Former FBI Director James Comey gave highly-anticipated public testimony Thursday about his interactions with President Donald Trump, accusing the White House of lying to the American people about the circumstances of his firing.
Marc Kasowitz, the president's private lawyer, then responded with a statement contradicting a key part of Comey's sworn testimony — that Trump asked for the former FBI chief's loyalty — and suggesting that Comey himself may have committed a crime by orchestrating a leak of his memos to the news media.
Catch up on all the key moments from the blockbuster testimony below.
It seems the entire nation is zeroed in on this news story, including the baseball team cited by Sen. John McCain, who said late-night sports watching might have made his questions less clear.
He just didn't know any better. That's House Speaker Paul Ryan's latest defense of Trump's meetings with Comey.
Ryan said that Thursday that Trump's meetings with Comey that many Democrats are calling "stunning" and "inappropriate" happened because Trump was new to the job.
"The president is new at this, he is new to government, and so he probably wasn't steeped in the long running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI, and White Houses," Ryan told reporters at a news conference Thursday. "He is just new to this. And so I think, what I got out of that testimony is we now know why he was so frustrated when the FBI director told him three times there is no investigation of him yet that speculation was allowed to continue."
"I’m not saying it’s an acceptable excuse, it’s just my observation," Ryan added.
Just last night he told MSNBC's Greta Van Susteren that it is "obviously" inappropriate that Trump asked Comey for loyalty.
— Leigh Ann Caldwell
Trump’s personal lawyer alleged that Comey lied under oath when he said he leaked his memos in response to a Trump tweet, arguing that the New York Times was writing about it the day before Trump’s tweet.
The reporter disputed this characterization quickly.
Outside counsel to President Donald Trump Marc Kasowitz maintained Thursday that Trump never asked former FBI Director James Comey for his loyalty, contradicting a key part of Comey's testimony, while also suggesting Comey may have broken the law when he leaked information from his own memos to news media.
"The president also never told Mr. Comey, 'I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,' in form or substance," Kasowitz told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Kasowitz labeled Comey "one of these leakers" who are "actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications."
Counsel stopped short of accusing Comey of breaking the law, saying he'd leave it to "the appropriate authorities to determine whether" the leaks should be investigated along with all the others the White House is probing.
In Kasowitz's view, Comey's testimony establishes that the president "was not being investigated for colluding" with the Russians, or "attempting to obstruct that investigation."
His comments Thursday afternoon were the first reaction from the White House to the highly-anticipated testimony, which referred all Comey and Russia-related questions to outside counsel. The Republican National Committee handled rapid response rebuttal during the testimony.
— Ali Vitali
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
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
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
"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
Asked by Sen. Tom Cotton if he believed the president was colluding with Russia during his campaign, Comey declined to answer in an unclassified setting.
“I’m not trying to suggest by my answer something nefarious," he added later.
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
Merriam-Webster, as usual, gets in on the news action, sharing searched words related to the Comey hearing.
Former FBI Director James Comey can't speak about any classified information in this morning's public briefing, but it's safe to bet that the senators will want to get to the bottom of this in this afternoon's closed-door, classified briefing with Senators.
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
Sen. Marco Rubio's line of questioning was one that largely defended Trump's actions and insinuated that leaks to the press are one-sided in an effort to undermine the president.
Rubio asked Comey if the three things Trump asked for in their meetings were: 1.) To ask for Comey's loyalty, 2.) To ask Comey to "let" the investigation go and 3.) For Comey to make it known that Trump was not being investigated.
"Why didn't that get leaked," Rubio asked Comey of his third point regarding Trump not being investigated.
Comey said he didn't know but added that high-level intelligence briefings to the Congressional "Gang of 8" are "tightly held."
Rubio was one of a group of senators and House members who ate dinner with Trump on Tuesday night.