstruction of justice, which is illegal and an impeachable offense. In order for Congress to call for the president to be removed from office, lawmakers would need proof the president fired Comey in order to interfere with the investigation.
So, what did Comey's Thursday testimony reveal? Let's break it all down.
Trump did ask for Comey's loyalty.
In his written opening statement released ahead of the hearing, Comey confirmed that Trump asked for his loyalty during a private conversation in January. According to Comey, Trump said, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." Comey described his reaction, saying, "I didn't move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed."
This confirms previous reports that the president had asked the former FBI director to be loyal, even though the FBI is supposed to be a non-partisan, independent agency. Trump has denied the claims.
Comey doesn't think it's his place to claim obstruction of justice.
When Sen. Richard Burr asked Comey about the conversation in which President Trump talked to him about the FBI investigation into Flynn, asking Comey to "let him go," Comey didn't classify it as obstruction of justice. He said Flynn was in legal jeopardy at the time, but told the committee, "I don't think it's for me to say whether my conversation with the president was an intention to obstruct."
However, he did say he found the conversation disturbing, and explained that although Trump said he hoped Comey would let the Flynn investigation go, he interpreted it as a direction from the president of the United States.
Comey expects Special Counsel Robert Mueller III to investigate the possibility that obstruction of justice took place.
Comey believes he was fired because of the Russia investigation.
When asked why he thinks he was fired, Comey said, "I take him at his word that he fired me because of the Russia investigation," although Trump later claimed Comey was fired for other reasons. He later said he believes he was fired because of something involving his probe into Trump advisers' ties to Russia and the pressure that was putting on the president.
He was worried Trump would lie about their meetings.
Comey said he felt the need to keep memos detailing every meeting he had with President Trump because he knew there might come a day when he needed a record of what happened. "I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting," he said.
When asked if this was the only president he felt that way about, Comey responded, "That's right." As he explained in his written opening statement, Comey didn't document the few meetings he had with President Obama or President George W. Bush.
"I think that is very significant," Sen. Mark Warner said.
Comey leaked memos to spark special counsel.
After President Trump tweeted that he hopes there are tapes of his talks with Comey, the former FBI director asked a friend to leak his memos of their interactions to the press, Comey told the committee. He said he did this in order to prompt the government to appoint a special counsel to oversee the federal Russia investigation.
He felt free to share the unclassified information since it was his personal recollection of what took place.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.
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