FBI Director Comey Testifies Before the Senate

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FBI Director Comey Testifies Before the Senate

Comey taking oath at the hearing, swearing to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

Comey taking oath at the hearing, swearing to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

ANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Comey taking oath at the hearing, swearing to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

ANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

ANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Comey taking oath at the hearing, swearing to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

Edan Larkin, Contributing Writer

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On June 8th, 2017, Americans across the nation put their lives on hold to watch the anxiously anticipated testimony of former FBI Director James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Passionate Americans watched the broadcasts from their homes and their places of work. Bars throughout the country opened their doors for viewing parties. Some people even lined up as early 4:15 AM to grab a seat at the Senate Hart Office Building to experience the hearing firsthand.

Comey was hastily fired last month by President Donald Trump. The reasons behind this decision differ according to the source. The White House claims the firing was on account of Comey’s own faults as FBI Director. Comey and his former FBI colleagues classify these as false accusations. Various news sources and a plethora of the American people believe Trump fired Comey in order to cover his own tracks in regards to the investigation of Trump’s coalition with Russia. Although these reasons evidently contrast, Comey’s testimony served as some form of clarification.

Right out of the gate, Comey made it clear that he believes Trump and the White House lied about the motivation for firing Comey. The White House stated that Comey was unfit and led the FBI to disarray, and that the rest of the FBI supported the firing of Comey. Comey disagreed, stating, “Those were lies, plain and simple.”

Comey also revealed that he was inconveniently and inappropriately informed of his firing. In turn, Comey missed out on bidding farewell to the job that was abruptly lost to him. During his hearing, he expressed his regret to his former FBI coworkers. “I am so sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye to you properly,” he remarked.

The former FBI Director proceeded to illustrate his confusion following his firing. Comey discussed that Trump apparently told Comey that Comey was performing well on numerous occasions. Comey received no explanation from the White House that he found plausible for his firing. He mentioned that his confusion only deepened when he “saw on television that [Trump] actually fired me because of the Russia investigation.”

More than once over the course of Comey’s testimony, Comey intentionally used the words “lie” and “no” when asked about Trump’s statements and actions. In politics, that is a word packed with power. Comey revealed that often during Comey’s work with Trump, Comey took notes on what was said between the two. Comey certainly did not shy away from this topic, elucidating that he “was honestly concerned [Trump] might lie about the content of our meeting, so I felt I had to write it down.”

“The word ‘lie’ is everywhere in politics now,” Casey Hussey, a sophomore, worriedly pointed out. “I’m tired of never knowing the truth.”

Inevitably, Comey needed to address the controversy surrounding Trump and Russia as well as Comey’s involvement in the investigations that delved into this relationship. Comey could not answer all questions regarding Trump’s request for Comey to cease his investigation of Flynn, but he confirmed that Flynn was under criminal investigation. Comey also made sure to point out that he refused to drop any of his investigations. Furthermore, Comey disclosed the significant fact that Trump peculiarly demanded that other White House officials leave the Oval Office before secretly telling Comey that Flynn “was a good guy,” and asking Comey to “let this go.” Michael Flynn is the former member of Trump’s administration who resigned following the release of proof that he has secret, unauthorized contact with Russia.

During a press conference on Friday, Trump responded to a question regarding Comey’s comments on the Flynn investigation. Trump defensively claimed, “I didn’t say that.” The person asking the question then interjected, asking Trump if he therefore was arguing that Comey lied. Instead of giving a straight answer, Trump continued, “I mean- I will tell you I didn’t say that.” Trump then went on to remark, “And there’d be nothing wrong if I did say that, according to everything I read today.” The Washington Post points out that Trump “appears to be using two parallel arguments.” One is that Trump did not tell Comey to step away from Flynn. The other is that, if Trump did do just that, that is not so bad.

During Thursday’s press conference, Comey went as far as to reveal that he himself considered that Trump’s decision to fire him was influenced heavily by Trump’s goal to deter the FBI’s investigation on Russia. In the words of Comey, this was a “big deal.”

Although Comey was not positive as to why he was fired, he told Democratic Senator Dianne Feinsten (California) that he strongly believes Russia was a factor. “I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russian investigation,” he dictated, referencing reports in which Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the White House on May 10, 2017, and told them that firing Comey relieved Trump of the pressure surrounding his ties with Russia.

The other Democratic senators in the room had comments to make as well. “I believe the timing of your firing stinks,” said Senator Ron Wyden (Oregon). Senator Mark R. Warner (Virginia), the top Democrat on the committee, implied that Comey’s involvement in the Russia investigation very well “might explain why [Comey’s] sitting down as a private citizen.” Comey agreed.

The Republicans in the room possessed no real line of defense. The closest Republicans came to defending Trump was when Trump ally Senator James E. Risch (Idaho) argued, “[Trump] said: ‘I hope’ [when he asked you to drop the Flynn investigation]. You don’t know of anyone that’s ever been charged for hoping something?” Comey said that he did not, but that he did regard Trump’s comments as instructive.

The argument was evidently weak; Republicans did, however, try to shift the blame to Comey. “The president never should have cleared the room,” said Senator Susan Collins (Maine) of a meeting between Trump and Comey in which Trump cleared the room of all other ears. “And he never should have asked you to let [the investigation into Flynn] go… You could have said: Mr. President, this meeting is inappropriate.” Comey agreed that, in retrospect, he could have been more assertive. But the clearly more significant portion of Collins’ question is that she, and most of the people present in the hearing, recognized that Trump was undoubtedly at fault.

It was on May 12, 2017, when Trump sent out his warning tweet to Comey. “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversation before he starts leaking to the press” the tweet read.

However, Comey was not alarmed. In fact, Comey retaliated to this both threatening and public comment at the hearing, proclaiming, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes!” And if those recordings do exist, Comey ensured the American people that he would not mind in the least if Trump released them.

Comey also said that this antagonizing tweet written by Trump is what prompted Comey to share the memos and notes from his meetings with Trump in the first place, because Comey “thought it might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.” Comey was correct.

In response, Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz declared that Comey “admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the President.” Kasowitz accused Comey of misstating the timing of the leak as well, stating that Comey did not release the memos in response to the tweet. “Although Mr. Comey testified he only leaked the memos in response to a tweet, the public record reveals that the New York Times was quoting from these memos the day before the referenced tweet,” Kasowitz incorrectly argued, for the evidence shows that Comey is, once again, correct.

As stated previously, Trump tweeted on Friday, May 12, about Comey and the alleged tapes of the conversations between the two. Comey proceeded to ask a friend to reveal the memos in Comey’s possession to a reporter on Tuesday, May 16. The New York Times wrote its article about the released memos later that same day. Despite The New York Times having published a separate article on May 11, before the tweet, about Comey’s private dinner with Trump, the article never once referenced the memos, seemingly because Comey had not yet released them. The New York Times confirmed this timeline after Kasowitz’s accusation.

“I hate this he said, she said type dispute,” HHS student Catharine Denning observed. “It seems like Comey’s accusations have the evidence to back them up, but the truth is still so muddled.”

Trump’s tendency to tweet left many people validly guessing that Trump would attempt to take to Twitter during Comey’s hearing and unprofessionally live-tweet the event so that he could, per usual, interject in some way. Surprisingly, Trump refrained from tweeting at all on June 8th. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders revealed why, when she explained that Trump watched some of Comey’s testimony but was kept busy by his administration with other matters. Although it is unclear who can still be trusted in the White House, Sanders also asserted that she “can definitively say the president is not a liar, and frankly I’m insulted by that question.”

Necessarily, Comey also clarified that as of Comey’s firing on May 9, 2017, Trump was actually not under personal, specific investigation. However, Comey also testified that other members of the FBI leadership team found Trump’s conduct to “fall within the scope” of the Russia investigation; therefore, the FBI was “reluctant” to jump ahead and immediately alert the president that he was not personally under investigation before the leadership knew for sure.

Comey’s awaited testimony occurred on Thursday, June 8, 2017. While Trump kept silent for this day, that meant Friday was his time to speak. Along with his press conference, Trump tweeted a tremendous number of times. He made sure to call Comey a liar as Comey called Trump a liar. Most notably, when asked if Trump too would testify these claims under oath, Trump responded, “100%.”

Clearly the two sides of this story contradict, so that raises uneasy questions: If Trump testifies, will he lie under oath or tell the truth? If Trump’s testimony does not line up with Comey’s, then who lied? And most importantly, will the American public finally know the truth?

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