Jun 8, 2017
James Comey Testimony Transcript: Testimony on Donald Trump & Russia at Senate Hearing
On June 8, 2017 FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate on discussions he had with President Donald Trump, the Russia investigation, and more. Read the full transcript of the hearing right here on Rev.com.
Mr. Burr: (01:55)
I call this hearing to order. Director Comey, I appreciate your willingness to appear before the committee today, and more importantly, I thank you for your dedicated service and leadership to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Your appearance today speaks to the trust we have built over the years and I’m looking forward to a very open and candid discussion today. I’d like to remind my colleagues that we will reconvene in closed session at 1:00 PM today, and I ask that you reserve for that venue any questions that might get into classified information. The director has been very gracious with his time, but the vice chairman and I have worked out a very specific timeline for his commitment to be on the Hill, so we will do everything we can to meet that agreement.
Mr. Burr: (02:45)
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence exists to certify for the other 85 members of the United States Senate and the American people that the intelligence community is operating lawfully, and has the necessary authorities and tools to accomplish its mission, and keep America safe. Part of our mission, beyond the oversight we continue to provide to the intelligence community and its activities, is to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 US elections. The committee’s work continues. This hearing represents part of that effort. Jim, allegations have been swirling in the press for the last several weeks and today is your opportunity to set the record straight. Yesterday, I read with interest your statement for the record, and I think it provides some helpful details surrounding your interactions with the president. It clearly lays out your understanding of those discussions, actions you took following each conversation and your state of mind.
Mr. Burr: (03:48)
I very much appreciate your candor, and I think it’s helpful as we work through to determine the ultimate truth behind possible Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Your statement also provides texture and context to your interactions with the president, from your vantage point, and outlines a strained relationship. The American people need to hear your side of the story, just as they need to hear the president’s descriptions of events. These interactions also highlight the importance of the committee’s ongoing investigation. Our experienced staff is interviewing all relevant parties and some of the most sensitive intelligence in our country’s possession. We will establish the facts separate from rampant speculation and lay them out for the American people to make their own judgment.
Mr. Burr: (04:43)
Only then will we as a nation, be able to move forward and to put this episode to rest. There are several outstanding issues not addressed in your statement that I hope you’ll clear up for the American people today. Did the president’s request for loyalty, your impression, that the one-on-one dinner of January 27th was “at least in part” an effort to create some sort of patronage relationship or is March 30th phone call asking what you could do to lift the cloud of Russia investigation in any way alter your approach of the FBI’s investigation into General Flynn or the broader investigation into Russia and possible links to the campaign? In your opinion, did potential Russian efforts to establish a link with individuals in the Trump orbit rise to the level we could define as collusion or was it a counter-intelligence concern?
Mr. Burr: (05:45)
There’s been a significant public speculation about your decision making related to the Clinton email investigation. Why did you decide to publicly announce FBI’s recommendations that the Department of Justice not pursue criminal charges? You have described it as a choice between a bad decision and a worse decision. The American people need to understand the facts behind your action. This committee is uniquely suited to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections. We also have a unified bipartisan approach to what is a highly charged partisan issue. Russian activities during 2016 election may have been aimed at one party’s candidate, but as my colleague, Senator Rubio, says frequently, in 2018 and 2020, it could be aimed at anyone, at home or abroad.
Mr. Burr: (06:40)
My colleague, Senator Warner, and I, have worked to stay in lock step on this investigation. We’ve had our differences on approach at times, but I’ve constantly stressed that we need to be a team, and I think Senator Warner agrees with me. We must keep these questions above politics and partisanship. It’s too important to be tainted by anyone trying to score political points. With that, again, I welcome you director, and I turn to the vice chairman for any comments he might have.
Mr. Warner: (07:14)
Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman, and let me start by again absolutely thanking all the members of the committee for the seriousness in which they’ve taken on this task. Mr. Comey, thank you for agreeing to come testify as part of this committee’s investigation into Russia. I realize that this hearing has been obviously the focus of a lot of Washington in the last few days. But the truth is many Americans who may be tuning in today probably haven’t focused on every twist and turn of the investigation. So I’d like to briefly describe, at least from this senator’s standpoint, what we already know and what we’re still investigating. To be clear, this investigation is not about relitigating the election. It’s not about who won or lost, and it sure as heck is not about Democrats versus Republicans.
Mr. Warner: (08:11)
We are here because a foreign adversary attacked us right here at home, plain and simple. Not by guns or missiles, but by foreign operatives seeking to hijack our most important democratic process, our presidential election. Russian spies engaged in a series of online cyber raids and a broad campaign of disinformation, all ultimately aimed at sowing chaos to undermine public faith in our process, in our leadership, and ultimately, in ourselves. And that’s not just this senator’s opinion. It is the unanimous determination of the entire US intelligence community. So we must find out the full story, what the Russians did, and candidly as some other colleagues have mentioned, why they were so successful. And more importantly we must determine the necessary steps to take to protect our democracy and ensure they can’t do it again.
Mr. Warner: (09:18)
The chairman mentioned elections in 2018 and 2020. In my home state of Virginia, we have elections this year in 2017. Simply put, we cannot let anything or anyone prevent us from getting to the bottom of this. Now Mr. Comey, let me say at the outset, we haven’t always agreed on every issue. In fact, I’ve occasionally questioned some of the actions you’ve taken, but I’ve never had any reason to question your integrity, your expertise, or your intelligence. You’ve been a straight shooter with this committee and have been willing to speak truth to power, even at the risk of your own career, which makes the way in which you were fired by the president ultimately shocking.
Mr. Warner: (10:09)
Recall we began this entire process with the president and his staff first denying that the Russians were ever involved and then falsely claiming that no one from his team was ever in touch with any Russians. We know that’s just not the truth. Numerous Trump associates had undisclosed contacts with Russians before and after the election, including the president’s attorney general, his former national security advisor and his current senior advisor, Mr. Kushner. That doesn’t even begin to count the host of additional campaign associates and advisors who have also been caught up in this massive web.
Mr. Warner: (10:53)
We saw Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Mr. Manafort, forced to step down over ties to Russian back entities. The National Security Advisor, General Flynn, had to resign over his lies about engagements with the Russians, and we saw the candidate himself express an odd and unexplained affection for the Russian dictator while calling for the hacking of his opponent. There’s a lot to investigate. Enough, in fact, then Director Comey publicly acknowledged that he was leading an investigation into those links between Mr. Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. As the director of the FBI, Mr. Comey was ultimately responsible for conducting that investigation, which might explain why you’re sitting now as a private citizen.
Mr. Warner: (11:46)
What we didn’t know was at the same time that this investigation was proceeding, the president himself appears to have been engaged in an effort to influence or at least co-opt the director of the FBI. The testimony that Mr. Comey has submitted for today’s hearing is very disturbing. For example, on January 27th, after summoning Director Comey to dinner, the president appears to have threatened director’s job while telling him “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.” At a later meeting, on February 14th, the president asked the attorney general to leave the Oval Office so that he could privately ask Director Comey again “to see way clear to letting Flynn go.” That is a statement that Director Comey interpreted as a request that he drop the investigation connected to General Flynn’s false statements.
Mr. Warner: (12:43)
Think about it. The president of the United States asking the FBI Director to drop an ongoing investigation, and after that, the president called the FBI Director on two additional occasions, March 30th and April 11th, and asked him again ” to lift the cloud on the Russian investigation.” Now, Director Comey denied each of these improper requests. The loyalty pledge, the admonition to drop the Flynn investigation, the request to lift the cloud on the Russian investigation. Of course, after his refusals, Director Comey was fired. The initial explanation for the firing didn’t pass any smell test. So now Director Comey was fired because he didn’t treat Hillary Clinton appropriately.
Mr. Warner: (13:35)
Of course, that explanation lasted about a day because the president himself then made very clear that he was thinking about Russia when he decided to fire Director Comey. Shockingly, reports suggest that the president admitted as much in an Oval Office meeting with the Russians the day after Director Comey was fired. Disparaging our country’s top law enforcement official is a “nutjob”. The president allegedly suggested that his firing relieved great pressure on his feelings about Russia. This is not happening in isolation. At the same time, the president was engaged in these efforts with Director Comey. He was also at least allegedly, asking senior leaders of the intelligence community to downplay the Russian investigation or to intervene with the director.
Mr. Warner: (14:33)
Yesterday we had DNI Director, Coats, and NSA Director, Admiral Rogers, who were offered a number of opportunities to flatly deny those press reports. They expressed their opinions, but they did not take that opportunity to deny those reports. They did not take advantage of that opportunity. My belief, that’s not how the President of the United States should behave. Regardless of the outcome of our investigation into the Russia links, Director Comey’s firing and his testimony raise separate and troubling questions that we must get to the bottom of. Again, as I said at the outset, I’ve seen firsthand how seriously every member of this committee is taking his work. I’m proud of the committee’s efforts so far. Let me be clear. This is not a witch hunt, this is not fake news, it is an effort to protect our country from a new threat that quite honestly will not go away any time soon. So Mr. Comey, your testimony here today will help us move towards that goal. I look forward to that testimony. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Burr: (15:43)
Thank you, vice chairman. Director, as discussed when you agreed to appear before the committee, it would be under oath. I’d ask you to please stand. Raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God? Please be seated. Director Comey, you’re now under oath. And I would just note to members, you will be recognized by seniority for a period up to seven minutes, and again, it is the intent to move to a closed session no later than 1:00 PM. With that, Director Comey, you are recognized. You have the floor for as long as you might need.
James Comey: (16:29)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ranking member Warner, members of the committee, thank you for inviting me here to testify today. I’ve submitted my statement for the record and I’m not going to repeat it here this morning. I thought I would just offer some very brief introductory remarks and then I would welcome your questions. When I was appointed FBI Director in 2013, I understood that I served at the pleasure of the president. Even though I was appointed to a 10-year term, which Congress created in order to underscore the importance of the FBI being outside of politics and independent, I understood that I could be fired by a president for any reason or for no reason at all. And on May 9th, when I learned that I had been fired, for that reason, I immediately came home as a private citizen.
James Comey: (17:18)
But then the explanations, the shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me. They confused me because the president and I had had multiple conversations about my job, both before and after he took office, and he had repeatedly told me I was doing a great job, and he hoped I would stay. And I had repeatedly assured him that I did intend to stay and serve out the remaining six years of my term. He told me repeatedly that he had talked to lots of people about me, including our current Attorney General, and had learned that I was doing a great job, and that I was extremely well-liked by the FBI workforce.
James Comey: (17:59)
So it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation, and learned again from the media that he was telling privately other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation. I was also confused by the initial explanation that was offered publicly that I was fired because of the decisions I had made during the election year. That didn’t make sense to me for a whole bunch of reasons, including the time and all the water that had gone under the bridge since those hard decisions that had to be made. That didn’t make any sense to me. And although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me 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. And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry that the American people were told them.
James Comey: (19:09)
I worked every day at the FBI to help make that great organization better. And I say help, because I did nothing alone at the FBI. There no indispensable people at the FBI. The organization’s great strength is that its values and abilities run deep and wide. The FBI will be fine without me. The FBI’s mission will be relentlessly pursued by its people, and that mission is to protect the American people and uphold the constitution of the United States. I will deeply miss being part of that mission, but this organization and its mission will go on long beyond me and long beyond any particular administration. I have a message before I close for my former colleagues of the FBI, but first I want the American people to know this truth. The FBI is honest, the FBI is strong, and the FBI is and always will be independent.
James Comey: (20:06)
And now to my former colleagues, if I may. I am so sorry that I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to you properly. It was the honor of my life to serve beside you, to be part of the FBI family, and I will miss it for the rest of my life. Thank you for standing watch, thank you for doing so much good for this country. Do that good as long as ever you can. And senators, I look forward to your questions.
Mr. Burr: (20:34)
Director, thank you for that testimony, both oral and the written testimony that you provided to the committee yesterday and made public to the American people. The chair would recognize himself first for 12 minutes, vice chair for 12 minutes, based upon the agreement we have. Director, did the special counsel’s office review and/or edit your written testimony?
James Comey: (20:58)
Mr. Burr: (21:00)
Do you have any doubt that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections?
James Comey: (21:07)
Mr. Burr: (21:09)
Do you have any doubt that the Russian government was behind the intrusions in the DNC and the DCCC systems and the subsequent leaks of that information?
James Comey: (21:19)
No, no doubt.
Mr. Burr: (21:20)
Do you have any doubt that the Russian government was behind the cyber intrusion in the state voter files?
James Comey: (21:27)
Mr. Burr: (21:29)
Do you have any doubt that officials of the Russian government were fully aware of these activities?
James Comey: (21:34)
Mr. Burr: (21:36)
Are you confident that no votes cast in the 2016 presidential election were altered?
James Comey: (21:44)
I’m confident. When I left as director I had seen no indication of that whatsoever.
Mr. Burr: (21:49)
Director Comey, did the president at any time ask you to stop the FBI investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 US Elections?
James Comey: (22:00)
Not to my understanding, no.
Mr. Burr: (22:02)
Did any individual working for this administration, including the justice department, ask you to stop the Russian investigation?
James Comey: (22:10)
Mr. Burr: (22:13)
Director, when the president requested that you, and I quote “let Flynn go,” General Flynn had an unreported contact with the Russians, which is an offense. And if press accounts are right, there might have been discrepancies between facts and his FBI testimony. In your estimation, was General Flynn at that time in serious legal jeopardy? And in addition to that, do you sense that the president was trying to obstruct justice or just seek for a way for Mike Flynn to save face, given that he had already been fired?
James Comey: (22:58)
General Flynn at that point in time was in legal jeopardy. There was an open FBI criminal investigation of his statements in connection with the Russian contacts and the contacts themselves, and so that was my assessment at the time. I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that’s an offense.
Mr. Burr: (23:27)
Director, is it possible that as part of this FBI investigation, the FBI could find evidence of criminality that is not tied to the 2016 elections, possible collusion, or coordination with Russians?
James Comey: (23:45)
Mr. Burr: (23:46)
So there could be something that just fits a criminal aspect to this that doesn’t have anything to do with the 2016 election cycle?
James Comey: (23:54)
Correct, in any complex investigation, when you start turning over rocks, sometimes you find things that are unrelated to the primary investigation that are criminal in nature.
Mr. Burr: (24:04)
Director, Comey, you have been criticized publicly for the decision to present your findings on the email investigation directly to the American people. Have you learned anything since that time that would have changed what you said or how you chose to inform the American people?
James Comey: (24:22)
Honestly, no. It caused a whole lot of personal pain for me but as I look back, given what I knew at the time and even what I’ve learned since, I think it was the best way to try and protect the justice institution, including the FBI.
Mr. Burr: (24:39)
In the public domain, is this question of the Steele dossier, a document that has been around now for over a year. I’m not sure when the FBI first took possession of it, but the media had it before you had it and we had it. At the time of your departure from the FBI, was the FBI able to confirm any criminal allegations contained in the Steele document?
James Comey: (25:08)
Mr. Chairman, I don’t think that’s a question I can answer in an open setting because it goes into the details of the investigation.
Mr. Burr: (25:20)
Director, the term we hear most often is collusion. When people are describing possible links between Americans and Russian government entities related to the interference in our election, would you say that it’s normal for foreign governments to reach out to members of an incoming administration?
James Comey: (25:42)
Mr. Burr: (25:44)
At what point does the normal contact cross the line into an attempt to recruit agents or influence or spies?
James Comey: (25:54)
Difficult to say in the abstract. It depends upon the context, whether there’s an effort to keep it covert, what the nature of the request made of the American by the foreign government are. It’s a judgment call based on a whole lot of facts.
Mr. Burr: (26:07)
At what point would that recruitment become a counterintelligence threat to our country?
James Comey: (26:15)
Again, difficult to answer in the abstract, but when a foreign power is using especially coercion, or some sort of pressure to try and co-opt an American, especially a government official, to act on its behalf, that’s a serious concern to the FBI and at the heart of the FBI’s counterintelligence mission.
Mr. Burr: (26:34)
So if you’ve got a 36-page document of specific claims that are out there, the FBI would have to, for counterintelligence reasons, try to verify anything that might be claimed in there, one, and probably first and foremost, is the counterintelligence concerns that we have about blackmail. Would that be an accurate statement?
James Comey: (27:00)
Yes. If the FBI receives a credible allegation that there is some effort to co-opt, coerce, direct, employee covertly an American on behalf of the foreign power, that’s the basis on which a counterintelligence investigation is opened.
Mr. Burr: (27:15)
And when you read the dossier, what was your reaction given that it was 100% directed at the president-elect?
James Comey: (27:24)
Not a question I can answer in open setting, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Burr: (27:27)
Okay, when did you become aware of the cyber intrusion?
James Comey: (27:33)
The first cyber… There was all kinds of cyber intrusions going on all the time. The first Russian-connected cyber intrusion I became aware of in the late summer of 2015.
Mr. Burr: (27:43)
And in that time frame, there were more than the DNC and the DCCC that were targets?
James Comey: (27:50)
Correct, a massive effort to target government and nongovernmental, near governmental agencies like nonprofits.
Mr. Burr: (27:57)
What would be the estimate of how many entities out there the Russians specifically targeted in that time frame?
James Comey: (28:04)
It’s hundreds. I suppose it could be more than 1,000, but it’s at least hundreds.
Mr. Burr: (28:11)
When did you become aware that data had been exfiltrated?
James Comey: (28:18)
I’m not sure exactly. I think either late ’15 or early ’16.
Mr. Burr: (28:24)
And did you, the director of the FBI, have conversations with the last administration about the risk that this posed?
James Comey: (28:34)
Mr. Burr: (28:35)
And share with us, if you will, what actions they took.
James Comey: (28:40)
Well, the FBI had already undertaken an effort to notify all the victims, and that’s what we consider the entities that were attacked as part of this massive spear-phishing campaign, and so we notified them in an effort to disrupt what might be ongoing, and then there was a series of continuing interactions with entities through the rest of ’15 into ’16, and then throughout ’16, the administration was trying to decide how to respond to the intrusion activity that it saw.
Mr. Burr: (29:07)
And the FBI in this case, unlike other cases that you might investigate, did you ever have access to the actual hardware that was hacked, or did you have to rely on a third party to provide you the data that they had collected?
James Comey: (29:23)
In the case of the DNC, and I believe the DCCC, but I’m sure the DNC, we did not have access to the devices themselves. We got relevant forensic information from a private party, a high class entity, that had done the work but we didn’t get direct access.
Mr. Burr: (29:39)
But no content.
James Comey: (29:41)
Mr. Burr: (29:42)
Isn’t content an important part of the forensics from a counter-intelligence standpoint?
James Comey: (29:48)
It is but what was briefed to me by the people who were my folks at the time is that they had gotten the information from the private party that they needed to understand the intrusion by the spring of 2016.
Mr. Burr: (30:04)
Let me go back if I can very briefly to the decision to publicly go out with your results on the email. Was your decision influenced by the attorney general’s tarmac meeting with the former president, Bill Clinton?
James Comey: (30:26)
Yes, in ultimately conclusive way, that was the thing that capped it for me that I had to do something separately to protect the credibility of the investigation, which meant both the FBI and the justice department.
Mr. Burr: (30:39)
Were there other things that contributed to that that you can describe in an open session?
James Comey: (30:46)
There were other things that contributed to that. One significant item I can’t. I know the committee’s been briefed on. There’s been some public accounts of it which are nonsense but I understand the committee has been briefed on the classified facts. Probably the only other consideration that I guess I can talk about in open setting is that 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, but 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.
Mr. Burr: (31:19)
Director, my last question. You’re not only a seasoned prosecutor. You’ve led the FBI for years. You understand the investigative process. You’ve worked with this committee closely, and we’re grateful to you, because I think we’ve mutually built trust in what your organization does and what we do. Is there any doubt in your mind that this committee can carry out its oversight role in the 2016 Russia involvement in the elections in parallel with the now special counsel that’s been set up?
James Comey: (32:00)
No, no doubt. It can be done. It requires lots of conversations but Bob Mueller is one of the this country’s great, great pros and I’m sure you’ll be able to work it out with him to run it in parallel.
Mr. Burr: (32:10)
I want to thank you once again. I want to turn it over to the vice chairman.
Mr. Warner: (32:13)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. And, again, Director Comey, thank you for your service. Your comments to your FBI family, I know were heartfelt. Know that there are some in the administration who’ve tried to smear your reputation. You heard Acting Director McCabe in public testimony a few weeks back and in public testimony yesterday, reaffirm that the vast majority in FBI community had great trust in your leadership and obviously, trust in your integrity. I want to go through a number of the meetings that you referenced in your testimony, and let’s start with the January 6th meeting in Trump Tower, where you went up with a series of officials to brief the president-elect…
Mr. Warner: (33:03)
Where you went up with a series of officials to brief the president, all that on the Russia investigation. My understanding is you remained afterwards to brief him on, again, “some personally sensitive aspects of the information” you relayed. Now you said after that briefing, you felt compelled to document that conversation, that you actually started documenting it as soon as you got into the car.
Mr. Warner: (33:27)
Now you’ve had extensive experience at the Department of Justice and at the FBI, you’ve worked on the presidents of both parties, what was it about that meeting that led you to determine that you needed to start putting down a written record?
James Comey: (33:45)
A combination of things. I think the circumstances, the subject matter and the person I was interacting with. Circumstances, first I was alone with the President of the United States or the president-elect, soon to be president. The subject matter, I was talking about matters that touch on the FBI’s core responsibility and that relate to the president, president-elect personally, and then the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so I thought it really important to document. That combination of things I’d never experienced before, but it led me to believe I got write it down and I got to write it down in a very detailed way.
Mr. Warner: (34:21)
I think that’s a very important statement you just made and my understanding is that then, again, unlike your dealings with presidents of either parties, in your past experience, in every subsequent meeting or conversation with this president, you created a written record. Did you feel that you needed to create this written record of these memos because they might need to be relied on at some future date?
James Comey: (34:51)
Sure. I created records after conversations and I think I did it after each of our nine conversations. If I didn’t, I did it for nearly all of them, especially the ones that were substantive. 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. That’s what made this so difficult is it was a combination of circumstances, subject matter and that particular person.
Mr. Warner: (35:21)
And so in all your experience, this was the only president that you felt like in every meeting you needed a document because at some point, using your words, he might put out a non truthful representation of that meeting? Now, our-
James Comey: (35:36)
That’s right, Senator. And as I said in my written testimony, as FBI director, I interacted with President Obama and I spoke only twice in three years and didn’t document it. When I was deputy attorney general, I had one one on one meeting with President Bush about a very important and difficult national security matter. I didn’t write a memo documenting that conversation either. Sent a quick email to my staff to let them know there was something going on but I didn’t feel with President Bush the need to document it in that way. Again because of the combination of those factors just wasn’t present with either President Bush or President Obama.
Mr. Warner: (36:10)
I think that is very significant. I think others would probably question that. Now our chairman and I have requested those memos, and it is our hope that the FBI will get this committee access to those memos so that again we can read that contemporaneous rendition so that we’ve got your side of the story.
Mr. Warner: (36:29)
Now I know members have said and press have said that if you were… A great deal has been made of whether the present you are asked to in effect indicate whether the president was the subject of any investigation, and my understanding is prior to your meeting on January 6th, you discussed with your leadership team whether or not you should be prepared to assure then President-Elect Trump that the FBI was not investigating him personally.
Mr. Warner: (36:59)
Now my understanding is your leadership team agreed with that, but was that a unanimous decision? Was there any debate about that?
James Comey: (37:05)
It wasn’t unanimous. One of the members of leadership team had a view that although it was technically true, we did not have a counterintelligence file case open on then President-Elect Trump. His concern was because we’re looking at the potential, again, that’s the subject of investigation, coordination between the campaign and Russia, because it was president Trump preselect Trump’s campaign. This person’s view was inevitably his behavior, his conduct, will fall within the scope of that work and so he was reluctant to make the statement that I made.
James Comey: (37:43)
I disagreed. I thought it was fair to say what was literally true. There is not a counterintelligence investigation of Mr. Trump and I decided in the moment to say it, given the nature of our conversation.
Mr. Warner: (37:54)
At that moment in time, did you ever revisit that in the subsequent sessions?
James Comey: (38:01)
With the FBI leadership team?
Mr. Warner: (38:03)
With the team.
James Comey: (38:03)
Sure, and the leader had that view. It didn’t change. His view was still that it was probably, although literally true, his concern was it could be misleading because the nature of the investigation was such that it might well touch… Obviously it would touch the campaign and the person at the head of the campaign would be the candidate. And so that was his view throughout.
Mr. Warner: (38:26)
Let me move to the January 27th dinner, where you said, ” The president began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI director. He also indicated that lots of people,” again, your words, “wanted the job.” You go on to say that the dinner itself was seemingly an effort to quote, have you ask him for your job and create some sort of “patronage relationship.” The presidents seems, from my reading of your memo, to be holding your job or your possibility of continuing in your job, over your head in a fairly direct way. What was your impression and what did you mean by this notion of a patronage relationship?
James Comey: (39:11)
Well, my impression, and again it’s my impression, I could always be wrong, but my common sense told me that what was going on is either he had concluded or someone had told him that you’ve already asked Comey to stay, and you didn’t get anything for it. And that the dinner was an effort to build a relationship. In fact, he asked specifically of loyalty in the context of asking me to stay. And as I said, what was odd about that is we’d already talked twice about it by that point and he’d said, “I very much hope you’ll stay. I hope you’ll stay.”
James Comey: (39:44)
In fact, I’ve just remembered sitting here a third one. When you’ve seen the picture of me walking across the Blue Room and what the president whispered in my ear was, “I really look forward to working with you.” So after those encounters-
Mr. Warner: (39:56)
And that was just a few days before you were fired.
James Comey: (39:58)
Yeah. That was on the 20, the Sunday after the inauguration. The next Friday I have dinner and the president begins by wanting to talk about my job. And so I’m sitting there thinking, wait a minute, three times, you’ve already asked me to stay or talked about me staying. In my common sense, again, I could be wrong, but my common sense told me what’s going on here is, he’s looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job.
Mr. Warner: (40:22)
Again, we all understand that, I was a governor, I had people work for me, but this constant requests and again, quoting you, him saying that he spite, you’re explaining your independence, he kept coming back to, “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.” Had you ever had any of those kinds of requests before from anyone else you’d worked for in the government?
James Comey: (40:44)
No. And what made me uneasy was I’m, at that point the director of the FBI, the reason that Congress created a 10 year term is so that the director is not feeling as if they’re serving with political loyalty owed to any particular person. The statue of justice has a blindfold on because you’re not supposed to be peeking out to see whether your patron is pleased or not with what you’re doing. It should be about the facts and the law. That’s why I became FBI director, to be in that kind of position. So, that’s why I was so uneasy.
Mr. Warner: (41:16)
Well, let me move on. My time’s running out. February 14th, again, it seems a bit strange. You were in a meeting and your direct superior, the attorney general, was in that meeting as well. Yet the president asked everyone to leave, including the attorney general to leave, before he brought up the matter of General Flynn. What was your impression of that type of action and have you ever seen anything like that before?
James Comey: (41:45)
No. My impression was something big is about to happen. I need to remember every single word that is spoken, and again, I could be wrong. But I’m 56 years old. I’ve seen a few things. My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn’t be leaving, which is why he was lingering and I don’t know Mr. Kushner well, but I think he picked up on the same thing. And so I knew something was about to happen that I needed to pay very close attention to.
Mr. Warner: (42:09)
And I found it very interesting that in the memo that you wrote after this February 14th pull aside, you made clear that you wrote that memo in a way that was unclassified. If you affirmatively made the decision to write a memo that was unclassified, was that because you felt at some point the facts of that meeting would have to come clean and come clear and actually be able to be cleared in a way that could be shared with the American people?
James Comey: (42:42)
Well, I remember thinking this is a very disturbing development, really important to our work. I need to document it and preserve it in a way, and this committee gets this, but sometimes when things are classified, it tangles them up.
Mr. Warner: (42:56)
James Comey: (42:57)
It’s hard to share it within an investigative team. You have to be very careful about how you handle it, for good reason. So my thinking was if I write it in such a way that I don’t include anything that would trigger a classification, that’ll make it easier for us to discuss within the FBI and the government and to hold onto it in a way that makes it accessible to us.
Mr. Warner: (43:19)
Well, again, it’s our hope, particularly since you are pretty knowledgeable guy and you wrote this in a way that was unclassified, that this committee will get access to that unclassified document. I think it will be very important to our investigation. Let me just ask this in closing. How many ongoing investigations at any time does the FBI have going on at the same…
James Comey: (43:40)
Tens of thousands.
Mr. Warner: (43:40)
Tens of thousands. Did the president ever ask about any other ongoing investigation?
James Comey: (43:47)
Mr. Warner: (43:49)
Did he ever ask about you trying to interfere on any other investigation?
James Comey: (43:55)
Mr. Warner: (43:58)
I think, again, this speaks volumes. This doesn’t even get to the questions around the phone calls about lifting the cloud. I know other members will get to that, but I really appreciate your testimony and appreciate your service to our nation.
James Comey: (44:11)
Thank you, Senator Warner. I just, I’m sitting here going through my contacts with them. I had one conversation with the president that was classified, where he asked about an ongoing intelligence investigation. It was brief and entirely professional.
Mr. Warner: (44:27)
But he didn’t ask you to take any specific action on that?
James Comey: (44:29)
Oh no, no.
Mr. Warner: (44:30)
Unlike what he had done, vis-a-vis Mr. Flynn and the overall Russia investigation.
James Comey: (44:34)
Mr. Warner: (44:34)
Thank you, sir.
Sen. Burr: (44:35)
Sen. Risch: (44:36)
Thank you very much. Mr. Comey, thank you for your service. American needs more like you and we really appreciate it. Yesterday, I got and everybody got the seven pages of your direct testimony that’s now a part of the record here. I read it, then I read it again. And all I could think was number one, how much I hated the class of legal writing when I was in law school. And you were the guy that probably got the A after reading this. So I find it clear, I find it concise.
Sen. Risch: (45:10)
And having been a prosecutor for a number of years and handling hundreds, maybe thousands of cases and read police reports, investigative reports, this is as good as it gets, and I really appreciate that. Not only the conciseness and the clearness of it, but also the fact that you have things that were written down contemporaneously when they happened, and you actually put them in quotes, so we know exactly what happened, and we’re not getting some rendition of it that’s in your mind.
James Comey: (45:40)
Thank you, sir.
Sen. Risch: (45:40)
So, you’re to be complimented for that.
James Comey: (45:42)
I had great parents and great teachers who beat that into me [crosstalk 00:45:45].
Sen. Risch: (45:45)
That’s obvious, sir. The chairman walked you through a number of things that the American people need to know and want to know. Number one, obviously we’re all know about the active measures that the Russians have taken. I think a lot of people were surprised at this. Those of us that work in the intelligence community, it didn’t come as a surprise, but now the American people know this and it’s good they know this cause this is serious and it’s a problem.
Sen. Risch: (46:08)
I think, secondly, I gather from all this that you’re willing to say now that while you were director, the president of United States was not under investigation. Is that a fair statement?
James Comey: (46:19)
Sen. Risch: (46:19)
All right, so that’s a fact that we can rely on it then.
James Comey: (46:22)
Sen. Risch: (46:22)
Okay. I remember you talked with us shortly after February 14th when the New York Times wrote an article that suggested that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians. You remember reading that article when it first came out?
James Comey: (46:39)
I do. It was about allegedly extensive electronic surveillance-
Sen. Risch: (46:42)
James Comey: (46:43)
[crosstalk 00:46:43] communications.
Sen. Risch: (46:44)
And that upset you to the point where you actually went out and surveyed the intelligence community to see whether you were missing something in that, is that correct?
James Comey: (46:53)
That’s correct. I want to be careful in an open setting but-
Sen. Risch: (46:55)
I’m not going to go any further than that.
James Comey: (46:56)
Sen. Risch: (46:57)
So thank you. In addition to that, after that you sought out both Republican and Democrat senators to tell them that, “Hey, I don’t know where this is coming from, but this is not the case. This is not factual.” You recall that?
James Comey: (47:13)
Sen. Risch: (47:13)
Okay. So again, so the American people can understand this, that report by the New York Times was not true. Is that a fair statement?
James Comey: (47:23)
Yeah, in the main it was not true. And again, all of you know this and maybe the American people don’t. The challenge, and I’m not picking on reporters about writing stories about classified information, is the people talking about it often don’t really know what’s going on. And those of us who actually know what’s going on, are not talking about it, and we don’t call the press to say, “Hey, you got that thing wrong about this sensitive topic.” We just have to leave it there. I mentioned the chairman, the nonsense around what influenced me to make the July 5th statement. Nonsense, but I can’t go explaining how it’s nonsense.
Sen. Risch: (47:54)
Thank you. All right, so those three things we now know regarding the active measures, where the president’s under investigation and the collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. I want to drill right down as my time is limited to the most recent dustup regarding allegations that the President of the United States obstructed justice. And boy, you nailed this down on page five, paragraph three. You put this in quotes, “Words matter.” You wrote down the words so we can all have the words in front of us now.
Sen. Risch: (48:29)
There’s 28 words there that are in quotes and it says, “I hope,” this is the president speaking, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Now those are his exact words, is that correct?
James Comey: (48:45)
Sen. Risch: (48:46)
And you wrote them here and you put them in quotes?
James Comey: (48:48)
Sen. Risch: (48:48)
Okay. Thank you for that. He did not direct you to let it go?
James Comey: (48:56)
Not in his words. No.
Sen. Risch: (48:57)
He did not order you to let it go?
James Comey: (49:00)
Again, those words are not in order.
Sen. Risch: (49:02)
No, he said, “I hope.” Now like me, you probably did hundreds of cases, maybe thousands of cases, charging people with criminal offenses, and of course you have knowledge of the thousands of cases out there where people had been charged. Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice or for that matter, any other criminal offense where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?
James Comey: (49:34)
I don’t know well enough to answer, and the reason I keep saying his words is I took it as a direction.
Sen. Risch: (49:41)
James Comey: (49:41)
I mean this is the President of United States with me alone saying, “I hope this.” I took it as, “This is what he wants me to do.” Now, I didn’t obey that, but that’s the way I took it.
Sen. Risch: (49:50)
You may have taken it as a direction, but that’s not what he said.
James Comey: (49:52)
Correct. That’s why I said-
Sen. Risch: (49:53)
He said, “I hope.”
James Comey: (49:55)
Those are his exact words. Correct.
Sen. Risch: (49:56)
You don’t know anyone that’s ever been charged for hoping something. Is that a fair statement?
James Comey: (50:00)
I don’t as I sit here.
Sen. Risch: (50:01)
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. Burr: (50:05)
Sen. Feinstein: (50:06)
Thanks very much Mr. Chairman. Mr. Comey, I just want you to know that I have great respect for you. Senator Cornyn and I sit on the judiciary committee, so we have occasion to have you before us, and I know that you’re a man of strength and integrity and I really regret the situation that we all find ourselves in. I just want to say that. Let me begin with one overarching question. Why do you believe you were fired?
James Comey: (50:39)
I guess I don’t know for sure. I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. 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. So I take him at his word there. Now 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.
Sen. Feinstein: (51:09)
Yeah. Talk for a moment about his requests that you pledge loyalty and your response to that. And what impact do you believe that had?
James Comey: (51:23)
I don’t know for sure, because I don’t know the president well enough to read him well. I think it was… First of all, our relationship. Didn’t get off to a great start, given the conversation I had to have on January 6th. This didn’t improve the relationship because it was very, very awkward. He was asking for something and I was refusing to give it. But again, I don’t know him well enough to know how he reacted to that exactly.
Sen. Feinstein: (51:48)
Do you believe the Russia investigation played a role?
James Comey: (51:53)
In why I was fired?
Sen. Feinstein: (51:54)
James Comey: (51:54)
Yes, because I’ve seen the president say so.
Sen. Feinstein: (51:56)
Okay. Let’s go to the Flynn issue. Senator Risch outlined… “I hope you could see your way to letting Flynn go. He’s a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” But you also said in your written remarks, and I quote that you had understood “the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December.” Please go into that with more detail.
James Comey: (52:35)
Well, the context and the president’s words are what led me to that conclusion. As I said in my statement, I could be wrong, but Flynn had been forced to resign the day before, and the controversy around General Flynn at that point in time was centered on whether he had lied to the vice president about the nature of his conversations with the Russians, whether he had been candid with others in the course of that. And so that happens on the day before. On the 14th, the president makes specific reference to that. And so that’s why I understood him to be saying that what he wanted me to do was drop any investigation connected to Flynn’s account of his conversations with the Russians.
Sen. Feinstein: (53:16)
Now here’s the question. You’re big, you’re strong. I know the Oval Office and I know what happens to people when they walk in. There is a certain amount of intimidation, but why didn’t you stop and say, “Mr. President, this is wrong. I cannot discuss this with you?”
James Comey: (53:37)
It’s a great question, maybe if I were stronger I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just-
Sen. Feinstein: (53:47)
I can understand.
James Comey: (53:47)
… Took it in. And the only thing I could think to say, because I was playing in my mind, because I got to remember every word he said. I was playing in my mind, what should my response be? And that’s why I very carefully chose the words. And look, I’ve seen the tweet about tapes, Lordy, I hope there are tapes. I remember saying, “I agree he’s a good guy,” as a way of saying, I’m not agreeing with what you just asked me to do.
James Comey: (54:12)
Again, maybe other people would be stronger in that circumstance, but that that was a… That’s how I conducted myself. I hope I’ll never have another opportunity. Maybe if I did it again, I would do it better.
Sen. Feinstein: (54:22)
You described two phone calls that you received from President Trump, one on March 30 and one on April 11, where he “described the Russia investigation as a cloud that was impairing his ability” as president and asked you “to lift the cloud.” How did you interpret that and what did you believe he wanted you to do?
James Comey: (54:50)
I interpreted that as he was frustrated that the Russia investigation was taking up so much time and energy. I think he meant of the executive branch but in the public square in general, and it was making it difficult for him to focus on other priorities of his. But what he asked me was actually narrower than that. So I think what he meant by the cloud, and again, I could be wrong, but what I think he meant by the cloud was the entire investigation is taking up oxygen and making it hard for me to focus on the things I want to focus on. The ask was to get it out that I, the president, am not personally under investigation.
Sen. Feinstein: (55:30)
After April 11th, did he ask you more ever about the Russia investigation? Did he ask you any questions?
James Comey: (55:43)
We never spoke again after April 11th.
Sen. Feinstein: (55:48)
You told the president, “I would see what we could do.” What did you mean?
James Comey: (55:54)
That was kind of a slightly cowardly way of trying to avoid telling him we’re not going to do that, that I would see what we could do. It was a way of kind of getting off the phone frankly, and then I turned and handed it to the acting deputy attorney general Mr. Boente.
Sen. Feinstein: (56:12)
So I wanted to go into that. Who did you talk with about that, lifting the cloud, stopping the investigation back at the FBI and what was their response?
James Comey: (56:25)
The FBI, during one of the two conversations, I’m not remembering exactly. I think the first my chief of staff was actually sitting in front of me and heard my end of the conversation, because the president’s call was a surprise. And I discussed the lifting the cloud and the request with the senior leadership team, who in, typically I think in all the circumstances was the deputy director, my chief of staff, the general counsel, the deputy director’s chief counsel, and I think in a number of circumstances, the number three in the FBI, and a few of the conversations included the head of the national security branch. So, that group of us that lead the FBI when it comes to national security.
Sen. Feinstein: (57:05)
Okay. You have the President of the United States asking you to stop an investigation that’s an important investigation. What was the response of your colleagues?
James Comey: (57:17)
I think they were as shocked and troubled by it as I was. Some said things that led me to believe that, I don’t remember exactly, but the reaction was similar to mine. They’re all experienced people who had never experienced such a thing. So they were very concerned and then the conversation turned to about, so what should we do with this information?
James Comey: (57:40)
And that was a struggle for us because we are the leaders of the FBI. So it’s been reported to us in that I heard it and now I’ve shared it with the leaders of the FBI. Our conversation was should we share this with any senior officials at the Justice Department? Our absolute primary concern was we can’t infect the investigative team. We don’t want the agents and analysts working on this to know the President of the United States has asked. And when it comes to the president, I took it as a direction to get rid of this investigation because we’re not going to follow that request.
James Comey: (58:15)
And so we decided we’ve got to keep it away from our troops. But is there anybody else we ought to tell at the Justice Department? And as I laid out in my statement, we considered whether to tell the attorney general, decided that didn’t make sense because we believed rightly that he was shortly going to recuse. There were no other Senate confirmed leaders in the Justice Department at that point. The deputy attorney general was Mr. Boente, who was acting and going to be shortly in that seat.
James Comey: (58:40)
And we decided the best move would be to hold it, keep it in a box, document it as we’d already done, and then this investigation is going to go on, figure out what to do with it down the road. Is there a way to corroborate this? Our view at the time was, look, it’s your word against the president’s. There’s no way to corroborate this. My view of that changed when the prospect of tapes was raised, but that’s how we thought about it then.
Sen. Feinstein: (59:04)
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. Burr: (59:05)
Sen. Rubio: (59:06)
Thank you. Director Comey, the meeting in the Oval Office where he made the request about Mike Flynn, was that the only time he asked you to hopefully let it go?
James Comey: (59:14)
Sen. Rubio: (59:15)
And in that meeting as you understood it, he was asking you not about the general Russian investigation, he was asking very specifically about the jeopardy that Flynn was in himself.
James Comey: (59:25)
That’s how I understood it. Yes, sir.
Sen. Rubio: (59:26)
And as you perceived it, while it was a request that you hoped you did away with it, you perceived it as an order, given his position, the setting and the like and some of the circumstances.
James Comey: (59:36)
Sen. Rubio: (59:37)
At the time, did you say anything to the president about that is not inappropriate request or did you tell the White House counsel that is not an appropriate request, someone needs to go tell the president that he can’t do these things?
James Comey: (59:47)
I didn’t, no.
Sen. Rubio: (59:48)
James Comey: (59:51)
I don’t know. As I said earlier, I think the circumstances were such that I was a bit stunned and didn’t have the presence of mind and I don’t know. I don’t want to make you sound like I’m Captain Courageous. I don’t know whether you’ve had the presence of mine. I would have said to the president, “Sir, that’s wrong.” I don’t know whether I would have, but in the moment it didn’t come to my mind. What came to my mind is be careful what you say, and so I said, “I agree Flynn is a good guy.”
Sen. Rubio: (01:00:15)
So on the cloud, we keep talking about this cloud. You perceive the cloud to be the Russian investigation in general?
James Comey: (01:00:22)
Sen. Rubio: (01:00:22)
But his specific ask was that you would tell the American people what you had already told him, what you had already told the leaders of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, that he was not personally under investigation.
James Comey: (01:00:34)
Yes, sir. That’s how I understand-
Sen. Rubio: (01:00:35)
In fact, he was asking you to do what you have done here today?
James Comey: (01:00:37)
Correct. Yes, sir.
Sen. Rubio: (01:00:38)
Okay. And again, at that setting, did you say to the president that it would be inappropriate for you to do so and then talk to the White House counsel or anybody so hopefully they would talk to him and tell him that he couldn’t do this?
James Comey: (01:00:50)
First time I said, “I’ll see what we can do.” Second time, I explained how it should work, that the White House counsel should contact the deputy attorney general.
Sen. Rubio: (01:00:59)
You told him-
James Comey: (01:01:00)
And the president said, “Okay, I think that’s what I’ll do.”
Sen. Rubio: (01:01:02)
And just to be clear for you to make a public statement that he was not under investigation would not have been illegal, but you felt it made no sense because it could potentially create a duty to correct if circumstances changed?
James Comey: (01:01:14)
Yes, sir. We wrestled with it before my testimony, where I confirmed that there was an investigation, and there were two primary concerns. One was it creates a duty to correct, which I’ve lived before, and you want to be very careful about doing that. And second, it’s a slippery slope because if we say the president and the vice president aren’t under investigation, what’s the principled basis for stopping? And so the leadership at Justice, Acting Attorney General Boente said, “You’re not going to do that.”
Sen. Rubio: (01:01:41)
Now on March 30th during the phone call about General Flynn, you said he abruptly shifted and brought up something that you call “the McCabe thing.” Specifically, “the McCabe thing” as you understood it was that McCabe’s wife had received campaign money from what I assume means Terry McAuliffe?
James Comey: (01:01:59)
Yes, sir. That’s what-
Sen. Rubio: (01:02:00)
He was very close to the Clintons, and so had the president at any point in time express to you concern, opposition, potential opposition to McCabe, I don’t like this guy because he got money from someone that’s close to Clinton?
James Comey: (01:02:13)
He had asked me during previous conversations about Andy McCabe and said, in essence, “How’s he going to be with me as president? I was pretty rough on him on the campaign trail.”
Sen. Rubio: (01:02:23)
He was rough on McCabe?
James Comey: (01:02:25)
He was rough by his own account. He said he was rough on McCabe and Mrs. McCabe on the campaign trail. How’s he going to be? And I assured the president, “Andy is a total pro, no issue at all. You got to know the people of the FBI. They are not-”
Sen. Rubio: (01:02:38)
So when the son of the president turns to you and says, “Remember, I never brought up the McCabe thing because you said he was a good guy.” Did you perceive that to be a statement that, “I took care of you, I didn’t do something because you told me he was a good guy. So now, I’m asking you potentially for something in return,” is that how you perceived it?
James Comey: (01:02:56)
I wasn’t sure what to make of it, honestly. That’s possible. But it was so out of context, that I didn’t have a clearer view of what it was.
Sen. Rubio: (01:03:04)
Now on a number of occasions here you bring up, let’s talk now about the general Russia investigation, okay? On page six of your testimony, the first thing you say is, “He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud,’ the general Russia investigation. And you responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could and that there would be great benefit if we didn’t find anything to having done the work well. And he agreed. He reemphasized the problems that was causing him, but he agreed.”
Sen. Rubio: (01:03:32)
So in essence, the president agreed with your statement that it would be great if we could have a investigation, all the facts came out and we found nothing. So he agreed that that would be ideal, but this cloud is still messing up my ability to do the rest of my agenda. Is that an accurate assessment of-
James Comey: (01:03:46)
Yes, sir. He actually went farther than that. He said, and if some of my satellites did something wrong, it’d be good to find that out.
Sen. Rubio: (01:03:52)
Well, that’s the second part and that is the satellites. He said, “If one of my satellites,” I imagine by that he met some of the other people surrounding his campaign, “did something wrong, it would be great to know that as well.”
James Comey: (01:04:02)
Yes, sir. That’s what he said.
Sen. Rubio: (01:04:03)
So, are those the only two instances in which that sort of back and forth happened where the president was basically saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, it’s okay. Do the Russia investigation. I hope it all comes out. I have nothing to do with anything Russia. It’d be great if it all came out, if people around me were doing things that were wrong.
James Comey: (01:04:21)
Yes. As I recorded it accurately there, that was the sentiment he was expressing. Yes, sir.
Sen. Rubio: (01:04:25)
So what it comes down to, as the president has asked three things of you, he asked for your loyalty and you said you would be loyally honest.
James Comey: (01:04:32)
Sen. Rubio: (01:04:32)
Honestly loyal. He asked you on one occasion to let the Mike Flynn thing go because he was a good guy. By the way, you’re aware that he said the exact same thing in the press the next day, “He’s a good guy, he’s been treated unfairly,” etc., etc. So I imagine your FBI agents read that.
James Comey: (01:04:50)
I’m sure they did.
Sen. Rubio: (01:04:51)
The president’s wishes were known to them, certainly by the next day when he had a press conference with the prime minister. But going back, the three requests were number one, be loyal. Number two, let the Mike Flynn thing go. He’s a good guy. He’s been treated unfairly. And number three, can you please tell the American people what these leaders in Congress already know, what you already know, what you’ve told me three times that I’m not personally under investigation.
James Comey: (01:05:17)
Those are the three things he asked. Yes, sir.
Sen. Rubio: (01:05:20)
This investigation is full of leaks left and right. I mean, we’ve learned more from the newspapers sometimes than we do from our open hearings for sure. You ever wonder why of all the things in this investigation, the only thing that’s never been leaked is the fact that the president was not personally under investigation, despite the fact that both Democrats and Republicans and the leadership of Congress knew that and have known that for weeks?
James Comey: (01:05:42)
I don’t know. I find matters that are briefed to the Gang of Eight are pretty tightly held in my experience.
Sen. Rubio: (01:05:49)
Finally, who are those senior leaders at the FBI that you shared these conversations with?
James Comey: (01:05:54)
As I said, in response to Senator Feinstein’s question, deputy director, my chief of staff, general counsel, deputy director’s chief counsel and then-
James Comey: (01:06:03)
Counsel, Deputy Directors, Chief Counsel, and then more often than not, the number three person at the FBI who was the Associate Deputy Director and then quite often the Head of The National Security Branch.
Senator Wyden: (01:06:13)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Comey, welcome. You and I have had significant policy differences over the years, particularly protecting Americans’ access to secure encryption, but I believe the timing of your firing stinks. And yesterday you put on the record testimony that demonstrates why the odor of presidential abuse of power is so strong. Now, to my questions. In talking to Senator Warner about this dinner that you had with the President, I believe January 27th. All in one dinner, the President raised your job prospects. He asked for your loyalty and denied allegations against him, all took place over one supper. Now you told Senator Warner that the President was looking to “get something”. Looking back, did that dinner suggest that your job might be contingent on how you handled the investigation?
James Comey: (01:07:26)
I don’t know that I’d go that far. I got the sense my job would be contingent upon how he felt I, excuse me, how he felt I conducted myself and whether I demonstrated loyalty, but I don’t know whether I’d go so far as to connect it to the-
Senator Wyden: (01:07:45)
You said the President was trying to create some sort of patronage relationship. In a patronage relationship, isn’t the underling expected to behave in a manner consistent with the wishes of the boss?
James Comey: (01:08:00)
Senator Wyden: (01:08:00)
James Comey: (01:08:01)
Or at least consider how what you’re doing will affect the boss as a significant consideration.
Senator Wyden: (01:08:06)
Let me turn to the Attorney General. In your statement, you said that you and the FBI leadership team decided not to discuss the President’s actions with Attorney General sessions even though he had not recused himself. What was it about the Attorney General’s own interactions with the Russians or his behavior with regard to the investigation that would have led the entire leadership of the FBI to make this decision?
James Comey: (01:08:39)
Our judgment, as I recall was that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia related investigation problematic and so we were convinced, and in fact, I think we’d already heard that the career people were recommending that he recused himself, that he was not going to be in contact with Russia related matters much longer. And that turned out to be the case.
Senator Wyden: (01:09:11)
How would you characterize Attorney General’s Session’s adherence to his recusal in particular with regard to his involvement in your firing, which the President has acknowledged was because of the Russian investigation?
James Comey: (01:09:29)
That’s a question I can’t answer. I think it’s a reasonable question. If as the President said I was fired because of the Russia investigation, why was the Attorney General involved in that chain? I don’t know. And so I don’t have an answer for the question.
Senator Wyden: (01:09:43)
Your testimony was that the President’s request about Flynn could infect the investigation. Had the President got what he wanted and what he asked of you? What would have been the effect on the investigation?
James Comey: (01:10:03)
Well, we would have closed any investigation of General Flynn in connection with his statements about and encounters with Russians in the late part of December. So we would have dropped and opened criminal investigation.
Senator Wyden: (01:10:22)
So in effect, when you talk about infecting the enterprise, you would have dropped something major that would have spoken to the overall ability of the American people to get the facts?
James Comey: (01:10:37)
Correct. And as good as our people are, our judgment was, we don’t want them hearing that the President of the United States wants this to go away. Because it might have an effect on their ability to be fair and impartial and aggressive.
Senator Wyden: (01:10:49)
Now, the acting Attorney General Yates found out that Michael Flynn could be blackmailed by the Russians and she went immediately to warn the White House. Flynn is gone. But other individuals with contacts with the Russians are still in extremely important positions of power. Should the American people have the same sense of urgency now with respect to them?
James Comey: (01:11:18)
I think all I can say Senator is the Special Counsel’s investigation is very important to understanding what efforts there were or are by the Russian government to influence our government is a critical part of the FBI’s mission. And you’ve got the right person in Bob Mueller to lead it, so it’s a very important piece of work.
Senator Wyden: (01:11:40)
Vice President Pence was the head of the transition. To your knowledge, was he aware of the concerns about Michael Flynn prior to or during General Flynn’s tenure as National Security Advisor?
James Comey: (01:11:58)
I don’t… You’re asking, including up to the time when Flynn was forced to resign? My understanding is that he was, and I’m trying to remember where I get that understanding from. I think from Acting Attorney General Yates.
Senator Wyden: (01:12:16)
So former Acting Attorney General Yates testified the concerns about general Flynn were discussed with the intelligence community. Would that have included anyone at the CIA or Dan Coats’s office, the DNI?
James Comey: (01:12:36)
I would assume, yes.
Senator Wyden: (01:12:39)
Michael Flynn resigned four days after Attorney General sessions was sworn in. Do you know if the Attorney General was aware of the concerns about Michael Flynn during that period?
James Comey: (01:12:53)
I don’t, as I sit here. I don’t recall that he was, I could be wrong, but I don’t remember that he was.
Senator Wyden: (01:12:58)
Okay. And finally, let’s see if you can give us some sense of who recommended your firing. Besides the letters from the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, do you have any information on who may have recommended or have been involved in your firing?
James Comey: (01:13:23)
I don’t. I don’t.
Senator Wyden: (01:13:24)
Okay. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Senator Collins: (01:13:27)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Comey, let me begin by thanking you for your voluntary compliance with our request to appear before this committee and assist us in this very important investigation. I want first to ask you about your conversations with the President, the three conversations in which you told him that he was not under investigation. The first was during your January 6th meeting, according to your testimony in which it appears that you actually volunteered that assurance, is that correct?
James Comey: (01:14:08)
Senator Collins: (01:14:10)
Did you limit that statement to Counter-Intelligence investigations or were you talking about any kind of FBI investigation?
James Comey: (01:14:22)
I didn’t use the term Counter-Intelligence. I was speaking to him and briefing him about some salacious and unverified material. It was in a context of that that he had a strong and defensive reaction about that not being true. And my reading of it was, it was important for me to assure him we were not personally investigating him. And so the context then was actually narrower focused on what I just talked to him about. That was very important because it was first true and second, I was very, very much about being in a kind of a J Edgar Hoover type situation. I didn’t want him thinking that I was briefing him on this to sort of hang it over him in some way. I was briefing him on it because we had been told by the media it was about to launch. We didn’t want to be keeping that from him and he needed to know this was being said, but I was very keen not to leave him with an impression that the Bureau was trying to do something to him. And so that’s the context in which I said, “Sir, we’re not personally investigating you.”
Senator Collins: (01:15:24)
And that’s why you volunteered the information, correct?
James Comey: (01:15:29)
Senator Collins: (01:15:30)
Then on the January 27th dinner, you told the President that he should be careful about asking you to investing because “you might create a narrative that we are investigating him personally, which we weren’t.” Again, were you limiting that statement…
James Comey: (01:15:55)
reacting strongly against that unverified materials saying, I’m tempted to order you to investigate it and in the context of that I said, “Sir, you want to be careful about that because it might create a narrative we’re investigating you personally.”
Senator Collins: (01:16:07)
And then there was the March 30th phone call with the President in which you reminded him that congressional leaders have been briefed that you were not personally, the FBI was not personally investigating President Trump. And again, was that statement to congressional leaders and to the President limited to Counter-Intelligence investigations or was that a broader statement? I’m trying to understand whether there was any kind of investigation of the President underway.
James Comey: (01:16:45)
No, I’m sorry. And if I misunderstood, I apologize. We briefed the congressional leadership about what Americans we had opened counterintelligence investigation cases on, and we specifically said the President is not one of those Americans. But there was no other investigation of the President that we were not mentioning at that time. The context was counter-intelligence, but I wasn’t trying to hide some criminal investigation of the President.
Senator Collins: (01:17:12)
And was the President under investigation at the time of your dismissal on May 9th?
James Comey: (01:17:20)
Senator Collins: (01:17:21)
I’d like to now turn to the conversations with the President about Michael Flynn, which have been discussed the great length. And first let me make very clear that the President never should have cleared the room and he never should have asked you as you reported to let it go, to let the investigation go. But I remain puzzled by your response. Your response was I agree that Michael Flynn is a good guy. You could have said, Mr. President, this meeting is inappropriate. This response could compromise the investigation. You should not be making such a request. It’s fundamental to the operation of our government that the FBI be insulated from this kind of political pressure. And you’ve talked a bit today about that you were stunned by the President making the request, but my question to you is later on, upon reflection, did you go to anyone at the Department of Justice and ask them to call the White House Counsel’s Office and explain that the President had to have a far better understanding and appreciation of his role vis-a-vis the FBI?
James Comey: (01:18:53)
In general, I did. I spoke to the Attorney General and I spoke to the new Deputy Attorney General, Mr. Rosenstein when he took office and explained my serious concern about the way in which the President is interacting, especially with the FBI. And I specifically, as I said in my testimony, I told the Attorney General, it can’t happen that you get kicked out of the room and the President talks to me, but in the room but why didn’t we raise the specific? It was of investigative interest to us to try and figure out, so what just happened with the President’s request? So I would not have wanted to alert the White House that it had happened until we figured out what are we going to do with this investigatively.
Senator Collins: (01:19:32)
Your testimony was that you went to Attorney General sessions and said, “Don’t ever leave me alone with him again.” Are you saying that you also told him that he had made a request that you let it go with regard to part of the investigation on Michael Flynn?
James Comey: (01:19:52)
No, I specifically did not. I did not.
Senator Collins: (01:19:57)
Okay. You mentioned that from your very first meeting with the President, you decided to write a memo memorializing the conversation. What was it about that very first meeting that made you write a memo when you had not done that with two previous Presidents?
James Comey: (01:20:20)
As I said, a combination of things. A gut feeling is important. Overlay on the circumstances, that I was alone, the subject matter and the nature of the person that I was interacting with and my read of that person. And really just a gut feel laying on top of all of that, that it’s going to be important to protect this organization that I make records of this.
Senator Collins: (01:20:45)
And finally, did you show copies of your memos to anyone outside of the Department of Justice?
James Comey: (01:20:55)
Senator Collins: (01:20:56)
And to whom did you show copies?
James Comey: (01:20:59)
I asked… President tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I better hope there’s not tapes. I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night because it didn’t dawn on me originally that there might be corroboration for our conversation. There might be a tape. And my judgment was 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. And so I asked a close friend of mine to do it.
Senator Collins: (01:21:30)
And was that Mr. [Inaudible 01:21:32]?
James Comey: (01:21:32)
Senator Collins: (01:21:33)
Who was that?
James Comey: (01:21:35)
A good friend of mine who’s a Professor at Columbia Law School.
Senator Collins: (01:21:39)
Sen Heinrich: (01:21:42)
Mr. Comey, prior to January 27th of this year, have you ever had a one-on-one meeting or a private dinner with a President of the United States?
James Comey: (01:21:55)
No. I meant dinner, no. I had two one-on-ones with President Obama that I laid out in my testimony. One was to talk about law enforcement issues, law enforcement and race, which was an important topic throughout for me and for the President. And then once very briefly for him to say goodbye.
Sen Heinrich: (01:22:12)
Where those brief interactions?
James Comey: (01:22:15)
No, the one about law enforcement and race and policing, we spoke for probably over an hour, just the two of us.
Sen Heinrich: (01:22:23)
How unusual is it to have a one-on-one dinner with the President? Did that strike you as odd?
James Comey: (01:22:31)
Yes, so much so that I assume there would be others that he couldn’t possibly be having dinner with me alone.
Sen Heinrich: (01:22:39)
Do you have a impression that if you had behaved differently in that dinner, and I am quite pleased that you did not, but if you had found a way to express some sort of expression of loyalty or given some suggestion that the Flynn criminal investigation might be pursued less vigorously, do you think you would’ve still been fired?
James Comey: (01:23:11)
I don’t know. It’s impossible to say looking back, I don’t know.
Sen Heinrich: (01:23:15)
But you felt like those two things were directly relevant to the kind of relationship that the President was seeking to establish with you?
James Comey: (01:23:25)
Sen Heinrich: (01:23:26)
Yeah. The President has repeatedly talked about the Russian investigation into the US or the Russia’s involvement in the US election cycle as a hoax and as fake news. Can you talk a little bit about what you saw as FBI director and obviously only the parts that you can share in this setting that demonstrate how serious this action actually was and why there was an investigation in the first place?
James Comey: (01:23:59)
Yes, sir. There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose, they did it with sophistication, they did it with overwhelming technical efforts and it was an active measures campaign driven from the top of that government. There is no fuzz on that. It is a high confidence judgment of the entire intelligence community and the members of this committee have seen the intelligence, it’s not a close call. That happened. That’s about as unfake as you can possibly get and is very, very serious, which is why it’s so refreshing to see a bipartisan focus on that because this is about America, not about any particular party.
Sen Heinrich: (01:24:41)
So that was a hostile act by the Russian government against this country?
James Comey: (01:24:46)
Sen Heinrich: (01:24:47)
Did the President in any of those interactions that you’ve shared with us today ask you what you should be doing or what our government should be doing or the intelligence community to protect America against Russian interference in our election system?
James Comey: (01:25:06)
I don’t recall a conversation like that.
Sen Heinrich: (01:25:08)
James Comey: (01:25:09)
Sen Heinrich: (01:25:11)
Do you find it odd?
James Comey: (01:25:12)
Not with President Trump.
Sen Heinrich: (01:25:13)
James Comey: (01:25:14)
I attended a fair number of meetings on that with the President Obama.
Sen Heinrich: (01:25:18)
Do you find it odd that the President seemed unconcerned by Russia’s actions in our election?
James Comey: (01:25:27)
I can’t answer that because I don’t know what other conversations he had with other advisors or other intelligence community leaders. So I just don’t know sitting here.
Sen Heinrich: (01:25:35)
Did you have any interactions with the President that suggested he was taking that hostile action seriously?
James Comey: (01:25:45)
I don’t remember any interactions with the President other than the initial briefing on January the 6th, I don’t remember. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember any conversations with him at all about that.
Sen Heinrich: (01:25:57)
As you’re very aware, it was only the two of you in the room for that dinner. You’ve told us that the President asked you to back off the Flint investigation. The President told the reporter-
James Comey: (01:26:10)
Not in that dinner.
Sen Heinrich: (01:26:11)
Fair enough, told the reporter he never did that. You’ve testified that the President asked for your loyalty in that dinner. The White House denies that. A lot of this comes down to who should we believe? Do you want to say anything as to why we should believe you?
James Comey: (01:26:35)
My mother raised me not to say things like this about myself, so I’m not going to. I think people should look at the whole body of my testimony because as I used to say to juries, when I talked about a witness, you can’t cherry pick it. You can’t say, “I like these things he said, but on this, he’s a dirty, rotten liar.” You’ve got to take it all together. And I’ve tried to be open and fair and transparent and accurate. A really significant fact to me is, so why did he kick everybody out of the Oval Office? Why would you kick the Attorney General, the President, the Chief of Staff out to talk to me if it was about something else? And so that to me, as an investigator, is a very significant fact.
Sen Heinrich: (01:27:16)
And as we look at testimony or as communication from both of you, we should probably be looking for consistency?
James Comey: (01:27:25)
Well, looking at any witness, you look at consistency, track record, demeanor, record over time, that sort of thing.
Sen Heinrich: (01:27:31)
Thank you. So there are reports that the incoming Trump administration, either during the transition and/or after the inauguration attempted to set up a sort of backdoor communication channel with the Russian government using their infrastructure, their devices or facilities. What would be the risks, particularly for a transition, someone not actually in the office of the President yet to setting up unauthorized channels with a hostile foreign government, especially if they were to evade our own American intelligence services?
James Comey: (01:28:06)
I’m not going to comment on whether that happened in an open setting, but the primary risk is obvious. You spare the Russians the cost and effort of having to break into our communications channels by using theirs. And so you make it a whole lot easier for them to capture all of your conversations. And then to use those to the benefit of Russia against the United States.
Sen Heinrich: (01:28:27)
The memos that you wrote, did you write all nine of them in a way that was designed to prevent them from needing classification?
James Comey: (01:28:39)
No. And on a few of the occasions I wrote, I sent emails to my Chief of Staff or others on some of the brief phone conversations that I recall. The first one was a classified briefing. Although it wasn’t in a skiff, it was in a conference room at Trump Tower. It was a classified briefing and so I wrote that on a classified device. The one I started typing in the car that was a classified laptop that I started working on.
Sen Heinrich: (01:29:05)
Any reason in a classified environment in a skiff that this committee it would not be appropriate to see those communications at least from your perspective as the author?
James Comey: (01:29:15)
Sen Heinrich: (01:29:16)
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Senator Blunt: (01:29:20)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Comey, when you were terminated at the FBI, I said and still continue to feel that you have provided years of great service to the country. I also said that I’d had significant questions over the last year about some of the decisions you made. If the President hadn’t terminated your service, would you still be in your opinion, the Director of the FBI today?
James Comey: (01:29:46)
Senator Blunt: (01:29:49)
So you took as a direction from the President, something that you thought was serious and troublesome but continued to show up for work the next day?
James Comey: (01:29:59)
Senator Blunt: (01:30:00)
And six weeks later, were still telling the President on March the 30th that he was not personally the target of any investigation?
James Comey: (01:30:11)
Correct. On March the 30th and I think again, I think on April 11th as well, I told him we’re not investigating him personally. That was true.
Senator Blunt: (01:30:18)
Well, the concern to me there is that all these things going on, you now in retrospect or at least you now through this committee that you had serious concerns about what the President had you believed, directed you to do and had taken no action, hadn’t even reported up the chain of command. Assuming you believe there is an up the chain of command that these things had happened. Do you have a sense of that looking back that that was a mistake?
James Comey: (01:30:50)
No. In fact, I think no action was the most important thing I could do to make sure there was no interference with the investigation.
Senator Blunt: (01:30:56)
And on the Flynn issues specifically, I believe you said earlier that you believe the President was suggesting you’d drop any investigation of Flynn’s account of his conversation with the Russian ambassador, which was essentially misleading the Vice-President and others?
James Comey: (01:31:17)
Correct. And I’m not going to into the details about whether there were false statements made to government investigators as well.
Sen Heinrich: (01:31:25)
Any suggestion that General Flynn had violated the Logan Act, I always find pretty incredible. The Logan Act’s been on the books for over 200 years. Nobody’s ever been prosecuted for violating the Logan Act. My sense would be that the discussion, not the problem misleading investigators or the Vice-President might’ve been.
James Comey: (01:31:49)
That’s fair. Yes sir.
Sen Heinrich: (01:31:51)
And had you previously on February the 14th discussed with the President in a previous meeting, anything your investigators had learned or their impressions from talking to Flint?
James Comey: (01:32:02)
Sen Heinrich: (01:32:05)
So he said he’s a good guy. You said he’s a good guy. And that was no further action taken on that?
James Comey: (01:32:14)
Well, he said more than that but the action was I wrote it up, briefed our senior team, tried to figure out what to do with it and just made a decision we’re going to hold this and then see what we make of it down the road. Yes sir.
Sen Heinrich: (01:32:25)
Was it your view that not briefing up meant you really had no responsibility to report that to the Justice Department in some way?
James Comey: (01:32:34)
I think at some point, and I don’t know what Director Mueller is going to do with it, but at some point I was sure we were going to brief it to the team in charge of the case. But our judgment was in the short term, it doesn’t make sense to… No fuzz on the fact that I reported to the Attorney General. That’s why I stressed he shouldn’t be kicked out of the room, but it didn’t make sense to report to him now.
Sen Heinrich: (01:32:53)
You said the Attorney General said, “I don’t want to be in the room with him alone again”, but you continued to talk to him on the phone. What is the difference in being in the room alone with him and talking to him on the phone alone?
James Comey: (01:33:05)
Yeah, I think what I stressed to the Attorney-General was a little broader than just the room. I said, “I report to you. It’s very important you be between me and the White House.”
Sen Heinrich: (01:33:15)
After that discussion with the Attorney General, did you take phone calls from the President?
James Comey: (01:33:19)
Sen Heinrich: (01:33:20)
So why did you just say you need to talk to him? Why don’t you say I’m not taking that call, you need to talk to the Attorney General?
James Comey: (01:33:26)
Well, I did on the April 11th call. And I reported the calls, the March 30th call and the April 11th call to my superior who is the Acting Deputy Attorney General.
Sen Heinrich: (01:33:35)
I don’t want to run out of time here. Let me make one other point. In reading your testimony, January the 3rd, January the 27th and March the 30th, it appears to me that on all three of those occasions, you unsolicited by the President made the point to him that he was not a target of an investigation, correct?
James Comey: (01:33:57)
Sen Heinrich: (01:33:58)
One I thought the March 30th very interesting. You said, well, even though you don’t want… You may not want us. That was a 27th where he said, why don’t you look into that dossier thing? Where you said, “Well, you may not want that because then we couldn’t answer the question about you being a target of the investigation.” But you didn’t seem to be answering that question anyhow. As Senator Rubio pointed out, the one unanswered unleashed question seems to have been that in this whole period of time, but you said something earlier, I don’t want to fail to follow up on. You said after you were dismissed, you gave information to a friend so that friend could get that information into the public media.
James Comey: (01:34:43)
Sen Heinrich: (01:34:44)
What kind of information was that? What kind of information did you give to a friend?
James Comey: (01:34:50)
The Flint conversation, that the President asked me to let the Flint… Man, I’m forgetting my exact own words, but the conversation in the Oval Office.
Sen Heinrich: (01:34:59)
So you didn’t consider your memo or your sense of that conversation to be a government document, you considered it to be somehow your own personal document that you could share with the media as you wanted to?
James Comey: (01:35:13)
Sen Heinrich: (01:35:13)
Through a friend?
James Comey: (01:35:14)
I understood this to be my recollection recorded of my conversation with the President. As a private citizen, I felt free to share that thought. Very important to get it out.
Sen Heinrich: (01:35:23)
So were all of your memos that you’ve recorded on classified or other documents, memos that might be yours as a private citizen?
James Comey: (01:35:32)
I’m sorry, I’m not following the question.
Sen Heinrich: (01:35:33)
Well, I think you said you’d use a classified-
James Comey: (01:35:38)
Oh yeah, not the classified documents. Unclassified. I don’t have any them anymore, I gave them to the special counsel. But yeah, my view was that the content of those unclassified… the memorialization of those conversations was my recollection recorded.
Sen Heinrich: (01:35:52)
So why didn’t you give those to somebody yourself rather than give them through a third party?
James Comey: (01:35:57)
Because I was worried the media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point and I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide and 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.
Sen Heinrich: (01:36:11)
It does seem to me that what you do there is create a source close to the former Director of the FBI as opposed to just taking responsibility yourself for saying, here are these records and like everybody else, I have other things I’d like to get into, but I’m out of time.
James Comey: (01:36:30)
Senator King: (01:36:33)
Thank you. First I’d like to acknowledge Senator Blumenthal and earlier Senator Nelson. I think the one principal thing you’ll learn today, Senator, is that the chairs there are less comfortable than the chairs here. Welcome to the hearing. Mr. Comey, a broad question. Was the Russian activity in the 2016 election a one off proposition or is this part of a longterm strategy? Will they be back?
James Comey: (01:36:58)
Oh, it’s a longterm practice of theirs. It’s stepped up a notch in a significant way in 16, they’ll be back.
Senator King: (01:37:06)
I think that’s very important for the American people to understand that this is very much a forward looking investigation in terms of how do we understand what they did and how do we prevent it. Would you agree that that’s a big part of our role here?
James Comey: (01:37:19)
Yes, sir. And it’s not a Republican thing or a Democratic thing. It really is an American thing. They’re going to come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of and they’re not devoted to either in my experience, they’re just about their own advantage and they will be back.
Senator King: (01:37:35)
That’s my observation. I don’t think Putin is a Republican or a Democrat. He’s an opportunist.
James Comey: (01:37:41)
I think that’s a fair statement.
Senator King: (01:37:43)
With regard to the several of these conversations, in his interview with Lester Holt on NBC, the President said, “I had dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on.” Is this an accurate statement?
James Comey: (01:37:55)
Senator King: (01:37:57)
Did you in any way initiate that dinner?
James Comey: (01:37:59)
No, he called me at my desk at lunchtime and asked me was I free for dinner that night and called himself and said, “Can you come over for dinner tonight?” And I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “Will six work?” I think he said six first and then he said, “I was going to invite your whole family but we’ll do that next time I want you to come over. And is that a good time?” I said, “Sir, whatever works for you.” And then he said, “How about 6:30?” And I said, “Whatever works for you, sir.” And then I hung up and had to call my wife and break a date with her. I was supposed to take her out to dinner that night and-
Senator King: (01:38:32)
That’s one of the all time great excuses for breaking a date.
James Comey: (01:38:36)
In retrospect, I love spending time with my wife. I wish I’d been there that night.
Senator King: (01:38:42)
That’s one question I’m not going to follow up Mr. Comey, but in that same interview, the President said, “In one case I called him and in one case he called me.” Is that an accurate statement?
James Comey: (01:38:52)
Senator King: (01:38:53)
Did you ever call the President?
James Comey: (01:38:55)
No, I might… The only reason I’m hesitating is I think there was at least one conversation where I was asked to call the White House switchboard.
James Comey: (01:39:03)
At least one conversation where I was asked to call the White House switchboard to be connected to him, but I never initiated a communication with the President.
Senator King: (01:39:10)
And in his press conference on May 18th, the President was asked whether he had urged you to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn. The president responded, “No, no. Next question.” Is that an accurate statement?
James Comey: (01:39:22)
I don’t believe it is.
Senator King: (01:39:24)
Thank you. With regard to the question of him being personally under investigation, does that mean that the dossier is not being reviewed or investigated or followed up on in any way?
James Comey: (01:39:40)
Obviously, I can’t comment either way. I can’t talk in an open setting about the investigation as it was when I was the head of the FBI and obviously it’s Director Mueller’s, Bob Mueller’s responsibility now, so I don’t know.
Senator King: (01:39:53)
So clearly your statements to the President back in these various times when you assured him he wasn’t under investigation, where as of that moment, that correct, is that not?
James Comey: (01:40:02)
Senator King: (01:40:03)
Now on the Flynn investigation, is it not true that Mr. Flynn was and is a central figure in this entire investigation of the relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russians?
James Comey: (01:40:15)
I can’t answer that in an open setting, sir.
Senator King: (01:40:18)
And certainly Mr. Flynn was part of the so-called Russian investigation. Can you answer that question?
James Comey: (01:40:25)
I have to give you the same answer.
Senator King: (01:40:26)
All right, we’ll be having a closed session shortly, so we will follow up on that. In terms of his comments to you about, I think in response to Mr. Risch, Senator Risch, you said, he said, “I hope you will hold back on that.” But when a President of the United States in the Oval Office says something like, I hope or I suggest or, or would you, do take that as a directive?
James Comey: (01:40:52)
Yes, yes. It rings in my ear as kind of, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
Senator King: (01:40:56)
I was just going to quote that in 1170, December 29, Henry the II said, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” And then the next day he was killed, Thomas Becket. That’s exactly the same situation, we’re thinking along the same lines. Several other questions and these are a little bit more detailed. What do you know about the Russian bank V.E.B.?
James Comey: (01:41:23)
Nothing that I can talk about in an open setting.
Senator King: (01:41:27)
Well, that takes care of my next three questions [crosstalk 01:41:29]
James Comey: (01:41:29)
I know it exists, yes sir.
Senator King: (01:41:30)
You know it exists. What is the relationship of the ambassador from Russia to the United States to the Russian intelligence infrastructure?
James Comey: (01:41:45)
Well, he’s a diplomat, who is the chief of mission at the Russian embassy, which employs a robust cohort of intelligence officers. And so surely he’s witting of their very, very aggressive operations, at least some of it in the United States. I don’t consider him to be an intelligence officer himself, he’s a diplomat.
Senator King: (01:42:07)
Did the FBI ever brief the Trump administration about the advisability of interacting directly with the Ambassador Kislyak?
James Comey: (01:42:20)
I think all I can say sitting here is there were a variety of defensive briefings given to the incoming administration about the counterintelligence risk.
Senator King: (01:42:27)
Back to Mr. Flynn. Would closing out the Flynn investigation have impeded the overall Russian investigation?
James Comey: (01:42:40)
No. Unlikely except to the extent … there’s always a possibility, if you have a criminal case against someone and you bring in and squeeze them, you flip them and they give you information about something else. But I saw the two as touching each other, but separate.
Senator King: (01:43:01)
With regard to your memos, isn’t it true that in court case when you’re weighing evidence, contemporaneous memos and contemporary statements to third parties are considered probative in terms of the validity of testimony?
James Comey: (01:43:16)
Senator King: (01:43:17)
Thank you, thank you Mr. Chairman.
Senator Burr: (01:43:20)
Senator Cotton or excuse me, Senator Langford.
Sen. Langford: (01:43:25)
Director Comey, good to see you again.
James Comey: (01:43:27)
Sen. Langford: (01:43:27)
We’ve had multiple opportunities to be able to visit as everyone on this dais has and I appreciate you and your service and what you have done for the nation for a long time, which you’ve continued to do. I’ve told you before in the heat of last year and we had the opportunity to visit personally that I pray for you and for your family because you do carry a tremendous amount of stress and a that is still true today.
James Comey: (01:43:45)
Sen. Langford: (01:43:46)
Let me walk through a couple of things with you. Your notes are obviously exceptionally important because they give a very rapid account of what you wrote down and what you perceived happened in those different meetings. Have you had the opportunity to be able to reference those notes when you were preparing the written statement that you put for us today?
James Comey: (01:44:04)
Yes, yes. I think nearly all of my written recordings of the conversations, had a chance to review them before filing my statement.
Sen. Langford: (01:44:15)
Do you have a copy of any of those notes, personally?
James Comey: (01:44:17)
I don’t. I turned them over to Bob Mueller’s investigators.
Sen. Langford: (01:44:21)
The individual that you told about your memos that then sent onto the New York Times, did they have a copy of those memos or were they told orally of those memos?
James Comey: (01:44:32)
Had a copy of the time.
Sen. Langford: (01:44:35)
Do they still have a copy of those memos?
James Comey: (01:44:38)
That’s a good question. I think so. I guess I can’t say for sure sitting here, but I guess I don’t know, but I think so.
Sen. Langford: (01:44:44)
So the question is could you ask them to hand that copy right back to you so you can hand them over to this committee?
James Comey: (01:44:50)
Sen. Langford: (01:44:51)
I would like to move that from potential to see if we can ask that question so we can have a copy of those. Obviously, those notes are exceptionally important to us. I have to be able to go through the process so we can continue to get to the facts as we see it. As you know, the written documents are exceptionally important. But are there other documents that we need to be aware of that you used in your preparation for your written statement that we should also have that would assist us in helping with this?
James Comey: (01:45:15)
Not that I’m aware of, no.
Sen. Langford: (01:45:18)
Past the February the 14th meeting, which is a very important meeting obviously as we discuss the conversations here about Michael Flynn. When the President asks you about, he hopes that you would let this go and the conversation back and forth about him being a good guy. After that time, did the President ever bring up anything about Michael Flynn again to you? You had multiple other conversations you have documented with the President.
James Comey: (01:45:43)
No, I don’t remember him ever bringing it up again.
Sen. Langford: (01:45:44)
Did any member of the White House staff ever come to you and talk to you about letting go with the Michael Flynn case or dropping it or anything referring to that?
James Comey: (01:45:51)
Sen. Langford: (01:45:52)
Did the Director of National Intelligence come to you and talk to you about that?
James Comey: (01:45:55)
Sen. Langford: (01:45:56)
Did anyone from the Attorney General’s office at the Department of Justice asked you about that?
James Comey: (01:46:00)
Sen. Langford: (01:46:01)
Did the head of NSA talk to you about that?
James Comey: (01:46:04)
Sen. Langford: (01:46:06)
The key aspect here is if this seems to be something that the President’s trying to get you to drop it, this seems like a pretty light touch to drop it. To bring it up at that moment, the day after he had just fired Flynn, to come back in and say, “I hope we can let this go.” But then it never reappears again. Did it slow down your investigation or any investigation that may or may not be occurring with Michael Flynn?
James Comey: (01:46:30)
No, although I don’t know there are any manifestations, outward manifestations of the investigation between February 14th and when I was fired. So I don’t know that the President would have any way of knowing whether it was effective or not.
Sen. Langford: (01:46:42)
Okay, that’s fair enough. If the President wanted to stop an investigation, how would he do that? Knowing it’s an ongoing criminal investigation or a counterintelligence investigation, would that be a matter of trying to go to you, you perceive, and to say you make it stop because he doesn’t have the authority to stop. Or how would the President make an ongoing investigation stop?
James Comey: (01:47:06)
Okay, I’m not a legal scholar so smarter people answer this better, but I think as a legal matter, the President is the head of the executive branch and could direct, in theory, we have important norms against this, but direct that anybody be investigated or anybody not be investigated. I think he has the legal authority because all of us ultimately report in executive branch up to the President.
Sen. Langford: (01:47:26)
Okay. Would that be to you, would that be to the Attorney General? Would that be to who that would do that?
James Comey: (01:47:31)
Suppose you could do it to … if he wanted to issue a direct order, could do it in any way. Could do it through the Attorney General or issue it directly to me.
Sen. Langford: (01:47:39)
Is there any question that the President is not real fond of this investigation? I can think of multiple 140 word character expressions that he’s done publicly to express he’s not fond of the investigations. I’ve heard you share before in this conversation that you’re trying to keep the agents that are working on it away from any comment that President might’ve made. Quite frankly, the President has informed around six billion people that he’s not real fond of this investigation. Do you think there’s a difference in that?
James Comey: (01:48:08)
Sen. Langford: (01:48:09)
Okay [crosstalk 01:48:11].
James Comey: (01:48:10)
I think there’s a big difference in kicking superior officers out of the Oval Office, looking the FBI director in the eye and saying, “I hope you’ll let this go.” I think if the agents as good as they are, heard the President of the United States did that, there’s a real risk of a chilling effect on their work. That’s why we kept it so tight.
Sen. Langford: (01:48:29)
Okay. You had mentioned before about some news stories and news accounts. Without having to go into all the names and the specific times and to be able to dip into all that. Have there been news accounts about the Russian investigation, about collusion, about this whole event or accusations that as you read the story, you were stunned about how wrong they got the facts?
James Comey: (01:48:52)
Yes. There’ve been many, many stories purportedly based on classified information about … well about lots of stuff, but especially about Russia that are just dead wrong.
Sen. Langford: (01:49:02)
I was interested in your comment that you made as well, that the President said to you, if there were some satellite associates of his that did something wrong, it would be good to find that out. The President seemed to talk to you specifically a March the 30th and say, I’m frustrated that the word is not getting out that I’m not under investigation, but if there are people that are in my circle that are, let’s finish the investigation. Is that how you took it as well?
James Comey: (01:49:27)
Yes, sir, yes.
Sen. Langford: (01:49:29)
And then you made a comment earlier about the Attorney General, previous Attorney General asking you about the investigation on the Clinton emails. Saying that you’d been asked not to call it an investigation anymore, but to call it a matter. And you had said that confused you. Can you give us additional details on that?
James Comey: (01:49:49)
Well, it concerned me because we were at the point where we had refused to confirm the existence as we typically do of an investigation for months. And it was getting to a place where that looks silly because the campaigns we’re talking about interacting with the FBI in the course of our work. The Clinton campaign at the time was using all kinds of euphemisms, security review, matters, things like that for what was going on. We were getting to a place where the Attorney General and I were both going to have to testify and talk publicly about it and I want 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.” And I said, “Why would I do that?” And she said, ” Just call it a matter.” And again, you look back in hindsight, you think, should I have resisted harder?
James Comey: (01:50:36)
I just said, all right, this isn’t a hill worth dying on? And so I just said, okay, the press is going to completely ignore it and that’s what happened. When I said we have opened a matter, they all reported the FBI has an investigation open. And so that concerned me because that language tracked the way the campaign was talking about the FBI’s work and that’s concerning.
Sen. Langford: (01:51:00)
It gave the impression that the campaign was somehow using the same language as the FBI because you were handed the campaign language and told to be able to use the campaign- [crosstalk 00:12:07].
James Comey: (01:51:07)
And again, I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but it gave the impression that the Attorney General was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way political campaign was describing the same activity, which was inaccurate. We had a criminal investigation open. As I said before, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We had an investigation open at the time and so that gave me a queasy feeling.
Sen. Langford: (01:51:28)
Senator Burr: (01:51:28)
Senator Manchin: (01:51:29)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Comey, I appreciate very much you being here. West Virginia is a very interested in this hearing that we’re having today. I’ve had over 600 requests for questions to ask you for my fellow West Virginians. And most of them have been asked and there’s quite a few of them were quite detailed that I’ll ask our classified hearing. I want to thank you first of all for coming and agreeing to be here, volunteering, but also volunteering to stay into the classified hearing. I don’t know if you had a chance to watch our hearing yesterday.
James Comey: (01:52:02)
I watched part of it, yes, sir.
Senator Manchin: (01:52:03)
And it was quite troubling. My colleagues here had some very pointed questions they wanted to answers to, they weren’t classified. They could have answered in this open setting. They refused to do so. So that even makes us much more appreciative of your cooperation. Sir, the seriousness of the Russian aggressions in our past elections and knowing that it will be ongoing as Senator King had alluded to. What’s your concerns there? I mean, what, what should American public understand? People said, well this is, why are we worried about this? Why makes it a big deal out of this Russian investigation? Can you tell me what your thoughts would be? And then the final thing is on this same topic, did the President ever show any concern or interest or curiosity about what the Russians were doing?
James Comey: (01:52:49)
Thank you, Senator. As I said earlier, I don’t remember any conversations with the President about the Russia election interference.
Senator Manchin: (01:52:56)
Did he ever ask you any questions concerning this?
James Comey: (01:52:58)
Well, there was an initial briefing of our findings and I think there was conversation there. I don’t remember it exactly where he asks questions about what we had found and what our sources were and what our confidence level was, but after that I don’t remember anything. The reason this is such a big deal, we have this big, messy, wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time, but nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for, except other Americans. And that’s wonderful and often painful, but we’re talking about a foreign government that using technical intrusion, lots of other methods tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act.
James Comey: (01:53:37)
That is a big deal and people need to recognize it. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. They’re coming after America, which I hope we all love equally. They want to undermine our credibility in the face of the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them and so they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible. That’s what this is about and they will be back because we remain, as difficult as we can be with each other, we remain that shining city on the hill and they don’t like it.
Senator Manchin: (01:54:06)
This is extremely important, is extremely dangerous, what we’re dealing with and it’s needed, is what you’re saying.
James Comey: (01:54:12)
Senator Manchin: (01:54:14)
Do you believe there were any tapes or recordings of your conversations with the President?
James Comey: (01:54:19)
It never occurred to me until the President’s tweet, I’m not being facetious. I hope there are, and I’ll consent to the release of-
Senator Manchin: (01:54:24)
Both of you are in the same findings here. You both hope there’s tapes and recordings.
James Comey: (01:54:30)
Well, all I can do is hope. The President surely knows whether he taped me and if he did, my feelings aren’t hurt, release the entire … release all the tapes, I’m good with it.
Senator Manchin: (01:54:40)
Got you, sir, do you believe that Robert Mueller, our new special investigator on Russia will be thorough and complete without political intervention? And would you be confident on these findings and recommendations?
James Comey: (01:54:54)
Yes. Bob Mueller is one of the finest people and public servants this country has ever produced. He will do it well. He is a dogged tough person and you can have high confidence that when it’s done, he’s turned over all the rocks.
Senator Manchin: (01:55:07)
You’ve been asked a wide variety of questions today and then we’re going to be hearing more, I’m sure in our classified hearing. Something I’ll often ask folks when they come here, what details of this saga would be, should we be focusing on and what would you recommend us do differently?
James Comey: (01:55:25)
Senator Manchin: (01:55:26)
Or to adjust our perspective on this.
James Comey: (01:55:29)
I don’t know. One of the reasons that I’m pleased to be here is I think this committee has shown the American people, although we have two parties and we disagree about important things, we can work together when involves the core interest of the country. So I would hope you’ll just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s good in and of itself, but it’s also a model, especially for kids that we are a functioning adult democracy.
Senator Manchin: (01:55:50)
And you also mentioned, you had, I think, what, six meetings, three times in person, six on the phone, nine times in conversation with the President, did he ever at that time allude that you are not performing adequately? Ever indicate that at all?
James Comey: (01:56:06)
Oh no, in fact the contrary quite often. Yeah, he called me one day, I was about to get on a helicopter. The head of the DEA was waiting in the helicopter for me and he just called to check in and tell me I was doing an awesome job and wanted to see how I was doing. I said, “I’m doing fine sir.” And then I finished the call and got on the helicopter.
Senator Manchin: (01:56:25)
Mr. Comey, do you believe you would have been fired if Hillary Clinton had become President?
James Comey: (01:56:30)
That’s a great question. I don’t know. Yeah, I don’t know.
Senator Manchin: (01:56:37)
Do you have any thoughts about it?
James Comey: (01:56:38)
I might’ve been, I don’t know. Look, I’ve said before, that was an extraordinarily difficult and painful time. I think I did what had to do. I knew it was going to be very bad for me personally and the consequences of that might’ve been if Hillary Clinton was elected I might’ve been terminated. I don’t know. I really don’t.
Senator Manchin: (01:56:59)
My final question will be, after February 14th meeting in the Oval Office, you mentioned that you asked Attorney General Sessions to ensure that you were never left alone with the President. Did you ever consider why Attorney General Sessions was not asked to stay in the room?
James Comey: (01:57:17)
Oh, sure. I did and have and in that moment-
Senator Manchin: (01:57:22)
You ever talk to him about it?
James Comey: (01:57:23)
Senator Manchin: (01:57:24)
You never had discussion with Jeff Sessions on this?
James Comey: (01:57:26)
No, not at all.
Senator Manchin: (01:57:27)
On any of your meetings?
James Comey: (01:57:31)
Senator Manchin: (01:57:33)
Did he inquire, did he show any inquiry whatsoever, what was that meeting about?
James Comey: (01:57:37)
No. You’re right. I did say to him, I’d forgotten this. When I talked to him and said, you have to be between me and the President and that’s incredibly important and I forget my exact words. I passed along the President’s message about the importance of aggressively pursuing leaks of classified information, which is a goal I share and I pass that along to the Attorney General. I think it was the next morning in a meeting but I did not tell him about the Flynn part.
Senator Manchin: (01:58:06)
Do you believe this will rise to the obstruction of justice?
James Comey: (01:58:09)
I don’t know, that’s Bob Mueller’s job to sort that out.
Senator Manchin: (01:58:13)
Thank you, sir. Mr. Chairman.
Senator Burr: (01:58:23)
Senator Cotton: (01:58:25)
Mr. Comey, you encouraged the President to release the tapes. Will you encourage the Department of Justice or your friend at Columbia or Mr. Mueller to release your memos?
James Comey: (01:58:34)
Senator Cotton: (01:58:36)
You said that you did not record your conversations with President Obama or President Bush and memos. Did you do so with Attorney General Sessions or any other senior member of the Trump Department of Justice?
James Comey: (01:58:49)
Senator Cotton: (01:58:50)
James Comey: (01:58:50)
I think … I’m sorry?
Senator Cotton: (01:58:52)
Did you record conversations and memos with Attorney General Lynch or any other senior member of the Obama Department of Justice?
James Comey: (01:58:59)
No, not that I recall.
Senator Cotton: (01:59:01)
In your statement, for the record, you cite nine private conversation with the President, three meetings and two phone calls. There were four phone calls that are not discussed in your statement for the record, what happened in those phone calls?
James Comey: (01:59:12)
The President called me, I believe shortly before he was inaugurated, as a follow up to our conversation, private conversation on January the sixth. He just wanted to reiterate his rejection of the allegation and talk about he’d thought about it more and why he thought it wasn’t true. The verified, unverified and salacious parts and and during that call he asked me again, hope you’re going to stay, you’re doing a great job. And I told him that I intended to. There was another phone call that I mentioned I think was, could have the date wrong, March the first where he called just to check in with me as I was about to get on the helicopter. There was a secure call we had about an an operational matter that was not related to any of this, about something the FBI was working on. He wanted to make sure that I understood how important he thought it was. Totally appropriate call.
James Comey: (02:00:07)
And then the fourth call I’m probably forgetting, I may have meant the call when he called invite me to dinner. I’ll think about it as I’m answering other questions, but I think I got that right.
Senator Cotton: (02:00:22)
Let’s turn our attention to the underlying activity at issue here. Russia is hacking into those emails and releasing them and the allegations of collusion. Do you believe Donald Trump colluded with Russia?
James Comey: (02:00:35)
It’s a question I don’t think I should answer in an open setting. As I said that when I left, we did not have an investigation focused on President Trump. But that’s a question that’ll be answered by the investigation, I think.
Senator Cotton: (02:00:50)
Let me turn to a couple of statements by one of my colleagues, Senator Feinstein. She was the ranking member on this committee until January, which means she had access to information that only she and Chairman Burr did. She’s now the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, meaning she has access to the FBI that most of us don’t. On May 3rd on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer’s show, she was asked, “Do you believe, do you have evidence that there was in fact collusion between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign?” She answered, “Not at this time.” On May 18th at the same show, Mr. Blitzer said, “The last time we spoke, Senator, I asked if he had actually seen any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. And you said to me, and I’m quoting you now, you said not at this time. Has anything changed since we last spoke?” Senator Feinstein said, “Well, no, no it hasn’t.” Do you have any reason to doubt those statements?
James Comey: (02:01:35)
I don’t doubt the Senator Feinstein was saying what she understood. I just don’t want to go down that path. First of all, because I’m not in the government anymore and answering in the negative, I just worry leads me deeper and deeper into talking about the investigation in an open setting. I’m always trying to be fair, I don’t will be unfair to President Trump. I’m not trying to suggest by my answer something nefarious, but I don’t want to get into the business of saying not as to this person, not as to that person.
Senator Cotton: (02:02:00)
On February 14th, the New York Times published a story, the headline of which was, “Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence.” You were asked earlier if that was an inaccurate story and you said, in the main, would it be fair to characterize that story as almost entirely wrong?
James Comey: (02:02:18)
Senator Cotton: (02:02:21)
Did you have, at the time that story was published, any indication of any contact between Trump people and Russians, intelligence officers, other government officials or close associates of the Russian government?
James Comey: (02:02:33)
That’s one I can’t answer sitting here.
Senator Cotton: (02:02:37)
We can discuss that in a classified setting then. I want to turn a attention now to Mr. Flynn and the allegations of his underlying conduct. To be specific, his alleged interactions with the Russian ambassador on the telephone and then what he said to senior Trump administration officials and Department of Justice officials. I understand there are other issues with Mr. Flynn related to his receipt of foreign monies or disclosure of potential advocacy activity on behalf of foreign governments. Those are serious and credible allegations I’m sure will be pursued. But I want to speak specifically about his interactions with the Russian ambassador. There was a story on January 23rd in the Washington Post that says, entitled, “FBI reviewed Flynn’s calls with Russian ambassador but found nothing elicit.” Is the story accurate?
James Comey: (02:03:24)
I don’t want to comment on that Senator, because I’m pretty sure the Bureau has not confirmed any interception of communications and so I don’t want to talk about that in an open setting.
Senator Cotton: (02:03:36)
Would it be improper for an incoming National Security Advisor to have a conversation with a foreign ambassador?
James Comey: (02:03:44)
In my experience, no.
Senator Cotton: (02:03:46)
But you can’t confirm or deny that the conversation happened and we would need to know the contents of that conversation and know if it was in fact improper.
James Comey: (02:03:54)
I don’t think I can talk about that in open setting. And again, I’ve been out of government now a month, so I also don’t want to talk about things when it’s now somebody else’s responsibility. But maybe in the classified setting we can talk more about that.
Senator Cotton: (02:04:06)
You stated earlier that there wasn’t an open investigation of Mr. Flynn in the FBI. Did you or any FBI agent ever sense that Mr. Flynn attempted to deceive you or made false statements to an FBI agent?
James Comey: (02:04:26)
I don’t want to go too far. That was the subject of the criminal inquiry.
Senator Cotton: (02:04:33)
Did you ever come close to closing investigation on Mr. Flynn?
James Comey: (02:04:36)
I don’t think I can talk about that in an open setting either.
Senator Cotton: (02:04:41)
I can discuss these more in a closed setting then. Mr. Comey in 2004 you were a part of a well-publicized event about a intelligence program that had been recertified several times and you were acting Attorney General when Attorney General John Ashcroft was incapacitated due to illness. There was a dramatic showdown at the hospital here. The next day, you said that you wrote a letter of resignation, signed it before you went to meet with President Bush to explain why you refuse to certify it. Is that accurate?
James Comey: (02:05:15)
Yes, I think so.
Senator Cotton: (02:05:17)
At any time in the three and a half months, you were the FBI director during the Trump administration, did you ever write and sign the letter of recommendation and leave it on your desk?
James Comey: (02:05:25)
Letter of resignation, no, sir.
Senator Cotton: (02:05:26)
Letter of resignation.
James Comey: (02:05:27)
Senator Cotton: (02:05:29)
So despite all of the things that you’ve testified to here today, you didn’t feel this rose to the level of an honest but serious difference of legal opinion between accomplished and skilled lawyers in that 2004 episode?
James Comey: (02:05:46)
I wouldn’t characterize the circumstances in 2004 that way. But to answer, no, I didn’t find … encounter any circumstance that led me to intend to resign, consider to resign, no sir.
Senator Cotton: (02:05:57)
Senator Burr: (02:05:58)
Senator Harris: (02:05:58)
Director Comey, I want to thank you. You are now a private citizen and you are enduring a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing and each of us get seven minutes instead of five, as yesterday to ask you questions, so thank you.
James Comey: (02:06:13)
I’m between opportunities now [crosstalk 02:06:16]
Senator Harris: (02:06:17)
I’m sure you’ll have future opportunities. You know, you and I are both former prosecutors, not going to require you to answer. I just want to make a statement that in experience of prosecuting cases, when a robber held a gun to somebody’s head and said, “I hope you will give me your wallet.” The word hope was not the most operative word at that moment but you don’t have to respond to that point. I have a series of questions to ask you and they’re going to start with, are you aware of any meetings between the Trump administration officials and Russian officials during the campaign that have not been acknowledged by those officials in the White House?
James Comey: (02:07:02)
Even if I remember clearly that’s not a question I can answer in an open setting.
Senator Harris: (02:07:05)
Are you aware of any efforts by Trump campaign officials or associates of the campaign to hide their communications with Russian officials through encrypted communications or other means?
James Comey: (02:07:17)
I have to give you the same answer, Senator.
Senator Harris: (02:07:18)
Sure. In the course of the FBI’s investigation, did you ever come across anything that suggested that communications, records, documents or other evidence had been destroyed?
James Comey: (02:07:28)
I think I got to give you the same
I think I got to give you the same answer because it would touch on investigative matters
Senator Harris: (02:07:38)
And are you aware of any efforts or potential efforts to conceal communications between campaign officials and Russian officials?
James Comey: (02:07:44)
I think I’ve got to give you the same answer, Senator.
Senator Harris: (02:07:46)
Thank you. As a former Attorney General, I have a series of questions about your connection with the Attorney General during the course of your tenure as director. What is your understanding of the parameters of General Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation?
James Comey: (02:08:05)
I think it’s described in a written release or statement from DOJ, which I don’t remember sitting here, but the gist was he would be recused from all matters relating to Russia and the campaign or activities of Russia and the ’16 election, I think, something like that.
Senator Harris: (02:08:22)
So is your knowledge of the extent of his recusal based on the public statements he’s made or the-
James Comey: (02:08:26)
Senator Harris: (02:08:27)
Okay. So was there any kind of memorandum issued from the Attorney General or the Department of Justice to the FBI outlining the parameters of his recusal?
James Comey: (02:08:36)
Not that I’m aware of.
Senator Harris: (02:08:38)
And do you know if he reviewed any FBI or DOJ documents pertaining to the investigation before he was recused?
James Comey: (02:08:44)
I don’t, I don’t know.
Senator Harris: (02:08:46)
And after he was recused, I’m assuming it’s the same answer.
James Comey: (02:08:48)
Senator Harris: (02:08:50)
And aside from any notice or memorandum that was not sent or was, what mechanism our processes were in place to ensure that the attorney general would not have any connection with the investigation to your knowledge?
James Comey: (02:09:02)
I don’t know for sure. I know that he had consulted with career ethics officials that know how to run a recusal at DOJ, but I don’t know what mechanism they set up.
Senator Harris: (02:09:12)
And the Attorney General recused himself from the investigation. But do you believe it was appropriate for him to be involved in the firing of the chief investigator of that case, of that Russia interference?
James Comey: (02:09:24)
That’s something I can’t answer sitting here, it’s a reasonable question, but that would depend on a lot of things I don’t know. Like what did he know? What was he told? Did he realize that the President was doing it because of the Russia investigation? Things like that, I just don’t know the answer.
Senator Harris: (02:09:37)
You’ve mentioned in your written testimony in here that the President essentially asked you for a loyalty pledge. Are you aware of him making the same request of any other members of the cabinet?
James Comey: (02:09:47)
I am not.
Senator Harris: (02:09:48)
Do you know one way or another [crosstalk 02:09:49]
James Comey: (02:09:49)
I don’t know one way or another. I’ve never heard anything about it.
Senator Harris: (02:09:53)
And you mentioned that on, you had the conversation where he hoped that you would let the Flynn matter go on February 14th or thereabouts. It’s my understanding that Mr. Sessions was recused from any involvement in the investigation about a full two weeks later. To your knowledge was the Attorney General, did he have access to information about the investigation in those interim two weeks?
James Comey: (02:10:23)
I don’t. In theory, sure because he’s the Attorney General. I don’t know whether he had any contact with any materials related to that.
Senator Harris: (02:10:30)
To your knowledge, was there any directive that he should not have any contact with any information about the Russian investigation between the February 14th date and the day he was ultimately recused or recused himself on March 2nd?
James Comey: (02:10:43)
Not to my knowledge. I don’t know one way or another.
Senator Harris: (02:10:45)
And did you speak to the attorney general about the Russia investigation before his recusal?
James Comey: (02:10:49)
I don’t think so, no.
Senator Harris: (02:10:52)
Do you know if anyone in the department, in the FBI, forwarded any documents or information or memos of any sort to the attention of the Attorney General Before his recusal?
James Comey: (02:11:04)
I don’t know of any remember any sitting here. It’s possible, but I don’t remember any.
Senator Harris: (02:11:10)
Do you know if the Attorney General was involved, in fact involved, in any aspect of the Russia investigation after his recusal on the 2nd of March?
James Comey: (02:11:20)
I don’t. I would assume not, but I don’t … let me say this way. I don’t know of any information that would lead me to believe he did something to touch the Russia investigation after the recusal.
Senator Harris: (02:11:31)
In your written testimony, you indicate that you … after you were left alone with the President, you mentioned it was inappropriate and should never happen again to the Attorney General. And apparently he did not reply and you write that he did not reply. What did he do, if anything? Did he just look at you? Was there a pause for a moment? What happened?
James Comey: (02:11:56)
I don’t remember real clearly. I have a recollection of him just kind of looking at me and there’s a danger here, I’m projecting onto him. So this may be a faulty memory, but I kind of got-
James Comey: (02:12:03)
There’s a danger here I’m projecting onto him, so this may be a faulty memory, but I kind of got, his body language gave me the sense like, what am I going to do?
Senator Harris: (02:12:08)
Did he shrug?
James Comey: (02:12:11)
I don’t remember clearly. I think the reason I have that impression is I have some recollection of almost imperceptible, like what am I going to do? But I don’t have a clear recollection of that. He didn’t say anything.
Senator Harris: (02:12:24)
And on that same February 14th meeting, you said you understood the president to be requesting that you dropped the investigation. After that meeting however, you received two calls from the president, March 30th and April 11th, where the president talked about a cloud over his presidency. Has anything you’ve learned in the months since your February 14th meeting changed your understanding of the president’s request? I guess it would be what he has said in public documents or public interviews.
James Comey: (02:12:50)
Senator Harris: (02:12:50)
Okay. And is there anything about this investigation that you believe is in any way biased or is not being informed by a process of seeking the truth?
James Comey: (02:13:06)
No. The appointment of a special counsel should offer great, especially given who that person is, great comfort to Americans, no matter what your political affiliation is, that this’ll be done independently, competently and honestly.
Senator Harris: (02:13:20)
And do you believe that he should have full authority, Mr. Mueller, to be able to pursue that investigation?
James Comey: (02:13:26)
Yes. And knowing him well over the years, if there’s something that he thinks he needs, he will speak up about it.
Senator Harris: (02:13:34)
Do you believe he should have full independence?
James Comey: (02:13:35)
Oh, yeah. And he wouldn’t be part of it if he wasn’t going to get full independence.
Senator Harris: (02:13:39)
Richard Burr: (02:13:40)
John Cornyn: (02:13:42)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr Comey, I’ll repeat what I’ve said at previous hearings that I believe you’re a good and decent man who’s been dealt a very difficult hand starting back with the Clinton email investigation, and I appreciate your willingness to appear here today voluntarily and answer our questions and cooperate with our investigation. As a general matter, if an FBI agent has reason to believe that a crime has been committed, do they have a duty to report it?
James Comey: (02:14:17)
That’s a good question. I don’t know that there’s a legal duty to report it. They certainly have a cultural ethical duty to report it.
John Cornyn: (02:14:25)
You’re unsure whether they would have a legal duty?
James Comey: (02:14:28)
Yeah, it’s a good question I’ve not thought of before. I don’t know where the legal … There’s a statute that prohibits misprision of a felony, knowing of a felony and taking steps to conceal it, but this is a different question. And so look, let me be clear. I would expect any FBI agent who has information about a crime being committed to report it.
John Cornyn: (02:14:45)
James Comey: (02:14:45)
But where you rest that obligation, I don’t know. It exists.
John Cornyn: (02:14:49)
And let me ask you as a general proposition, if you’re trying to make an investigation go away, is firing an FBI director a good way to make that happen? By that I mean-
James Comey: (02:15:05)
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I’m obviously hopelessly biased, given that I was the one fired.
John Cornyn: (02:15:11)
I understand it’s personal.
James Comey: (02:15:14)
No, given the nature of the FBI, I meant what I said. There’s no indispensable people in the world, including at the FBI, that there’s lots of bad things about me not being at the FBI. Most of them are for me, but the work’s going to go on as before.
John Cornyn: (02:15:26)
So nothing that’s happened that you’ve testified to here today has impeded the investigation of the FBI or Director Mueller’s commitment to get to the bottom of this from the standpoint of the FBI and the Department of Justice. Would you agree with that?
James Comey: (02:15:41)
Correct. Especially the appointment of former Director Mueller is a critical part of that equation.
John Cornyn: (02:15:46)
Let me take you back to the Clinton email investigation. I think you’ve been cast as a hero or a villain depending on whose political ox is being gored. At many different times during the course of the Clinton email investigation, even now perhaps, but you clearly were troubled by the conduct of the sitting attorney general, Loretta Lynch, when it came to the Clinton email investigation. You mentioned the characterization that you’d been asked except that this was a matter and not a criminal investigation, which you said it was. There was the matter of President Clinton’s meeting on the tarmac with the sitting attorney general at a time when his wife was subject to a criminal investigation. And you’ve suggested that perhaps there are other matters that you may be able to share with us later on in a classified setting. But it seems to me that you clearly believe that Loretta Lynch, the attorney general, had an appearance of a conflict of interest on the Clinton email investigation. Is that correct?
James Comey: (02:16:54)
I think that’s fair. I didn’t believe she could credibly decline that investigation, at least not without grievous damage to the Department of Justice and to the FBI.
John Cornyn: (02:17:04)
And under Department of Justice and FBI norms, wouldn’t it have been appropriate for the attorney general, or if she had recused herself, which she did not do, for the deputy attorney general to appoint a special counsel? That’s essentially what’s happened now with Director Mueller. Would that have been an appropriate step in the Clinton email investigation in your opinion?
James Comey: (02:17:25)
It’s certainly a possible step, yes sir.
John Cornyn: (02:17:27)
And were you aware that Ms. Lynch had been requested numerous times to appoint a special counsel and had refused?
James Comey: (02:17:35)
Yes. I think members of Congress had repeatedly asked. Yes sir.
John Cornyn: (02:17:40)
Yours truly did on multiple occasions. And that heightened your concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest with the Department of Justice, which caused you to make what you have described as an incredibly painful decision to basically take the matter up yourself and led to that July press conference.
James Comey: (02:18:04)
Yes sir. After former President Clinton met on the plane with the attorney general, I considered whether I should call for the appointment of a special counsel and decided that that would be an unfair thing to do because I knew there was no case there. We had investigated it very, very thoroughly. I know this is a subject of passionate disagreement, but I knew there was no case there and calling for the appointment of special counsel would be brutally unfair because it would send the message, aha, there’s something here. That was my judgment. Again, lots of people have different views of it, but that’s how I thought about it.
John Cornyn: (02:18:36)
Well, if a special counsel had been appointed, they could have made that determination that there was nothing there and declined to pursue it, right?
James Comey: (02:18:46)
Sure, but it would have been many months later or a year later.
John Cornyn: (02:18:51)
Let me just ask you to … Given the experience of the Clinton email investigation and what happened there, do you think it’s unreasonable for anyone, any president, who has been assured on multiple occasions that he’s not the subject of an FBI investigation, do you think it’s unreasonable for them to want the FBI director to publicly announce that so that this cloud over his administration would be removed?
James Comey: (02:19:29)
I think that’s a reasonable point of view. The concern would be obviously because that boomerang comes back, it’s going to be a very big deal because there will be a duty to correct.
John Cornyn: (02:19:38)
Well, we saw that in the Clinton email investigation, of course.
James Comey: (02:19:41)
Yes, I recall that.
John Cornyn: (02:19:43)
I know you do. So let me ask you finally, in the minute we have left, there was this conversation back and forth about loyalty and I think we all appreciate the fact that an FBI director is a unique public official in the sense that he’s a political appointee in one sense, but he has a duty of independence to pursue the law pursuant to the constitutional laws of the United States. And so when the president asked you about loyalty, you got in this back and forth about, well, I’ll pledge you my honesty. And then it looks like from what I’ve read, you agreed upon honest loyalty, or something like that. Is that the characterization?
James Comey: (02:20:25)
John Cornyn: (02:20:27)
Thank you very much.
James Comey: (02:20:28)
Thank you, sir.
Richard Burr: (02:20:32)
Jack Reed: (02:20:32)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Director Comey. There have been press reports that the president, in addition to asking you to drop the Flynn investigation and has asked other senior intelligence officials to take steps which would tend to undermine the investigation to Russia. There’s been reports that he’s asked DNI Coats and Admiral Rogers to make public statements exonerating him or taking the pressure off him, and also reports about Admiral Rogers and Director Pompeo to intervene and reach out to the FBI and ask them. Are you aware of any of these … or do you have any information with respect to any of these allegations?
James Comey: (02:21:23)
I don’t. I’m aware of the public reporting, but I had no contact, no conversation with any of those leaders about that subject.
Jack Reed: (02:21:30)
Thank you. You have testified that you interpret the discussion with the president about Flynn as a direction to stop the investigation. Is that correct?
James Comey: (02:21:43)
Jack Reed: (02:21:44)
You have testified that the president asked you to lift the cloud by essentially making public statements exonerating him and perhaps others. You refused, correct?
James Comey: (02:21:57)
I didn’t do it. I didn’t refuse the president. I told them we would see what we could do and then the second time he called, I told him in substance that’s something your lawyer will have to take up with the Justice Department.
Jack Reed: (02:22:08)
And part of the underlying logic was that we’ve discussed many times throughout this morning is the duty to correct. That is one of, a theoretical issue, but also a very practical issue. Was there your feeling that the direction of the investigation could in fact include the president?
James Comey: (02:22:32)
Well, in theory. I mean as I explained, the concern of one of my senior leader colleagues was if you’re looking at potential coordination between the campaign and Russia, the person at the head of the campaign is the candidate. So logically, this person argued, the candidate’s knowledge, understanding will logically become a part of your inquiry if it proceeds. And so I understood that argument. My view was that what I said to the president was accurate and fair and fair to him. I resisted the idea of publicly saying it, although if the Justice Department had wanted to, I would have done it, because of the duty to correct and the slippery slope problem.
Jack Reed: (02:23:16)
And again, also you’ve testified that the president asked you repeatedly to be loyal to him and you responded you would be honestly loyal, which is I think your way of saying, I’ll be honest and I’ll be the head of the FBI and independent. Is that fair?
James Comey: (02:23:32)
Correct. I tried honest first. And also, I mean you see it in my testimony. I also tried to explain to him why it’s in his interest and every president’s interest for the FBI to be apart in a way because its credibility is important to a president and to the country. And so I tried to hold the line, hold the line. It got very awkward. And I then said, “You’ll always have honesty from me.” He said, “Honest loyalty?” And then I exceeded to that as a way to end this awkwardness.
Jack Reed: (02:24:01)
At the culmination of all of these events, you’re summarily fired without any explanation or anything else.
James Comey: (02:24:07)
Well, there was an explanation. I just don’t buy it.
Jack Reed: (02:24:09)
Well, yes. So you’re fired. So, do you believe that you were fired because you refused to take the president’s direction? Is that the ultimate reason?
James Comey: (02:24:21)
I don’t know for sure. I know I was fired. Again, I take the president’s words. I know I was fired because of something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was in some way putting pressure on him, in some way irritating him, and he decided to fire me because of that. I can’t go farther than that.
Jack Reed: (02:24:38)
Now, the Russian investigation, as you’ve pointed out, and as all my colleagues have reflect, is one of the most serious hostile acts against this country in our history. Undermining the very core of our democracy and our elections is not a discrete event. It will likely occur. It’s probably being prepared now for ’18 and ’20 and beyond. And yet the President of United States fires you because, in your own words, some relation to this investigation. And then he shows up in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign minister, first after classifying you as crazy and a real nut job, which I think you’ve effectively disproved this morning. He said, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Your conclusion would be that the president, I would think, is downplaying the seriousness of this threat. In fact took specific steps to stop a thorough investigation of the Russian influence. And also from what you’ve said or what was said this morning doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in these hostile threats by the Russians. Is that fair?
James Comey: (02:25:56)
I don’t know that I can agree to that level of detail. There’s no doubt that it’s a fair judgment. It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted. That is a very big deal and not just because it involves me. The nature of the FBI and the nature of its work requires that it not be the subject of political consideration. And then on top of that, you have the Russia investigation itself is vital because of the threat, and I know I should’ve said this earlier, but it’s obvious. If any Americans were part of helping the Russians do that to us, that is a very big deal and I’m confident that if that is the case, Director Mueller will find that evidence.
Jack Reed: (02:26:47)
Finally, the president tweeted that James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversation where he starts leaking to the press. Was that a rather unsettle attempt to intimidate you from testifying and intimidate anyone else who seriously crosses his path of not doing it?
James Comey: (02:27:11)
I’m not going to sit here and try and interpret the president’s tweets. To me its major impact was, as I said, it occurred to me in the middle of the night, holy cow, there might be tapes. And if there are tapes, it’s not just my word against his on the direction to get rid of the Flynn investigation.
Jack Reed: (02:27:28)
Thank you very much.
Richard Burr: (02:27:30)
John McCain: (02:27:35)
In the case of Hillary Clinton, you made the statement that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to bring a suit against her, although it had been very careless in their behavior, but you did reach a conclusion in that case that it was not necessary to further pursue her. Yet at the same time, in the case, Mr. Comey, You said that there was not enough information to make a conclusion. Tell me the difference between your conclusion as far as former Secretary Clinton is concerned and Mr. Trump.
James Comey: (02:28:31)
The Clinton investigation was a completed investigation that the FBI had been deeply involved in, and so I had opportunity to understand all the facts and apply those facts against the law as I understood them. This investigation was underway, still going when I was fired, so it’s nowhere near in the same place. At least it wasn’t when I was-
John McCain: (02:28:52)
But it’s still ongoing?
James Comey: (02:28:53)
Correct. So far as I know. It was when I left.
John McCain: (02:28:57)
That investigation was going on. This investigation is going on. You reached separate conclusions?
James Comey: (02:29:03)
No. That one was done.
John McCain: (02:29:04)
That investigation of any involvement of Secretary Clinton or any of her associates is completed.
James Comey: (02:29:14)
Yes. As of July the 5th, the FBI completed its investigative work and that’s what I was announcing, what we had done and what we had found.
John McCain: (02:29:25)
Well, at least in the minds of this member, there’s a whole lot of questions remaining about what went on, particularly considering the fact that as you mentioned, it’s a quote big deal as to what went on during the campaign. So, I’m glad you concluded that part of the investigation, but I think that the American people have a whole lot of questions out there, particularly since you just emphasized the role that Russia played. And obviously she was a candidate for president at the time, so she was clearly involved in this whole situation where, fake news as you just described it, big deal took place. You’re going to have to help me out here. In other words, we’re complete the investigation of anything that former Secretary Clinton had to do with the campaign is over and we don’t have to worry about it anymore?
James Comey: (02:30:26)
With respect to Secretary … I’m a little confused, Senator. With respect to Secretary Clinton, we investigated, criminal investigation in connection with her use of a personal email server.
John McCain: (02:30:36)
James Comey: (02:30:36)
And that’s the investigation I announced the conclusion of on July 5th.
John McCain: (02:30:39)
So, at the same time you made the announcement there would be no charges brought against then Secretary Clinton for any activities involved in the Russia involvement in our engagement, in our election. I don’t quite understand how you could be done with that, but not completely done with the whole investigation of their attempt to affect the outcome of our election.
James Comey: (02:31:07)
No, I’m sorry. At least when I left, when I was fired on May the 9th, there was still an open active investigation to understand the Russian efforts and whether any Americans worked with them.
John McCain: (02:31:17)
But you reached the conclusion that there was no reason to bring charges against Secretary Clinton. So you reached a conclusion in the case of, Mr. Comey, you, the president, Comey … I mean-
James Comey: (02:31:31)
John McCain: (02:31:33)
… case of President Trump, you have an ongoing investigation. So, you got one candidate who you’re done with and another candidate that you have a long way to go. Is that correct?
James Comey: (02:31:47)
I don’t know how far the FBI has to go, but yes, the Clinton email investigation was completed. The investigation of Russia’s efforts in connection with the election and whether there was any coordination, and if so with whom, between Russia and the campaign was ongoing when I left.
John McCain: (02:32:02)
You just made it clear in what you said, this is a quote big deal unquote. I think it’s hard to reconcile. In one case, you reached complete conclusion and the other side you have not. And you’ve in fact obviously there’s a lot more there as we know, as you called it a quote big deal. She’s one of the candidates, but in her case you say there will be no charges and in the case of President Trump, the investigation continues. What has been brought out in this hearing is more and more emphasis on the Russian engagement and involvement in this campaign. How serious do you think this was?
James Comey: (02:32:50)
Very serious, but I want to say something to be clear. We have not announced and there was no predication to announce an investigation of whether the Russians may have coordinated with Secretary Clinton’s campaign. Secretary Clinton’s campaign-
John McCain: (02:33:04)
No. They may not have been involved with her campaign. They weren’t involved with the entire presidential campaign obviously.
James Comey: (02:33:10)
Of course. Yes, sir. And that is an investigation that began last summer, and so far as I’m aware it continues.
John McCain: (02:33:18)
So, both President Trump and former candidate Clinton are both involved in the investigation, yet one of them, you said there’s going to be no charges and the other one the investigation continues. Well, I think there’s a double standard there to tell you the truth. Then when the president said to you, you talked about the April 11th phone call, and he said quote, “Because I’ve been very loyal to you, very loyal. We had that thing, you know.” Did that arouse your curiosity, as what quote that thing was?
James Comey: (02:33:51)
John McCain: (02:33:52)
Why didn’t you ask him?
James Comey: (02:33:56)
It didn’t seem to me to be important for the conversation we were having to understand it. I took it to be some, an effort to communicate to me that there is a relationship between us where I’ve been good to you, you should be good to me.
John McCain: (02:34:12)
Yeah, but I think it would intensely arouse my curiosity if the President of the United States said, “We had that thing, you know.” I’d like to know what the hell that thing is, particularly if I’m the director of the FBI.
James Comey: (02:34:24)
Yeah. I get that Senator. Honestly, I’ll tell you what, this is speculation, but what I concluded at the time is in his memory, he was searching back to our encounter at the dinner and was preparing himself to say, “I offered loyalty to you, you promised loyalty to me.” And all of a sudden his memory showed him that did not happen. And I think he pulled up short. That’s just a guess. But I’ve a lot of conversations with humans over the years.
John McCain: (02:34:47)
I think I would have had some curiosity if it had been about me to be honest with you. So, are you aware anything that would believe you to believe that the president or the members of the administration or members of the campaign could potentially be used to coerce or blackmail the administration?
James Comey: (02:35:08)
That’s a subject for investigations. Not something I can comment on sitting here.
John McCain: (02:35:16)
But you’ve reached that conclusion as far as Secretary Clinton was concerned, but you’re not reaching a conclusion as far as this administration is concerned. Are you aware of anything that would lead you to believe that information exists that could coerce members of the administration or blackmail the administration?
James Comey: (02:35:41)
That’s not a question I can answer, Senator.
Richard Burr: (02:35:43)
The Senator’s time has expired.
John McCain: (02:35:47)
Richard Burr: (02:35:50)
All time’s expired for the hearing. Can I say for members, we’ll reconvene promptly at 1:00 PM in the hearing room. We have a vote scheduled for 1:45. I would suggest that all members promptly be there at one o’clock. We have about three minutes. I’d like to have order. Photographers, return to where you were please. This hearing’s not adjourned yet. Hear that? Or we’ll remove you. To members, we have about three minutes of updates that we would love to cover as soon as we get into the closed session before we have an opportunity to spend some time with Director Comey. Based on our agreement, it would be my intention is to adjourn that closed hearing between 2:00 and 2:10 so that members can go vote. And I would urge you to eat at that time.
Richard Burr: (02:36:47)
Jim, several of us on this committee have had the opportunity to work with you since you walked in the door. 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. I want to say to your workforce that we’re grateful to them with the level of cooperation that they have shown us, with the trust we’ve built between both organizations, the Congress and the Bureau. We couldn’t do our job if it wasn’t for their willingness to share candidly with us the work that we need to see. This hearing’s the ninth public hearing this committee has had this year. That is twice the historical year-long average of this committee.
Richard Burr: (02:37:45)
I think the vice chairman and my’s biggest challenge when this investigation has concluded is to return our hearings to the secrecy of a closed hearing, to encourage our members not to freely talk about intelligence matters publicly, and to respect the fact that we have a huge job, and that’s to represent the entire body of the United States Senate and the American people to make sure that we work with the intelligence community to provide you the tools to keep America safe, and that you do it within the legal limit or those limits that are set by the executive branch. We could not do it if it wasn’t for a trusted partnership that you have been able to lead and others before you.
Richard Burr: (02:38:38)
So, as we depart from this, this is a pivotal hearing in our investigation, we’re grateful to you for the professionalism you’ve shown and your willingness. I will turn to the vice chairman.
Mr. Warner: (02:38:50)
I simply want to echo, one again, the thanks for your appearance. And there clearly still remain a number of questions. And the one thing I want to commit to you, and more importantly, I think Chairman, I want to commit to all those who are still potentially watching and following. There’s still a lot of unanswered question and we’re going to get to the bottom of this. We’re going to get the facts out. The American people deserve to know. There’s the questions around implications of Trump officials and the Russians, but there’s also the macro issue of what the Russians did and continue to do. And I think it is very important that all Americans realize that threat is real. It is continuous. It is not just towards our nation. It is all towards all Western democracies and we have to come to a solution set. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Richard Burr: (02:39:38)
Director Comey, thank you once again on behalf of the committee. This hearing’s adjourned.