Comey: I Leaked My Memos in Hopes of a Special Counsel
Days after the president suggested he has secret recordings of Oval Office conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, the former FBI director said under oath that he woke up in the middle of the night and decided to orchestrate a leak about his memos on meetings with the president.
"I asked a friend of mine to share the content of a memo with the reporter, I 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," Comey said.
Comey said he handed over the memos to a friend because he had press staked out at his driveway and if he walked outside his house and gave it to the press, it would have been like "feeding seagulls at the beach."
The friend is Columbia Law Professor Dan Richman, a close personal friend of Comey, friends of Richman confirm to NBC News.
— Jane C. Timm
Burr, Warner Give Statements After Comey's Public Testimony
After the public portion of Comey's testimony came to an end, Senators Burr and Warner appeared before the press to give brief statements.
Burr highlighted that the testimony was an important part of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation in Russia's election interference.
"This is nowhere near the end of our investigation," Burr said, adding that he hopes to work with Special Counsel Robert Mueller "to work out clear pathways for both investigations – his and ours – to continue."
Warner said he was proud of how all the members of the committee approached the questioning.
"Even if we may have disagreements on where all these questions may lead, the one message that I hope all Americans will take home — is recognizing how signification the Russian interference in our electoral process was. How it goes to the core of our democracy," Warner said.
— Liz Johnstone
How the RNC Attempted to Combat Comey
The White House tapped the Republican National Committee to handle the rapid response to Comey's testimony Thursday, a source familiar with the White House's planning told NBC News yesterday.
The RNC's communications department was poised and ready, firing off emails with talking points while Comey's testimony played out live.
Shortly after the Senate hearing began, the RNC sent an email emphasizing that Comey said the president didn’t direct him to halt the FBI’s Russia investigation. His answer came in response to early questions from Sen. Richard Burr.
The RNC then quickly fired off another release with the title “Attorney General Lynch Attempted To Influence Clinton Investigation.” That missive referred to Comey’s testimony, again in response to Burr’s questions, in which he said Lynch asked him not to call his investigation into Clinton’s emails an “investigation,” but to refer to it as a “matter.”
That “confused me and concerned me,” Comey said.
The RNC also drilled down on Sen. Marco Rubio’s question about why Comey didn’t tell authorities sooner of his concerns about the president’s questions.
An email from the RNC had this response: “Well… Comey finally answered: ‘I don’t know.’”
Just before Comey finished testifying publicly, the RNC declared in an email subject line "James Politi-Comey," and pointed out that he said he'd leaked his memos to a friend.
— Joy Y. Wang
Anticlimactic (and Confusing) End to Comey's Public Questioning
Sen. John McCain spent a long and confusing seven minutes trying to suggest the FBI has a double standard because they weren't investigating Hillary Clinton while examining Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
Trump campaign aides had repeated contact with Russian officials, and are at the center of the investigation; there is no evidence or even reports Clinton's aides or allies did the same.
With that, the public questioning concluded as senators head into a classified briefing with Comey, where they'll surely dig into some of the issues they couldn't talk about in public.
— Jane C. Timm
Would Comey Have Been Fired if Clinton Were President?
"Do you believe you would have been fired if Hillary Clinton had become president?" Sen. Joe Manchin asked.
The pointed question led Comey to pause and consider the possibility.
"That’s a great question, I don’t know. Yeah, I don’t know," he said.
Pressed again on whether he had considered the possibility, Comey again demurred.
"I knew it was going to be very bad for me personally and the consequences of that might have been. If Hillary Clinton was elected I might have been terminated," he said. "I don’t know. I really don’t."
— Joy Y. Wang
Comey-Trump Dinner Timing Raised in Hearing
By saying that President Donald Trump invited him to the January 27 dinner at lunchtime that day, former FBI Director James Comey’s account puts the invitation one day after Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates first alerted the White House about her concerns about National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
This is the dinner during which Comey said Trump asked the FBI director for loyalty, making Comey feel like his job was being held over him.
The Oval Office meeting during which Trump asked Comey to lay off Flynn came weeks later on Feb 14.
— Ken Dilanian
Who's Sitting Near Comey in the Hearing Room?
At the end of his opening remarks, James Comey said he was sorry he wasn't able to say goodbye to his fellow FBI colleagues when he was fired. Well, he may have the opportunity to do so today.
A committee source tells me those people sitting to Comey's right hand side are FBI officials here on their own time to support their former director.
— Marianna Sotomayor
Opening Statements Begin With Burr, Warner
The hearing has begun. We're listening to five minute opening statements from Republican Senator Richard Burr, Senate Intelligence Committee chair, and Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman.
Addressing Comey, Burr said, "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 description of events."
Warner began by stating the committee's purpose in investigating Russia's efforts to influence the election.
“To be clear this investigation is not about litigating the election," says Warner. “We are here because a foreign adversary attacked us right here at home.”
Warner goes onto say that Russian cyber attacks were intended to “hijack our most important democratic process: our presidential election.” Warner says the cyber raids sought to “undermine public faith in a process, in ourselves.”
He reiterates the point that the Congressional investigation is not about politics at the end of his statement: “This is not a witch hunt, this is not fake news.” Warner’s opening statement seems to be responding to President Trump’s criticism and his comments on Twitter that the Russia investigation is nothing more than a partisan “witch hunt.”
Next, Comey will be sworn in and read portions of his testimony. The question and answer question will last just one round, now, according to Burr. Second questions will happen in the closed door session.
— Liz Johnstone, Meredith Mandell
Comey Has Arrived on Capitol Hill
A source tells NBC News' Alex Moe that Comey has arrived to the hearing room on Capitol Hill and went into a hold room.
Senators Burr and Warner are meeting with Comey now ahead of the hearing in a backdoor inside the hearing room.
What Can – And What Can’t – James Comey Say?
As a private citizen, Comey may choose to speak to Congress or the public about many topics, including aspects of his tenure in government, but there’s a slew of things he can’t get into and may decline to answer Senators questions about.
- He MAY be restricted from discussing topics in the open Russia inquiry, at the potential request of the FBI or DOJ Special Counsel;
- He WILL be restricted from disclosing information about FBI investigations that has a “substantial likelihood” of prejudicing any future case or proceeding
(per Department of Justice guidelines);
- He WILL be restricted from disclosing classified information (per federal law, 18 USC 798);
- He WILL be restricted from confirming the existence of investigations that have not already been confirmed by the FBI or DOJ
(per DOJ guidelines).
— MSNBC Legal Unit
President Trump Plans to Watch Hearing in White House Dining Room
A senior White House aide tells NBC News President Trump will monitor the Comey testimony, as time permits, in a White House dining room with his legal team and some of his closest advisers. The president’s public schedule is wide open this morning.
Trump is scheduled to leave the White House at later in the morning for a speech to a friendly crowd of evangelicals at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference. He’ll be back at the White House after that for an infrastructure summit with mayors and governors.
— Peter Alexander
Survey Says: Trump Fired Comey ‘To Protect Himself’
The nation isn't buying the president’s story when it comes to the firing of James Comey, according to a new survey released a day before the former FBI Director testifies in front of the Senate about his dismissal.
A majority of Americans, 61 percent, think President Trump fired Comey “to protect himself,” according to the ABC News/Washington Post poll. Just 27 percent of respondents said the president’s firing of the head of the nation’s top law enforcement agency — while it was investigating his presidential campaign’s ties to Russia — was “for the good of the country.”
A slimmer majority, 56 percent, said they believed the president was trying to interfere in the federal investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia. And 34 percent of survey respondents said the president was cooperating with that investigation.
Heading into what’s sure to be some of the most highly anticipated Senate testimony this year, Americans don’t trust their president or the former head of the FBI. Just 21 percent say they trust the president, while 36 percent say they trust Comey.