Comey: Trump Issued ‘Lies, Plain and Simple’
The highly anticipated appearance before the US Senate Intelligence Committee of James Comey did not disappoint in the fireworks department. The former FBI Director, who was fired by Donald Trump under poorly explained circumstances, said under oath, starkly, that the Administration has been issuing “lies, plain and simple.”
He also said that he felt directed by the president to “let go” the investigation of Michael Flynn. This point could be used as support for an obstruction of justice claim against the president—an impeachable offense.
Comey described a series of interactions with Trump that he found to be alarming, including an unprecedented private dinner at the White House. During that event, he said that the president asked for his “loyalty”—which flies in the face of the FBI’s historical and necessary independence from the executive branch. He also said that Trump insisted on a private conversation on February 14 despite the fact that this breaks from protocol, to the point of asking Comey’s boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to leave the room. In that meeting, Trump asked him to “let go” the Flynn investigation, Comey said, under oath.
Flynn was under investigation over his ties to Russia, and whether he colluded with the Russians during the election-season hacking last year.
Comey said that overall, he felt Trump was looking to establish a “patronage” relationship in which Comey would be expected to act in the president’s best interests, even if that contradicted what was in the best interests of the American people.
When asked why he thought he was fired, Comey didn’t hesitate. It was, he said, because of "the Russia investigation,” which is something that Trump himself has said. But later, the president shifted his stated reasons for firing him, and characterized Comey as a “showboat” and a “nut job,” and someone in whom the workforce at the FBI had no confidence. He painted a picture of an agency in turmoil.
"The administration then chose to defame me, and more importantly the FBI," Comey said, by claiming the agency was "poorly led." "Those were lies, plain and simple," he said.
When asked his opinion on whether Trump has sought to obstruct the ongoing investigation into Russian election hacking, Comey declined to offer a public opinion.
"That's a question I don't think I should answer in an open setting," he said.
He said that Trump never specifically asked him to drop it, and added that he is “sure” that the special counsel for the Russian investigation, Robert Mueller, will be working towards a conclusion on the collusion question.
Marc Kasowitz, the president’s personal, private lawyer (unaffiliated with the government) quickly appeared for cameras to give a rebuttal. He latched on to Comey’s comments that there were no personal investigations into Trump during Comey’s tenure, saying that the president has been vindicated. He also said that Comey's statements about being asked to drop the Flynn investigation are false, which would mean that the former director of the FBI perjured himself under oath.
He also latched onto Comey's admission that he asked a “friend” to pass on to the press a memo that he wrote contemporaneously about a concerning Trump conversation.
Comey said that he did it because wanted to help push along the appointment of a special counsel, to remove the Russian investigation from the political realm.
Kasowitz went on the attack. "It is overwhelmingly clear that there have been and continue to be those in government who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications," he said. "Comey has now admitted that he is one of these leakers." He added that he will leave it up to federal authorities to decide whether to charge the former director.
The statement is likely overblown, given that Comey was a private citizen at the time of the leak, and that the information was not classified in any way.
Source: Information Security Magazine