tv News Comey Senate Testimony ABC June 8, 2017 7:00am-9:39am PDT
>> announcer: this is an abc news special report. james comey testifies. now reporting, george stephanopoulos. >> good morning, and welcome to our special coverage of a water shed moment for president trump. what may be the most consequential day. fbi director fired by president trump last month. it came at a time when comey was leading an investigation into russia's interference into a election and the trump campaign, and former national security adviser, michael flynn. in a few minutes, we'll hear from comey for the first time since that firing. we know from the written testimony yesterday, he has a
story to tell. six phone calls with president trump in novelistic detail. we have mary bruce in capitol hill inside that room, and mary, capitol hill has not seen a day like this in years. >> reporter: any moment now, jim comey will walk into this room here and finally tell the american public his side of the story, and they have been eagerly awaiting it here. i have talked to people this morning who have been lining up here since 4:00 in the morning. the line outside this room snakes through two senate buildings, and of course, waiting to greet jim comey will be the 15 members of the senate committee. they are eager to dial into the heart of what was said between comey and the president. that is what they are looking for today. those details. they have been tweaking their questions overnight in response to comey's testimony. here's what's at the top of their list. lawmakers i have spoken with
want to know from comey why he believes he was fired. is it because he refused to meet the president's demands? they also want to know why or if comey believes he tried to torpedo the investigation. and on the question of loyalty, the turn of honest loyalty. what does that mean? comey has offered five of his one-on-one conversations with the president. and these senators want to know what else was said between the two of them. they are hoping to parse every word of the conversations and glean everything they can about the president's tone and the president's intent. at the end of the day, it may come down to a simply he said-he said. >> jon karl is on point with the president's side of the story as we see mr. comey walking into the room right now. he is well practiced in these congressional hearings. jon, we know the white house is prepared to deny that he was asked for a pledge of loyalty,
and mr. trump said this. >> reporter: an absolute firm denial from the white house. i just spoke to somebody familiar with the president saying he met with the president this morning. the president will be watching this hearing with his legal team in a little dining room near the oval office, and i'm told he firmly denies he asked for comey's loyalty or he asked to let the flynn investigation go in any way. but the white house, george, is keying in on the fact that comey, in those prepared remarks does acknowledge on three separate occasions he told the president he was not a subject of the russian investigation. >> he said he feels vindicated by that fact. as we see james comey stone-faced in that hearing room right now as the chairman, richard burr of north carolina, and vice chairman warner taking places at the podium. you could feel in that written
testimony how uncomfortable james comey was in those meetings with the president. >> reporter: absolutely, george, and one of the striking things is that james comey from the first meeting at trump tower left the building, went into an fbi vehicle taking notes on that laptop. he did so for every meeting afterwards, george. >> we heard the gavel come down from the chairman, richard burr. let's listen to his statement. >> mr. comey, i appreciate your willingness to appear in front of the committee today, and i want to thank you for your dedicated service and leadership. 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 would like to remind my colleagues that we will reconvene in closed session at 1:00 p.m. 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 time line for his commitment to be on the hill, so we will do everything we can to meet that agreement. the senate select committee on intelligence exists for the other 85 members, 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 u.s. 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 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. i very much appreciate your candor. 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, it outlines a strange 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. 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 stated in your statement that i hope you will 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 a quote, at least in part, an effort to create some patronage relationship. or his phone call asking to do what you could do to lift the cloud of russian investigation in any way, alter your approach of the fbi's investigation into flynn, for all links to russia
and the campaign. your opinion, did russia establish a link rise to the level we could define as collusion or was it a counterintelligence concern? there has been a specific public speculation about your decision, making related to the clinton e-mail 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 worst 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, and we also have a unified bipartisan approach to what is a highly charged partisan issue. russian activities during the 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. my colleague, senator warner and i have worked to stay in lock step on this investigation. we have had our differences on approach at times, but i constantly stress 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 vice chairman for any comments he might have. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and let me start by thanking all the members in the committee for the seriousness in which they have 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. 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 would 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's not about democrats versus republicans. 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 aimed at sowing chaos in 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 u.s. intelligence community, so we must find out the full story. what the russians did, and 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. during elections 2018 and 2020, 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 have occasionally questioned some of the actions you have taken, but i have never had any reason to question your integrity, your expertise or your intelligence. you have 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. 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 adviser and his current senior adviser, mr. kushner. that doesn't even begin to count the host of additional campaign associates and advisers who have also been caught up in this massive web. we saw mr. trump's campaign manager, mr. manafort, forced to step down over ties to russianss. the national security adviser, general flynn had to resign over iz 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 is a lot to investigate. then director comey publicly acknowledged he was leading an
investigation into mr. trump's campaign and the russian government. as director of the fbi, mr. comey was ultimately responsible for conducting that investigation. which might explain why you are sitting now as a private citizen. what we didn't know was at the same time this investigation was proceeding, the president himself appears to have been engaged in an effort to influence or at least co-op 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 going to dinner with director comey, the president threatened the director's joe job while saying, quote, i need loyalty. i expect loyalty. at a later meeting on february 14th, the president asked the attorney general to leave the oval office to he could privately ask director comey,
quote, clear to letting flynn go. that is a statement director comey interpreted as a request to general flynn's false statements. 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, quote, 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, and to lift the cloud on the russian investigation. after his refusals, director comey was fired. the initial explanation for the firing didn't pass any smell test. somehow director comey was fired
because he didn't treat hillary clinton appropriately. 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 as a quote/unquote 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 intervene with the director. yesterday, we had dni director coats and director rogers who were offered a number of opportunities to flatly deny. they expressed their opinions, but they did not take that opportunity to deny those reports. they did not take that opportunity. that is 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 have seen first hand how seriously every member of this committee is taking his work. i'm proud of the committee's effort 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 goal. thank you, mr. chair. >> the director that has discussed it would be under oath. i would 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 me god? >> yes. >> please be seated. director comey, you are 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's the intent to move to a closed session no later than 1:00 p.m. with that, director comey, you will have the floor for as long as you might need. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
members of the committee, thank you for inviting me here to testified today. i have submitted my statement for the record, and i'm not going to repeat it here this morning. i thought i would offer very brief sbruktry remarks and then 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 ten-year term, which congress created in order to underscore 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 the 9th, when i learned that i had been fired, for that reason, i immediately came home as a private citizen, but then the explanations, the shifting explanations confused me and increasingly concerned me. they confused me because the president that 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 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 work force. 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 russia 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 for me for a whole bunch of reasons, including the time and all the
water that had gone under the bridge since those hard decisions 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 work force had lost confidence in its leader. those were lies, plain and simple. and i am so sorry that the fbi work force had to hear them, and i'm so sorry that the american people were told them. 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 are 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 issue 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 before 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, and now to my former colleagues if i may. i am so sorry that i didn't get the chance to say good-bye 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. senators, i look forward to your questions. >> 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. for 12 minutes based upon the agreement we have. did the special counsel's office review and/or edit your written testimony? >> no. >> do you have any doubt that russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections? >> none. >> do you have any doubt that the russian government was behind the intrusions and the dnc and the dccc systems and the subsequent leaks of that system? >> no. no doubt. >> do you have any doubt that the russian government was behind the cyber-intrusion in the state voter files? >> no. >> do you have any doubt that
officials of the russian government are fully aware of these activities? >> no doubt. >> are you confident that no votes cast in the 2016 presidential election were altered? >> i'm confident. by the time -- when i left as director, i had seen no indication of that whatsoever. >> director comey, did the president at any time ask you to stop the fbi investigation into russian involvement in the 2016 u.s. elections? >> not to my understanding, no. >> did any individual working for this administration, including the justice department, ask you to stop the russian investigation? >> no. >> director, when the president requested that you, and i quote, let flynn go, general flynn had an unreported contact with 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 he had already been fired? >> general flynn was at that time in legal jeopardy. there was an open investigation into his statements with the russi russian contacts and the contacts themselves. that was my assessment at that time. i don't think it's for me to say whether my conversation with the president was an effort to obstruct. it was disturbing and a concerning thing. that's something the counsel will work toward and find out whether that was an offense. >> is it possible during this fbi investigation, the fbi could
find evidence of criminality that is not tied to the 2016 elections, possible collusion or coordination with russians? >> sure. >> so there could be something that just fits a criminal aspect to this that doesn't have anything to do with the 2016 election psycycle? >> correct. in any way investigation, you turn over rocks and sometimes you find things that are not linked to the overall investigation, but are criminal in nature. >> you presented your findings on the e-mail investigation 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? >> honestly, no. i mean, 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 have learned since, i think it was the best way to try to protect
the justice institution, including the fbi. >> in the public domain is the question of the steel 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 steel document? >> mr. chairman, i don't think that's a question i can answer in an opening setting because it goes into the details of the investigation. >> 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 it's normal for foreign governments to reach out to members of an incoming administration? >> yes. >> at what point does the normal contact cross the line into an attempt to recruit agents or influence spies? >> difficult to say in the abstract. it depends upon the context, whether there's an effort to keep it covert, and what the nature of the requests made of the american by the foreign government are. it's a judgment call based on a whole lot of facts. >> at what point would that recruitment become a counterintelligence threat to our country? >> again, difficult to answer in the abstract, but when -- when a foreign power is using especially coercion or some sort of pressure to co-opt, that's a
serious concern to the phifbi, at the heart of the mission. >> if you have 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, probably first and foremost is the counterintelligence concerns that we have about blackmail. would that be an accurate statement? >> yes. if the fbi receives a credible allegation that there is some effort to co-op, coerce, that's the basis on which the counterintelligence investigation is opened. >> when you read the dossier, what was your reaction, given that it was 100% directed at the president-elect? >> not a question i can answer in opening setting, mr. chairman. >> okay. when did you become aware of the cyber-intrusion?
>> the first -- there was all kinds of cyber-intrusions going all the time. the first russian cyber-intrusion, i became aware of late in the summer of 2015. >> and in that time frame, there were more than the dnc and the dccc that were targets. >> correct. it was a massive effort to target government and nongovernmental or near governmental agencies like nonprofits. >> how many entities are out there that russians targeted in that time frame? >> it's hundreds. i suppose it could be more than 1,000. but it's at least hundreds. >> when did you become aware that data had been exfiltrated? >> i'm not sure exactly. i think either late '15 or early '16. >> did you, the director of the fbi, have conversations with the last administration about the
risk that this posed? >> yes. >> and share with us if you will, what actions they took. >> 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 fishing campaign, and we notified them in an attempt to disrupt what might be ju ongoing, and it was through the rest of '15 into '16,and then the administration was trying to find out how to respond to the intrusion activity that it saw. >> 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 give you the data they had collected? >> in the case of the dnc, and i think the dccc, we did not have access to the devices
themselves. we got relevant forensic information from a private party. we didn't get direct access. >> no content. >> correct. >> isn't content an important part of the forensics from a counterintelligence standpoint? >> it is, but people who were my folks at the time, they had gotten the information from the private party they needed to understand the intrusion. by the spring of 2016. >> let's go back if i can very briefly, to the decision to publicly go out with your results on the e-mail. was your decision influenced by the attorney general's tarmac meeting with the former president, bill clinton? >> yes. and in an ultimately conclusive
way, that was the thing that kept it for me that i had to do something separately. to protect the credibility of the investigation, for both the fbi and the justice department. >> were there other things that contributed to that that you can describe in an open session? >> there were other things that contributed to that. one significant item i can't. i know the committee has been briefed on. there have been some public accounts of it which are nonsense, but the committee has been briefed on the classified facts. the other thing i can talk about, is at one point, the attorney general directed me not to call it an investigation, but it was a matter, but that confused me and concerned me, and i said, i have to step away from the department, if we're to close this case. >> director, my last question. you're not only a seasoned prosecutor. you have led the fbi for years. you understand the investigative
process. you have worked with this committee closely, and we're grateful to you because we have 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 russian involvement in the elections in parallel with the now special counsel that has been set up? >> no. no doubt. it can be done. it requires lots of conversations, but bob mueller is a great, great pro, and you will be able to work it out with him and run it in parallel. >> i want to thank you once again, and i'll turn it over to the vice chairman. >> thank you, chairman, and once again, director comey, thank you for your service. your comments to your fbi family were heartfelt. know that even though there are some in the administration who
have tried to spear your reputation, you had acting director mccabe with public testimony a few weeks back and public testimony yesterday, reaffirm that the vast majority of the 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 meeting, 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 on the russian investigation. i understand you remained afterwards to brief him on, quote, personally sensitive aspects. you said after that briefing, you felt compelled to document that conversation. that you started documenting it as soon as you got into the car. you have had extensive experience at the department of
justice and at the fbi. you have worked on twith the presidents of both parties. what was it about that meeting that led you to determine you had to start putting down a written record? >> the 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. i was talking about matters that touch on the fbi app core responsibility, and that remit to the president-elect personally, and the nature of the person. i was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and i thought it important to document. that combination of things i have never experienced before, but it led me to believe i had to write it down and in a very detailed way. >> that's an important statement you just made. and my understanding is that then, again, unlike you're
dealings with presidents in 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? >> 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, and i thought i might need a record to have what 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. it was a combination of circumstances, subject matter and the particular person. >> so in all your experience, this was the only president that you have felt like in every meeting, you needed to document because at some point, using your words, he might put out a
nontruthful representation of that meeting. >> as i said in my written testimony, i interacted with president obama. i spoke only twice in three years and didn't document it. when i was departmeuty attorney general, i had one one-on-one meeting with president bush about a national security matter. i didn't document that matter either. i sent an e-mail to my staff to tell them there was something going on, but i didn't feel i needed to document it in that way. the combination of those factors wasn't present with either president bush or president obama. >> the chairman and i have requested those memos, and it's our hope the fbi will get this community access to the memos so we can read those renditions so that we have got your side of the story. i know members have said, and
press have said that it had to do whether the president was a 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. now my understanding is your leadership team agreed with that. was that a unanimous decision or was there debate about that? >> it wasn't unanimous. one of the members of the leadership team had a view that although it was technically true, we didn't have a counterintelligence case file on president-elect trump. his concern was because we're looking at the potential -- that's a subject of investigation -- coordination between the campaign and russia, because it was president-elect
trump's campaign, this person's view was inevitably, his behavior and conduct will fall within the scope of that work, and he was reluctant to make the statement that i made. i disagreed. i thought it was fair to say what was literally true. there was not a counterintelligence investigation of mr. trump, and i decided to say it given the investigation. >> did you revisit that in those sessions? >> with the fbi leadership? sure. and the leader of the view didn't change. his view was that it was although literally true, 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 head of the campaign would be the candidate, and that was his view throughout. >> let me move to the january 27th dinner. when you said, quote, the president began by asking me
whether i wanted to stay on the as fbi director. he also indicated that lots of people, in your words, wanted the job. you go onto say the dinner itself was seemingly an effort, to quote, have him ask you for your job, and have some quote/unquote, patronage relationship. the president seems from my reading of your memo, to be holding your job or possible continuing of your job over your head in a fairly direct way. what was your impression and what did you mean by patronage relationship? >> well, my impression, and it's my impression -- i could be wrong, but my common sense told me what was going on is either had had concluded or someone had told him that you didn't -- you have already asked comey to stay, and you didn't get anything for it, and the dinner was an effort to build a relationship. in fact, he asked specifically
of loyalty in the context of asking me to stay. what was odd about that was we talked twice about it at that point, and he said, i very much hope you will stay. i remember sitting there for a third one, and there is a picture of me walking across the blue room, and what the president whispered in my ear, was, i look forward to working with you. >> that was a few days before you were fired. >> that was sunday after the inauguration. the next friday, i have dinner, and the president begins by wanting to talk about my job. so i'm sitting there thinking, wait a minute. three times, you have already asked me to say, or talk to him, and he is staying. i could be wrong, but my common sense told me what's going on here is he is looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job. >> again, we all understand, but this constant request and again quoting you, him saying that
he -- explaining your independence, he kept coming back to i need loyalty. i can't loyalty. have you ever had those requests from anyone else you worked for in the government? >> no. and what made me uneasy was -- at that point, i'm the director of the fbi. the reason congress created a ten-year term is that the director is not feeling as if they are serving with political loyalty owed to any particular person. the statue of justice has a blindfold on because you are not supposed to see if your patron is pleased or not. that's the law. that's why i became the fbi director. >> february 14th, again, it seems a bit strange. you were in a meeting. and your direct superior was in the meetdiing as well, and 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? had you ever seen anything like that before? >> 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. i'm 56 years old, and i have 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 i knew something was about to happen i need to pay very close attention to. >> i thought it was interesting that in the memo that you wrote after this february 14th meeting, you made clear you wrote this memo in a way that was unclassified. you 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 be able to be cleared in a way that could be shared with the american people? >> 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 -- as the committee gets this, but sometimes when things are classified, it tangles them up, and it's hard to share it with an investigative team, and you have to be careful about how you handle it for good reason. i figured if i write it in a way that won't include classification, that will 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. >> again, it's our hope, particularly, since you're a knowledgeable guy, and you wrote it in this way that's not classified, we can get access to
this classified document. let me ask this in closing. how many ongoing investigations at any time does the fbi have? >> tens of thousands. >> did the president ever ask about any ongoing investigation? >> no. >> did he ever ask about you trying to interfere on any other investigation? >> no. >> 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. >> thank you. i'm just sitting here going through any contacts. i had one conversation with the president that was classified where he asked about our -- an ongoing intelligence investigation. it was brief and entirely professional. >> he didn't ask you to take any specific action? >> no. >> unlike what he had done
vis-a-vis mr. flynn? >> correct. >> thank you for your service. america 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 part of the record here, and first 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. you were probably the guy who got the "a" after reading this. so i find it clear. i find it concise, and having been a prosecutor for a number of years, handling hundreds and probably thousands of cases and 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 put them in quotes so we know exactly what happened, and we're not getting some rendition of it that's in your mind. >> thank you. >> you're to be complimented. >> i had great parts and great teachers who beat that into me. >> that's obvious, sir. the chairman walked you through a number of things that the american people need to know and want to know. we all know about the active mesh measures that the russians have taken. those of us who work in the intelligence community, it didn't come as a surprise, and now the american people know and that's a good thing because it's a problem. i gather from all of this that you are willing to say now that while you were director, the president of the united states was not under investigation. is that a fair statement? >> that's correct. >> that's fact we can rely on. >> yes, sir. >> 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? >> i do. it was about allegedly extensive electronic surveillance. >> it upset you to the point where you surrendveyed the intelligence community. >> that's correct. i'm being careful in open setting. >> 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. do you recall that? >> yes. >> so the american people can understand this, that report by "the new york times" was not true. is that a fair statement? >> in the main, it was not true. all of you know this. american people don't. the challenge, and i'm not picking on reporters, the people
talking about it often don't really know what's going on, and those who 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 that sensitive topic. we have to leave it there, and the nonsense around what influenced me to make the july 5th statement. i can't go on explaining how it's nonsense. >> so those three things we now know regarding the active measures of the president being under investigation and the campaign and the russians. i want to write down as my time is limited, to the most recent dust-up regarding allegations that the president of the united states obstructed justice. you nailed this down on page five and paragraph three. you put this in quotes. words matter. you wrote down the words so we can have the words in front of us now. there are 28 words in quote. it says, quote, 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? >> correct. >> you wrote them here and put them in quotes? >> yes. >> thank you for that. he did not direct you to let him go. >> not in his words, no. >> he did not order you to let him go. >> again, those words are not an order. >> 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 where people have been charged. do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice, or any other criminal offense where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?
>> i don't know well enough to answer. and the reason i keep saying his words is i took it as a direction. it's the president of the united states with me alone saying i hope this. i took it as, this is what he wants me to do. i didn't obey, that but that's what i took it. >> you may have taken it in that drer direction, but that's not what he said. he said i hope. you don't know of anybody getting charmed for hoping something? >> i don't as i sit here. >> senator feinstein. >> mr. comey, i want you to know i have great respect for you. senator cornyn and i sit on the judiciary committee so we have occasionally had you before us, and i know you are a man of strength and integrity, and i regret the situation we find
ourselves in. i just want to say that. let me begin with one ov overarching question. why do you believe you were fired? >> i guess i don't know for sure. i take the president at his word that i was fired because of the russian investigation. something about the way i was conducting it, created pressure on him he wanted to relieve. again, i didn't know that at the time, but i watched his interview, and read the press accounts of his conversations, and i take him at his word there. i could be wrong, and maybe he is not saying something that's true, and i take him on his word at least what i know now. >> talk for a moment for his request that you pledge loyalty, and your response to that, and what impact you believe that had. >> i don't know for sure. because i don't know the president well enough to read him well. i think it was -- 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 i don't know him well enough to know how he reacted to that exactly. >> do you believe the russia investigation played a role? >> in why i was fired? >> yes. because i have seen the president say so. >> let's go to the flynn issue. senator risch outlined i hope you could see your way to letting flynn go. he is a good guy. i hope you can let this go, but you also said in your written remarks, and i quote, you have 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.
end quote. please go into that with more detail. >> well, the context in the president's words are what led me to that. like i said, 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 that's why i understood him to be saying what he wanted me to do was drop any investigation connected to flynn's account to the russians. >> 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? >> that's a good question. maybe if i were stronger, i would have. i was so stunned by the conversation that i just took it in, and the only thing i could think to say, because i was playing in my mind, to remember every word he said, was what should my response be? that's why i very carefully chose the words. i have seen the tweet about tapes. lordy, i hope there are tapes. i remember saying, i agree he is a good guy. as a way of saying, i'm not agreeing to what you asked me to do. other people could be stronger in that circumstance, but that's how i instructed myself. i hope i have another opportunity, and maybe if i did it again, i would do it better. >> you describe two phone calls you have received from president trump. one on march 30, and one on
april 11. he described the russia investigation as a cloud that was impairing his ability, end quote, as president, and asked you to quote, lift the cloud, end quote. what did you believe he wanted you to do? >> 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 narrower than that. i think what he meant by the cloud, and i could be wrong. i think he meant,it's taking up oxygen, and the ask was get it out. i'm not personally under
investigation. >> after april 11th, did he ask you more ever about the russia investigation? did he ask you any questions? >> we never spoke again after april 11th. >> you told the president, i would see what we could do. what did you mean? >> i was kind of a slightly cowardly way of trying to avoid telling him, we're not going to do that. that i could see what we could do. as 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. >> i want to go into that. who did you talk to about that, listing the cloud and stopping the investigation back at the fbi and what was their response? >> well, the fbi during one of the two conversations, not remembering exactly. i think the first.
my chief of staff was sitting in front of me, and heard my end of the conversation because the president's call was a surprise, and i discussed lifting the cloud in the request with the senior leadership team who typically, and i think in all these 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, including the head of the national security branch. that group of us that lead the fbi when it comes to national security. >> 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? >> 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 are all experienced people
who had never experienced such a thing. they were concerned, and the conversation turned to, so what should we do with this information? and that was a struggle for us. because we are the leaders of the fbi, so it's been reported to us and that i heard it and i have shared i 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, and so we decided we're going to keep it away from our troops, but is there anybody else we ought to tell at the justice department? we considered whether to tell the attorney general, and that didn't make sense because we believed he was going to recuse,
and there were no other confirmed leaders in the jis tis department, and the attorney general was boente, and who would be shortly, in that seat, and we decided the best move would be to hold it, keep it in a box, document it as we had already done, and this investigation will go on. figure out what to do with it down the road. is there a way a corroborate this? our view at the time was, look. it's your word against the president's. my view of that changed when the prospect of tapes was raised, but that's how we thought about it then. >> thank you. >> senator rubio. >> director, the meeting in the oval office, was that the only time he asked you to helpfully let it go? >> yes. >> and in that meeting, as you understood, he was asking not about the general and the russia investigation, he was asking about the jeopardy that flynn was in himself. >> that's how i understood it. yes, sir. >> as you perceived it, while he hoped you did away with it, you perceived it as an order.
giving his position to setting and the like and circumstances? >> yes. >> at the time, did you say anything to the president that is not an appropriate request or did you tell the counsel? someone needs to tell the president he can't do these things? >> i didn't. no. >> okay. why? >> i don't know. i think the circumstances were such that it was -- i was a bit stunned and didn't have the presence of mind. i don't want to make you sound like i'm captain courageous. i don't know if i would have said to the president, sir. that's wrong. in the moment, it didn't come to my mind. what came to my mind was, be careful what you say. and i said, i agree flynn is a good guy. >> on this cloud, you perceive the cloud to be the russian investigation in general? >> yes, sir. >> but his specific ask was world you tell the american people what you had already told him and the leaders of congress, both democrats and republicans,
that he was not personally under investigation? >> yes, sir. >> what he was asking you to do, would you have done here today? >> yes, sir. >> at that setting, did you say it would be inappropriate for you to do so, and talk to counsel or somebody and tell him he couldn't do this? >> first time i said, i'll see what we can do, and then i explained how it should work and the white house counsel should contact the deputy attorney general. the president said, that's what i'll do. >> he was not under investigation, and it would not have been illegal, but i said, it could bring a duty to correct if circumstances changed. >> there was an investigation, and there were two primary concerns. one is it creates a duty to correct, and you want to be careful about doing that, and second, it's a slippery slope. if you say the president and the
vice president aren't under the investigation, what's the principle for stopping? so the leadership, attorney general boente said, you're not going to do that. >> so the phone call about general flynn, you said he abruptly shifted and brought up, quote/unquote, the mccabe thing. you said, mccabe's wife received money from what i understand is terry mcauliffe? why did the president express concern or opposition because he got money from someone close to clinton? >> he said, in essence, how will he be with me as president? i was rough on him on the campaign trail? >> on mccabe? >> he said his rough on mr. and mrs. mccabe, and i said, he is a
total pro. no issue. >> so the president turns to you and said, 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 and i didn't do something because you told me he was a good guy, and i'm asking you potentially for something in return? >> 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 clear view of what it was. >> on a number of occasions, you bring up -- let's talk to you now about the russia investigation. in page six of your testimony, you say -- the first thing you say is, we asked what we could do to quote/unquote lift the cloud, the general russia investigation, and you responded, we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and there would be great benefit if we haven't found anything to have done the work well. he agreed.
the president agreed with your statement that it would be great if we could have an investigation, and all the facts came out and we found nothing. he agreed that would be ideal, but this cloud is still messing up the ability to do the rest of my agenda. is that accurate? >> yes, he said, my satellites did something wrong -- >> right here. he said, one of my satellites, and i imagine he meant, some of the other people did something wrong, it would be great to know that as well. >> yes, sir. >> are those the other instances saying, it's okay. do the russia investigation. i hope it all comes out and i have nothing to do with anything russia? >> i recorded it accurately, and that's the sentiment he was expressing it. >> the president asked for three things. he asked for your loyalty.
you would be loyally honest. >> honestly loyal. >> you said the same thing. he is a good guy, he has been treated unfairly, et cetera. et cetera. i imagine your fbi agents read that. >> i'm sure they did. >> the president's wishes were known to them, certainly by the next day when he had a press conference with the prime minister. going back, the three requests were, number one, be loyal. number two, let the mike flynn thing go. he is a good guy, and been treated unfairly, and number three, can you please tell the american people who these leaders in congress already know, what you already know and what you have told me three times, that i'm not under investigation? >> those are the three things he asked, yes, sir. >> this investigation is full of leaks left and right. we learn more from the newspaper sometimes than we do our open hearings. do you ever wonder why the only
thing that was leaked is the president was not personally under investigation? despite democrats and republicans that have known that for weeks? >> i don't know. i find matters that are brief to the gang of eight are pretty tightly held in my appearance. -- experience. >> who are the senior leaders you shared with this? >> deputy director, my chief of staff, general counsel, deputy directors, chief counsel, and then more often than not, the number three person, who is the associate deputy director, and then quite often, the head of the national security branch. >> 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 something that demonstrates why the odor of presidential abuse of power is to 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, quote, get something. looking back, did that dinner suggest that your job might be contingent on how you handle the investigation? >> i don't know that i would go that far. i got the sense my job would be
contingent upon how he felt -- excuse me. how he felt i conducted myself and whether i demonstrated loyalty. but i don't know whether i would go so far as to connect it to the investigation. >> you said the president was trying to create some sort of patronage relationship. in a patronage relationship, isn't the underlink expected to behave to the wishes of the boss? >> or at least with the effect of the boss' consideration. >> you said 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? >> our judgment as i recall was that he was very close to inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. we also were aware of facts i can't discuss in an open setting which would make his continued engagement in the a russian investigation problematic. we heard that the career people were recommending he recuse himself, and he wouldn't be in contact with russians much longer and that was the case. >> how would you characterize attorney general sessions' recusal in regard to his involvement in your firing which the president has acknowledged was because of the russian investigation? >> 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. so i don't have an answer for the question. >> 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? >> we would have closed any investigation general flynn in connection with his statements about encounters with russians in the late part of december. we would have dropped and opened criminal investigation. >> 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. >> 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 to go on the ability to be fair and partial. >> the acting attorney general yates found out michael flynn could be blackmailed by the russians and she went immediately to warn the white house. flynn is fwgone, 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? >> 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. it's a critical part of the fbi's mission, and you have the right person in bob mueller to lead it. it's important work. >> vice president pence was the head of the transition. to your knowledge, was he aware of the concerns about michael fli flynn prior to or during being national security adviser? >> 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. >> so former acting attorney general yates testified that concerns were there for the intelligence community. would that have included anything at the cia or dan
coats' office at the dni? >> i would assume, yes. >> 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? >> 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. >> 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 been involved in your firing? >> i don't. i don't. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator collins. >> 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 volunteered that assurance. is that correct? >> that's correct. >> did you limit that statement to counterintelligence investigations or were you talking about any kind of fbi investigation? >> i didn't use the term counterintelligence. i was speaking to him and briefing him about some salacious and unverified material.
it was in the 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 mofo me to assure him we were not investigating him. our focuses were narrower, and it was first, true. and i was very much in kind of a jay edgar hoover type of situation. i didn't want him to think we were briefing him to hang it over him, and we were about to launch. we don'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 the impression the bureau was trying to do something to him, and that's what i said. sir, we're not personally investigating you. >> and that's why you volunteered the information. >> yes, ma'am. >> correct?
then on the january 27th dinner, you told the president that he should be careful about asking you to investigate because, quote, you might create a narrative that we are investigating him personally, which we weren't. again, were you limiting that statement to counterintelligence investigations or more broadly such as a criminal investigation? >> the context was very similar. i didn't modify the word investigation. he was reacting strongly again to the unverified material. saying, i order you to nif investigate it, and i said, you have to be careful about that because we might create a narrative we're investigating you personally. >> there was a column in which you reminded him that congressional leaders have been briefed that the fbi was not personally investigating president trump. and again, was that statement to
congressional leaders and to the president limited to counterintelligence investigations or was it a broader statement? i'm troying to understand whether there was any kind of investigation of the president under way. >> no. i'm sorry. if i misunderstood, i apologize. we briefed congressional leadership about what americans we had opened counterintelligence investigations on, and we said the president is not one of those americans. there was no other investigation of the president that we were not mentioning at that time. the context was count counterintelligence, but i wasn't trying to hide a criminal investigation of the president. >> was the president under investigation at the time of your dismissal on may 9th?
>> no. >> i would like to turn to conversations with the president about michael flynn which had been discussed at great length, and first, let me make very clear that the president never should have cleared the room, and he never should have asked as you reported, 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 with this kind of political pressure. and you talked a lit 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? >> i generally did. i spoke to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general when he took office and explained my serious concern in which the way the president is interacting, especially with the fbi, and i specifically as i said in my testimony, told the attorney general, it can't happen that you get kicked out of the room and the president talks to me. why didn't we raise the specific? it was of investigative interest to us to try to figure out what just happened with the
president's request, so i would not have wanted to alert the white house. what do we figure out with this investigatively? >> your testimony was that you went to attorney sessions and said, don't leave me alone with him again. are you saying you also told him he had made a request that you let it go with regard to part of the investigation of michael flynn? >> no. i did not. i did not. >> 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? >> as i said, a combination of things.
a gut feeling is an important overlay, but 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 yeah. just a gut feel laying on top of that, that it's going to be important to protect this organization and i make records of this. >> and finally, did you show copies of your memos to anyone outside of the department of justice? >> yes. >> and to whom did you show copies? >> i asked -- the president tweeted on friday after you got fired that i better hope there's not tapes. i woke up in the middle of the night on monday night that there might be corroboration for our conversation and a tape, and my judgment was that i needed to get that out into the public square, and i asked a friend of mine to share the content of the
memo with a reporter, and i asked him to because i thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. >> was that mr. wittis? >> no. >> who was snit. >> -- it? >> a good friend of mine from law school. >> 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? >> no. dinner, no. i had two one-on-ones with president obama that i laid out in my testimony. one to talk about law enforcement issues. law enforcement and race, which was an important topic throughout for me and for the president, and once briefly to say good-bye. >> were those brief interactions? >> no. the one about law enforcement and race in policing, we spoke for over an hour, just the two of us.
>> how unusual is it to have one-on-one dinners with the president? did that strike you as sod? >> so much so that i assumed there would be others and he couldn't possibly be having dinner with me alone. >> 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 have still been fired? >> i don't know. it's impossible to say looking back. i don't know. >> but you felt like those two things were directly relevant to your -- the kind of relationship that the president was seeking
to establish with you? >> sure. yes. >> the president has repeatedly talked about the russian investigation into the u.s. -- or russia's involvement into the u.s. election cycle as a hoax and fake news. can you talk a little bit about what you saw as fbi director and obviously, only the parts you can share in the setting, that demonstrate how serious this action actually was, and why there was an investigation in the first place? >> yes, sir. the -- 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 from the top of that government. there is no fuzz on that.
it is a high confidence judgment on the entire intelligence community. it's not a close call. that happened. that's about as unfake as you can possibly get, and it's serious, and it's refreshing to see a bipartisan focus on that because this is about america and not a party. >> so that was a hostile act against this country. >> yes, sir. >> did the president in any of those interactions that you have 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? >> i don't recall a conversation like that. >> never? >> no. >> do you find it odd? >> not with president trump. >> right. >> i attended a fair number of meetings on that with president obama. >> do you find it odd that the president seemed unconcerned by
russia's actions in our election? >> i can't answer that because i don't know what other oervegss he had with other advisers or community leaders, but i don't know sitting here. >> did you have any interactions with the president that suggested he was taking that hostile action seriously? >> 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 at all about that. >> as you are very aware, it was only the two of you in the room for that dinner. you told us the president asked you to back off the flynn investigation. >> not in that dinner. >> fair enough. told the reporter he never did that. you testified that the president asked for your loyalty in that dinner. the white house denies that.
a lot of that comes down to who should we believe? do you want to say anything as to why we should believe you? >> my mother raised me not to say things about myself, so i'm not going to. i think people should look at the whole body, my testimony. as they said to juries, you can't cherry pick it. you can't say, i like these things he said, but on these things, he is a dirty, rotten liar, and i have tried to be open and fair and transparent and accurate. a 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, chief of staff, you of the office, if it was about something else? so that, to me, as an investigator is a very significant fact. >> as we look at testimony or communication from both of you, we should probably be looking
for consistency. >> looking at any witness, you look at track record, demeanor, record over time. >> there are reports that in the administration, either during the transition or during the inauguration ape tempted to set up a back door communication channel with the russian government using their infrastructure, their devices, and facilities. who 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 foreign government? especially if they were to evade our own american intelligence services? >> 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 of having to break into our
chacha channels by using theirs, and use those to the benefit of russia to the united states. >> the memos that you wrote, you wrote -- did you write all nine of them in a way that was designed to prevent them from needing classification? >> no, and on a few of the occasions i wrote and sent e-mails to my chiefs of staff or others about conversations that i recall. the first one was a classified briefing. it was in a conference room at trump tower, and it was classified, and i wrote that on a classified device. that was a classified laptop i was working on. >> any reason this committee, it would not be appropriate to these those communications from your perspective as the author? >> no. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you plrks 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, and i also said that i had had significant questions over the last year about some of the decisions you made. if the president hasn't terminated your service, would you still be, in your opinion, the director of the fbi today? >> yes, sir. >> 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? >> yes, sir. >> and six weeks later, we're still telling the president on march the 30th that he was not personally the target of any investigation. >> correct. on march the 30th, and i think on april 11th as well. we're not investigating him personally. that was true. >> the point to me -- the concern to me there is that all these things are going on.
you now in retrospect, you had serious concerns on what you believe the president directed you to do and had taken no ax. had not even reported up the chain of command and assuming there is an up the chain of command these things had happened. do you have a sense of that looking back that that was a mistake? >> no. i think no action was the most important thing i could do to make sure there was no interference with the investigation. >> on the flynn issue specifically, i believe you said earlier that you believe the president was suggesting you would drop any investigation of flynn's account of his conversation with the russian ambassador. which was essentially misleading the vice president and others? >> correct, and i'm not going to go into the details, but whether there were false statements made
to government investigators as well. >> any suggestion that the -- general flynn had violated the logan act? i always find pretty incredible. the logan act has been on there for over 200 years, and no one has ever been prosecuted for violating the logan act. not the problem. misleading investigators or the vice president might have been. >> yes, sir. >> did you previously on february the 14th discuss with the president in the previous meeting anything your investigators had learned or their impressions from talking to flynn? >> no, sir. >> so he said he is a good guy. you said, he is a good guy. and that was no further action taken on that. >> he said more than that, but there was no -- the action was, i wrote it up. briefed our senior team and tried to figure out what to do with it.
made a decision, we're going to hold this. >> was it your belief that you had no responsibility to report that to the justice department in some way? >> i think at some point, and i don't know what director muler is -- mueller is going to do with it, but we were going to brief it to the team in charge of the case, but our police chief was in the short-term, no fuzz on the fact i reported i to the attorney general, and that's why i stressed he shouldn't be kicked out of the room. >> you 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 with being alone in the room with him and talking to him on the phone? >> i was a little broader. i said, i report to you. it's very important you be between me and the white house. >> after that discussion with the attorney general, did you take phone calls from the president? >> yes, sir. >> why did you say you need to -- why didn't you say i'm
taking that call? you need to talk to the attorney general? >> i did on the april 11th call and i reported the call, the march 30th call and the april 11th call to the acting superior, to the acting deputy attorney general. >> let me make one more tipoint. in reading your testimony, january 3rd, january 27th and march 30th. on all three of those occasions, you made the point to the president that he was not a target of the -- of an investigation. >> correct. yes, sir. >> one, i thought the march 30th, you said very interest. well, even though you may not want to establish the 27th. where you said, why don't you look into that dossier thing? you said, you may not want that because you couldn't say -- 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. sir rubio said the one answered and unleaked question seems to be that in this period of time. you said something earlier i don't want the fail to follow up on. you said after you were dismissed, you gave information to a friend so that friend could get information into the public media. >> correct. >> what kind of inveformation w that? >> the flynn conversation. that the president asked me to let the -- i'm forgetting my exact own words. the conversation in the oval office. >> 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? >> correct. >> through a friend? >> i considered this to be my recollection recorded of my conversation with the president. as a private citizen, i felt free to share it.
i felt important to get it out. >> all your memos, that you recorded on classified or other documents, they might be yours as a private citizen? >> i'm not following the question. >> you said you used classified -- >> i don't have any of them anymore. i gave them to the special counsel. my view was the content of those unclassified memorializations, those conversations was my recollection recorded. >> why didn't you give these to somebody yourself rather than give them through a third party? >> because i was worried the media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point, and i was going out of town with my wife to hide, and it would be like feeding seagulls to the beach, so i asked my friend. >> it seems to me what you have done is create a source close to the former director of the fbi as to poeopposed to just taking responsibility yourself for saying, here are these records,
and like everybody else, i have other things i would like to get into, but i'm out of time. >> senator king. >> thank you. first, i would like to acknowledge senator blumenthal and nelson. the one thing you will learn is that the chairs are less comfortable than the chairs here. but welcome into 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 long-term strategy? will they be back? >> oh, it's a long-term practice of theirs. it stepped up in a significant way in '16. they will be back. >> i think that's very important for the american people to understand. this is very much a forward-looking investigation in terms of how do we understand what they did, and how do they prevent it? would you agree that's a big part of our role here? >> yes, sir, and it's not a republican thing or a democratic thing. it's really an american thing.
they will come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of, and they are not defeated to either in my experience. they are just about their own advantage, and they will be back. >> that's my observation. i don't think putin is a republican or a democrat. he is an opportunist. >> that's a fair statement. >> with regard to the conversations, in his interview with lester holt, the president said, i had dinner with thim i wanted to have dinner with him, so he would stay on. is that accurate? >> no, sir. >> what happened? >> he called me and asked me, are you free for dinner? i said, yes, sir. he said, i was going to invite your whole family, but we'll do that next time, is that a good time? i said, sir. whatever works for you. he said, how about 6:30?
i said, whatever works for you, sir, and then i hung up and i had to call my wife, and break a date with her. i was supposed to go out with her. >> that's one of the all-time great excuses for breaking a date. >> in retrospect, i wish i would have been there with my wife. >> that's one question i'm not going to follow up with. the president said, in one case, i called hitm, and in one case, he called me. is that an accurate statement? >> no. >> did you ever call the president? >> no. 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 to be connected to him, but i never initiated a communication with the president. >> he was asked whether he had urged you to shut down the investigation with mr. flynn. he said, no, no.
next question. is that an accurate statement? why i don't belie >> i don't believe it is. >> does that mean that the dossier is not being reviewed or investigated or followed up on in any way? >> i obviously can't comment eat 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 responsibility now, so i don't know. >> clearly, your statements to the investigation were as of that moment, correct? >> correct. >> now on the flynn investigation, is it not true that mr. flynn was and is a central figure in this entire investigation of the between the campaign and the russians? >> i can't answer that in an open setting, sir. >> and certainly mr. flynn was
part of the russian investigation. can you answer that question? >> i have to give you the same answer. >> we'll be having a close session shortly. we'll follow up on that. in eterm of his comments to you such as senator risch, he said, i hope you will hold back on that. when a president of the united states in the oval office says, i hope, or would you, do you take that as a directive? >> yes. yes. it rings in my ears, of this medicine priest. >> i was going to quote this. henry ii said, who will rid me of this, and the next day he was killed. that's exactly the same position. we're thinking the same lines. several other questions, and these are more detailed. what do you know about the
russian bank, vbe? >> nothing i the talk about. i know it exists. yes, sir. >> you know it exists. what is the relationship of ambassador -- the ambassador from russia to the united states to the russian intelligence infrastructure? >> he is a diplomat. who is the chief of mission at the russian embassy, which employs a robust cohort of intelligence officers and he is witting of their very, very intelligence officers, at least in the united states. y i don't kor him to be an officer himself. he is a diplomat. >> did you ever brief the trump administration about the advisability of interacting directly with ambassador kislyak? >> sitting here, there was a variety of defensive briefings
given to the incoming administration about the counterintelligence risk. >> back to mr. flynn, would closing out the flynn investigation have impeded the overall russian investigation? >> no. unlikely, except to the extent -- there is always a possibility if you have a criminal case against someone, and you bring them in and squeeze them and flip them, they give you information about something else, but i saw the two as touching each other, but separate. >> with regard to your memos, isn't it true that in a court case when you are weighing evidence, contemporaneous memos and statements are considered proptive in terms of validity? >> yes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator langford.
>> director comey, good to see you again. we have had multiple opportunities to speak as well as everybody on this dais has, and i appreciate your service and what you continue to do. i told you before in the heat of last year when we had an opportunity to visit i pray for you and your family because you carry a tremendous amount of stress, and that's still today. your notes are obviously exceptionally important because they give a very rapid account of what you wrote down and what you perceived happen in those different meetings. have you been able to reference those notes when you were preparing the written statement you put forth today? >> yes. yes. i think nearly all of my written recordings of the conversations, i had a chance to review them before filing my statement. >> do you have a copy of those notes personally? >> i don't. i turned them over to bob
mueller's investigation. >> the individual that you told about your memos that was sent on "the new york times," did they have a copy or were they told oral? >> they had a copy at the time. >> do they still have a copy of those memos? >> that's a good question. i think so. i guess i can't say for sure sitting here. i guess i don't know, but i think so. >> could you ask them to hand that copyright back to you so you could hand them? i would like to have a copy of those. those notes are exceptionally important us to to be able to go through the facts as we stated. as you know, the written documents are important. there are other documents we need to be aware of you wrote in preparation that we should also have that would assist us in helping with us. >> not that i'm aware of. >> past the february the 14th meeting, which is important as we discuss the conversations
here about michael flynn, when the president asked 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? in the other conversations you had with the president? >> no. i don't remember him bringing ill up again. >> did anyone talk to you about dropping the case referring to that? >> no. >> did the national communications committee talk to you about that? >> no. >> did the department of justice talk to you about that? >> no. >> did the nsa talk to you about that? >> no. >> it seems like a light touch to drop it. to bring it up the day after he fired flynn, to say, i hope we can let this go, and it never
reappears again. did it slow down your investigation or any investigation that may or may not be occurring with michael flynn? >> no. although, i don't know there were any manifestations of the investigation between february 14th and when i was fired, so i don't know that the president had any way of knowing whether it was effective or not. >> 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 counterintelligence investigation, would that be a matter of trying to go to you, and say, you make it stop because he doesn't have the authority to stop or how would the president make an ongoing investigation stop? >> i'm not a legal scholar, so smarter people answer this better, but he is the head of the executive branch and could direct, in theory, we have important norms against this, but anybody be investigated, or not be investigated, as the
legal authority, and you report up to the president. >> would that be to you, the attorney general? to who? >> i suppose if you want to issue a direct order, you could do it any way. you could do it through the attorney general or directly to me. >> is there any question that the president is not real fond of this investigation? i can think of multiple 140-word expressions he has shown publicly. i heard you hear you're trying to keep the agents that are working on it away from comments the president might have made. the president has informed 1.6 million people he is not fond of this investigation. >> he is looking to kick superiors out of the oval office and saying, let this go.
if acgents as good as they are, heard that, that's a chilling effect on their work, and that's why we kept it tight. >> without having to go into the names and the specific times and to be able to dip in all that, have there been news accounts about the russia investigation, about collusion and this whole efferent? as you were stunned at how wrong they got the facts? >> yes. there have been many, many stories about lots of stuff, but especially about russia that are just dead wrong. >> i was interested in your dme comment that you made as well. if there were satellite associates of his that did something wrong, it would be good to find that out. the president seemed to talk to you specifically on march 30th and say, i'm frustrated that the word is not getting out on an 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? >> yes, sir. yes. >> you said the attorney general asked you about the investigation on the clinton e-mails, saying that you have been asked not to call it an investigation anymore, but call it a matter, and you said that confused you. can you give us additional details on that? >> it concerned me because we were at the point where we had refused to confirm the existence of an investigation for months, and it looked silly because the campaigns were talking about interacting with the fbi in the course of our work. the clinton campaign at the time was using euphemisms, security review and matter all that. for what was going on. the attorney general and i were going to have to testify and talk publicly, and we had to
authorize or confirm an investigation. she said, yes. but don't call it that. call it a matter. i said, why would i do that? she said, just call it a matter. you look back in hindsight and say, should i have resisted harder? i said, all right. i said, okay. the press is going to completely ignore it. that's what happened. i said, we have opened a matter. the reported the fbi has an investigation open. that concerned me because that language tracked the way the campaign was talking about the fbi's work, and that's concerning. >> it gave the impression that the campaign was somehow using in the same language of the fbi, and told them you would use the campaign language. >> i don't know. but it gave the impression that the attorney general was trying to align a criminal investigation with a way the campaign talks about it.
we had a criminal investigation open. we had a criminal investigation open at the time, and that gave me a queasy feeling. >> thank you very much. i appreciate you for being here. west virginians are very interested in this hearing we have had today. i have had over 600 requests for questions to ask you and most of them have been asked, and i want to thank you first of all, for coming and agreeing to be here, volunteering. and also volunteering to stay into the classified hearing. i don't know if you had a chance to watch our hearing yesterday. >> i watched part of it. >> it was quite troubling. my colleagues here had some pointed questions they wanted answers to, and they weren't classified. they refused to do so, and that 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? what should american public understand? people said, why are we worried about this? why make this a big deal for the russian investigation? what are your thoughts? and if final thing is on the same topic. did the president ever show interest, concern or curiosity about what the russians were doing? >> i don't remember any conferences with the president about russian interference. >> did he ever ask you questions concerning this? >> there were findings, and he asked questions about what we had found and what our sources were and confidence level was, and after that, i don't remember anything. the reason this is such a big deal is we have this big, messy, wonderful country where we fight each other all the time, but nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for except other americans.
that's wonderful and often painful, but we're talking about a foreign government using technical intrusion and lots of other methods trying to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. that is a big deal and people need to recognize it. it's not about republicans or democrats. they are coming after america, which we all love equally. they want to undermine our credibility in the face of the world. we are a threat to them, and they want to run it around and dirty it up as much as possible, 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. >> it's important and dangerous. this is needed is what you are saying. >> yes, sir. >> do you believe there were any tapes or recordings of your conversations with the president? >> it never occurred to me to the president's tweet.
i'm not being facetious. i hope there. >> you both hope there are tapes and recordings. >> well, all i can do is hope. the president surely knows whether he taped me, and if he did, my feelings aren't hurt, and release the tapes. >> got you. do you believe that robert mueller, the new special investigator on russia will be thorough and complete without political intervention, and will you be confident on his findings? >> yes. he is one of the best public servants we have ever produced. he will do it well. he is a dogged, tough person. when it's done, he has turned over all the rocks. >> you have been asked a wide variety of questions today, and we're going to be in a hearing, our classified hearing. i ask folks, what details of this saga should we be focusing
>> or adjust our perspective on this? >> i don't know. one of the reasons i'm pleased to be here is i think this committee has shown the american people although we have two parties and disagree are about important things. we can work together when it involves the core interest of the country. i hope you keep doing what you're doing. it's good in of itself especially for kids that we are a functioning adult democracy. >> you 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 elude that you are not performing adequately, ever indicate that at all? >> quite the contrary quite often. he called me one day. the head of the dea was waiting in the helicopter for me and he 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. >> mr. comey, do you believe you would have been fired if hillary clinton had become president? >> that's a great question. i don't know. yeah. i don't know. >> you have any thoughts about it? >> i might have been. i don't know. look, i've said before that was an extraordinarily difficult and painful time. i think i did what i had to do. i knew it was going to be very bad for me personally and might have been. i don't know. i really don't. >> after february 14th meeting in the oval office you asked attorney general 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? >> oh, sure. i did. and have. in that moment i knew -- >> did you ever talk to him about it?
>> no. >> you never had a discussion with jeff sessions on this? >> not at all. >> on any of your meetings? >> no. >> did he inquire, show any inquiry whatsoever, what was that meeting about? >> no. you're right. i did say to him -- i had 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 passed 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. >> do you believe this arised to obstruction of justice? >> i don't know. that's bob mueller's job to sort that out. >> thank you, sir. >> mr. chairman. >> senator cotton.
>> mr. comey you're encouraged the president to release the tapes. will you encourage the department of justice or your friend at colombia or mr. mueller to release your notes? >> sure. >> you said you did not record your conversations with president obama or president bush in memos. did you do so with jeff sessions or any other senior member of the trump department of justice? >> no. i think it -- i'm sorry. >> did you record conversations and memos with attorney general lynch or another senior member of the obama department of justice. >> no, not that i recall. >> in your statement for the record you site nine private conversations with the president, three meetings and four phone calls not discussed in your statement for the record. what happened to those phone calls? >> the president called me i believe shortly before he was inaugurated as a follow-up to our conversation, private conversation on january the 6th.
he just wanted to reiterate his rejection of the allegation and talk about he thought about it more and why he thought it wasn't true, that the verified -- unverified and salacious parts and he asked me again hope you're going to stay, you're doing a great job and i told him i intended to. there was another phone call that i mentioned, i think was -- could have the date wrong -- march the 1st as i was about to get on the helicopter. there was a secure call we had about an operational matter not related to any of this about something the fbi was working on, he wanted to make sure i understood how important i thought it was. totally appropriate call. then the fourth call -- probably forgetting. i may have meant the call when he invited me to dinner. i'll think about it as i'm answering other questions. i think i got that right. >> let's turn to the underlying
activity at issue here, russia's hacking into the e-mails and releasing them and collusion. do you believe donald trump colluded with russia? >> it's a question i don't think i should answer in an open setting. when i left we did not have an investigation focused on president trump. but that's a question that will be answered by the investigation i think. >> let me turn to a couple statements. senator feinstein, she was the ranking member on this compete tee until january. she had access to information and now the senior democrat on the judiciary committee. on may 3rd on cnn's wolf blitzer show she was asked do you have evidence there was collusion between trump associates and russia during the campaign. she answered not at this time. on may 18th. the last time asked if you had seen any evidence of collusion 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? >> i don't doubt that senator feinstein was saying she understood. i don't want to go down that path 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 open setting. i want to be -- i'm always trying to be fair. i'm not trying to say just by my answer something nefarious. but not as to this person or not that person. >> "the new york times" said repeated contacts with russian intelligence. you were asked if that was an inaccurate story and you said in the -- would it be fair to characterize that story as almost entirely wrong? >> yes.
>> at the time it was published did you have any contact between trump people and russians intelligence officers, government officials or close associates of the government? >> that's one i can't answer sitting here. >> i want to turn attention now to mr. flynn and the allegations of his conduct to be specific, his alleged interactions with the russian ambassador on the telephone and 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 advocacy activity on behalf of foreign governments. serious and credible allegations. specifically about his interactions with the russian ambassador. there was a story on january 23rd in "the washington post" that says fbi reviewed flynn's calls with russian ambassador but found nothing illicit. is this story accurate?
>> i don't want to comment on that senator because i'm pretty sure the bureau has not confirmed any interception of communications. i don't want to talk about that in an open set. >> would it be improper for an incoming national security adviser to have a conversation with a foreign ambassador? >> in my experience, no. >> but you can't confirm or deny that the conversation happened and we would need to know the contents of that conversation to know if it was improper? >> i don't think i could talk about that in open setting. i also don't want to talk about things what is now somebody else's responsibility but maybe in the classified setting we can talk. >> you stated earlier there wasn't an open investigation of mr. flynn and 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?
>> i don't want to go too far. that was the subject of the criminal inquiry. >> did you ever come close to closing the investigation on mr. flynn? >> i don't think i could talk about that in opening setting either. >> we can discuss more in closed setting then. mr. comey, in 2004 you were a part of a well publicized event about a program recertified several times and you were acting attorney general when attorney general john ash croft was incapacitated due to illness. there was a showdown at the hospital here. the next day you said you wrote a letter of resignation before you met with president bush. is that accurate? >> yes. i think so. >> at any time you were the fbi director during the trump administration did you ever write and sign a letter of
recommendation and leave it on your desk? >> letter of resignation, no, sir. >> letter of resignation. despite all of the things you 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? >> i wouldn't characterize the circumstances in 2004 that way. but to answer, no, i didn't find -- encounter any circumstance that led me intend to consider to resign, no, sir. >> thank you. >> senator harris. >> director comey i want to thank you, you are now a private citizen and enduring a senate committee. each of us get 7 minutes instead of 5. so thank you. >> i'm between opportunities now. >> well, you are -- i'm sure you'll have future opportunities. you and i are both former prosecutors. not going to require you to
answer. i just want to make a statement that in my 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. 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? >> that's not even if i remember clearly, that's not what i can answer in open setting. >> are you aware by associates of the campaign to hide their communications with russian officials through encrypted communications or other means? >> i have to give you the same answer. >> 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? >> i think i got to give you the same answer. it would touch on investigative matters. >> are you aware of potential efforts to conceal communications between russian officials? >> same answer. >> 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 russian investigation? >> 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 or russia in the '16 election. something like that. >> is your knowledge of the extent of his recusal based on the public statements he's made. >> correct. >> was there any memorandum
issued from the attorney general or the department of justice to the fbi outlining the parameters of his recusal. >> not that i'm aware of. >> and do you know if he reviewed any fbi or doj documents pertaining to the investigation before he was recused? >> i don't know. >> and after he was recused? i'm assuming same answer? >> same answer. >> aside from any notice or memo not sent or was what mechanism or process was in place to assure the attorney general would not have any connection with the investigation to your knowledge? >> i don't know for sure. i know that he had consulted with career ethics officials, didn't know how to run a recusal at doj. but i don't know what mechanism they set up. >> the attorney general recused himself from the investigation. 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? >> 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 the president was doing it because of the russia investigation. i don't know the answer. >> you mentioned in your written testimony in here that the the asked you for a loyalty pledge. are you aware of him making the same request of any other members of the cabinet? >> i am not. >> do you know one way or another -- >> i don't know one way or another. never heard anything about it. >> 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? >> i don't -- in theory, sure. because he's the attorney general. i don't know whether he had any
contact with any materials. >> was there any knowledge he should not have contact with any information about the russia investigation between the february 14th date and the day he was ultimately recused or recused himself on march 2nd? >> not to my knowledge. i don't know one way or another. >> did you speaking to the attorney general about the russia investigation before his recusal? >> i don't think so. no. >> do you know if anyone in the fbi department forwarded any documents or information or memos of any sort to the attention of the attorney general before his recusal? >> i don't know of any, remember any sitting here. it's possible but i don't remember any. >> do you know if the attorney general was involved in any aspect of the russia investigation after his recusal on the 2nd of march? >> i would assume not. i don't know of any information that would lead me to believe he did something to touch the russia investigation after the
recusal. >> 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 he did not reply. what did he do? if anything. did he just look at you? was there a pause? what happened? >> i don't remember real clearly. i have a recollection -- this may be a faulty language. his body language gave me the sense of what am i going to do. >> did he shrug? >> i don't remember clearly. the reason i have that impression is, like what am i going to do but i don't have a clear recollection of that. he didn't say anything. >> and on that same february 14th meeting you said you understood the president to be requesting you drop 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 learned from those meetings changed your understanding of the president's request? i guess it would be what he had said in public documents or public interviews? >> correct. >> 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? >> no the appointment of special counsel should offer great comfort to americans no matter what your political affiliation is. this was done independently and honestly. >> do you believe he should have full authority, mr. mueller to be able to pursue that investigation? >> yes. and knowing him well over the years, if there's something he
thinks he needs, he will speak up about it. >> do you believe he should have full independence? >> oh, yeah. and he wouldn't be part of it if he wasn't going to get it. >> thank you. >> senator cornyn. >> thank you mr. chairman. mr. comey, i'll repeat what i've said at previous hearings that i believe you're a good and descent man who has been dealt a difficult hand starting back with the clinton e-mail investigation and i appreciate your willingness to appear here 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? >> that's a good question. i don't know there's a legal duty to report it. they certainly have a cultural ethical duty to report it. >> you're unsure whether they would have a legal duty? >> good question.
i don't know where the legal -- there's a statute that prohibits knowing of a felony and taking steps to conceal it but this is a different question. so look, let me be clear, i would expect any fbi agent to have information about that to report it. >> me too. >> where you rest that obligation, i don't know, it exists. >> 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 -- >> yeah. doesn't make a lot of sense to me but i'm hopelessly biased given i was the one fired. >> i understand it's personal. >> no. given the nature of the fbi, i meant what i said. 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 are for me but the work will go on. >> nothing that's happened 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? >> correct. especially the appointment of mueller is critical. >> let me take you back to the clinton e-mail investigation. you have been cast as a hero or a villain depending on the -- whose political ox is being gored at many different times during the e-mail investigation and even now perhaps. but you clearly were troubled by the conduct of the sitting attorney general, loretta lynch when it came to the clinton e-mail investigation, you mentioned the characterization that you had 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 a subject to a criminal investigation and you 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 had an appearance of a conflict of interest on the clinton e-mail investigation, is that correct. >> i think that's fair. i didn't believe she could credibly decline that investigation. at least not without grievance to the department of justice and to the fbi. >> 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 with director mueller. would that have been an appropriate step in your opinion? >> certainly a possible step, yes, sir. >> and were you aware that miss
lynch had been requested numerous times to appoint a special counsel and refused? >> yes. from i think congress had -- members of congress had repeatedly asked yes, sir. >> 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 take the matter up yourself and led to that july press conference? >> yes, sir. after former president clinton met on the plane with the attorney general, i consider whether i could call for the appointment of special counsel and decided it would be unfair because i knew there was no case there. we investigated 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 there was something here. that was my judgment. lots of people have different views about it. >> if the special counsel had been appointed they could have made that determination that there was nothing there and declined to pursue it right? >> sure. but it would have been months later or a year later. >> let me just ask you to given the experience of the clinton e-mail investigation and what happened there, do you think it's unreasonable for anyone, any president who has been assured on multiple occasion that is he is 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 this cloud over his administration would be removed? >> 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. >> we saw that in the clinton e-mail investigation. >> yes, i recall that. >> i know you do. >> so let me ask you finally in the minute that we have left, there was this conversation back and forth about loyalty and we all appreciate that the fbi director is a unique public official in the sense that he's a political appointee in one sense but has a duty to pursue the law pursuant to the constitutional laws of the united states. so when the president asked you about loyalty you got back and forth about well, i pledge you my honesty and it looks like from what i read you agreed upon honest loyalty or something like that. is that the characterization? >> yes. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, sir.
>> senator reid. >> thank you. there have been press reports that the president in addition to asking you to drop the flynn investigation has asked other senior intelligence officials to take steps which would tend to undermine the investigation. there are reports that coats was asked to make public statements exonerating him or taking the pressure off him and also reports about director pompeo to intervene and reach out to the fbi and ask them. are you aware of any of these -- do you have any information with respect to any of these allegations? >> 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. >> thank you. you have testified that you interpret the discussion about flynn to stop the investigation? >> yes. >> you testified that the president asked you to lift the cloud by essentially making public statements exonerating him and others, you refused correct? >> i didn't refuse the president. i told him we would see what we can do and the second time he called, i told him in substance that's something your lawyer will have to take up with the justice department. >> and part of the underlying logic was what we discussed many times this morning is the duty to correct. that is one -- a theoretical issue but practical issue. was there your feeling that the direction of the investigation
could in fact include the president? >> well, in theory. 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 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 the justice department wanted to, i would have done it. because the duty to correct and the slippery slope problem. >> again, also, you have 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? >> correct. i tried honest first. and also, i mean, you see in my testimony also tried to explain to him why it's in his interest and every president's interest for the fbi to be a part in a way because it's creditability is important to a president and to the country. so i tried to hold the line and got very awkward and i then said you'll always have honesty from me and he said honest loyalty and i ended this awkwardness. >> at the culmination of these events you're fired without any explanation? >> there was an explanation. i just don't buy it. >> yes. so you're fired. do you believe that you were fired because you refused to take the president's direction? is that the ultimate reason? >> 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. >> the russian investigation as you have pointed out and as all my colleagues have reflected is one of the most serious hostile acts against this country in our history underlying the very core of our da mackcy and our elections, is not a discreet event. will likely occur probably being here now for 18, 20 and beyond. and yet the president of the united states fires you because some relation to this investigation in your own words and then he shows up in the oval office with the russian foreign minister after classifying you as crazy and a real nutjob which i think you disproved this morning. he said i face pressure because of russia that's taken off.
the collusion would be that the president would i would think is down-playing the seriousness of this threat, in fact, took specific steps to stop a thorough investigation of the russian influence and also from what you said or what was considered this morning doesn't seem interested in these hostile threats by the russians? is that fair? >> i don't know that i can agree to that level of detail. there's no doubt it's a fair judgment and my judgment 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 investigation was being conducted. that is a very big deal. not just because it involves me. the nature of the fbi and its work requires that it not be the subject of political consideration and on top of that
you have the russia investigation itself is vital because of the threat and i know i should have said this earlier, 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. >> finally, the president tweeted that james comey better hope there are no tapes of our conversation that he starts leaking to the press. was that rather unsubtle attempt to intimidate you from testifying and anyone else who seriously crosses his path of not doing it? >> i'm not going to sit here and try and interpret the president's tweets. occurred to me in the middle of the night, holy cow, there might be tapes and if there are, it's not just my word against his on the direction to get rid of the flynn investigation. >> thank you very much.
>> senator mccain. >> 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 of 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. >> the clinton investigation was a completed investigation that the fbi had been deeply involved in. i had the opportunity to understand all the facts and apply the facts against the laws i understood them. this investigation was under way, still going when i was fired. so it's nowhere near in the same place, at least it wasn't when i was -- >> but it's still ongoing? >> as far as i know. it was when i left. >> that investigation was going on, this investigation was going on, you reached separate conclusions? >> no. that one was done. >> that investigation have any involvement of secretary clinton or any of her associate is completed? >> yes, as of july the 5th the fbi completed its investigative work and that's what i was announcing, what we had done and found. >> 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 mention 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. 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, 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? >> with respect to -- i'm a little confused senator. with respect to secretary
clinton we investigated criminal investigation in connection with her use of a personal e-mail server. >> i understand. >> that's the investigation i announce on july 5th. >> but at the same time of 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 done with the whole investigation of their attempt to effect the outcome of our election? >> i'm sorry. we're not -- at least when i left, when i was fired on may 9th. it was an open active investigation to understand the russian efforts and whether any americans worked with them. >> you reached the conclusion there was no reason to bring charges against secretary clinton. so you reached a conclusion in the case of mr. comey, you --
president comey -- excuse me. in the 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? >> i don't know how far the fbi has to go. but yes, that the clinton e-mail 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. >> what you said this was a quote, big deal, unquote. i think it's hard to reconcile. one you have reached conclusion and the other side you have not. 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? >> very serious. but i want to be clear. it was we have not announced and there was no pred occasion to announce an investigation of whether the russians may have coordinated with secretary clinton's campaign. >> no. but they might not have been involved with the campaign but were with the entire presidential campaign. >> yes, sir. that is an investigation that began last summer and continues. >> 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. 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? >> yes. >> why didn't you ask him? >> it didn't seem to be important 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. >> i think you would -- it would arouse my curiosity if the president of the united states said we had that thing, you know. i would like to know what the hell that thing is particularly if i'm the director of the fbi. >> i get that senator.
what i concluded is in his memory he was searching back to our encounter at the dinner and preparing himself to say i offer loyalty to you, you promised loyalty to me and his memory showed that did not happen and i think he pulled up short. that's just a guess. but a lot of conversations -- >> i think i would have had some curiosity if it were about me to be honest with you. so are you aware of anything that would lead you believe that the president, members of the administration or members of the campaign could potentially be used to coerce or black mail the administration? >> that's a subject for investigatio investigations, not something i can comment on sitting here. >> but you 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 black mail the administration? >> that's not a question i can answer senator. >> time is expired. >> thank you. >> time is expired for the hearing. can i say for members we'll reconvene promptly at 1:00 p.m. in the hearing room. we have a vote scheduled for 1:45. i would suggest that all members promptly be there at 1:00. we have about three minutes. i would like to have order photographers return to where you were please. this hearing is not adjourned yet. >> there you have it right there. the chairman of the senate intelligence committee trying to