BREAKING: James Comey says Trump fired him for his handling of Russia investigation

James Comey will testify Trump asked him to let Flynn investigation go
James Comey
Former FBI Director James Comey was fired by President Trump. Photo: Reuters

Update 2:37 a.m. June 8, 2017: President Donald Trump's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, addressed reporters Thursday following testimony of fired FBI Director James Comey.

 

Kasowitz opened by saying Comey "admitted there is no evidence" that Russian interference had affected votes or that the president was even under investigation during his tenure — a claim Comey has never made.

 

In his prepared statement, Kasowitz also refuted several key points of Comey's testimony, denying allegations Trump asked for Comey's loyalty or asked him to let the Flynn investigation go.

 

"The President never sought to impede the investigation into attempted Russian interference in the 2016 election, and in fact, according to Mr. Comey, the President told Mr. Comey, 'it would be good to find out' in that investigation if there were 'some "satellite" associates of his who did something wrong,'" Kasowitz said.

 

Kasowitz also harped on Comey's decision to release memos of his "privileged conversations" with the president to friends and ultimately the press, and suggested he lied about the timing of when he leaked the memos.

"Although Mr. Comey testified he only leaked the memos in response to a tweet, the public record reveals that the New York Times was quoting from these memos the day before the referenced tweet, which belies Mr. Comey's excuse for this unauthorized disclosure of privileged information and appears to entirely retaliatory," Kasowitz said. "We will leave it the appropriate authorities to determine whether this leaks should be investigated along with all those others being investigated."

Update 12:42 a.m. June 8, 2017: Hearing adjourned.

Update 12:39 a.m. June 8, 2017: Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, focused his testimony on the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton's email during her time as secretary of state and suggests a "double standard" in the handling of the investigations.

“You reached the conclusion that there was no reason to bring charges against Mrs. Clinton, but this investigation...."

McCain also asked about the written testimony comey submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday. In it, Comey quotes Trump as saying, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” McCain is curious about what "that thing" is.

"I think it would intensely arouse my curiosity if the president of the United States said ‘you know we had that thing,'" McCain said.

Comey offered little explanation saying at the time he thought the president was recalling their dinner in which he had asked Comey to pledge his loyalty.

And with that came the drop of Chairman Richard Burr's gavel. McCain's seven minutes were up.

Update 12:28 a.m. June 8, 2017: Ex-FBI Director James Comey tells Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, "I know I was fired because something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was some way putting pressure on him, was some way irritating him. It's my judgment i was fired because of the Russia investigation as some way to change the Russia investigation and that is a very big deal," Comey said.

He adds,"If any Americans were involved in lettinr the Russians do that to us, that is a very big deal and i'm confident [special counsel] Mueller will get to the bottom of it."

Update 12:21 a.m. June 8, 2017: Republican John Cornyn of Texas asks Comey, "If you’re trying to make an investigation go away, is firing an FBI director a good way to make that happen?"

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but obviously I’m hopelessly biased, given that I was the one fired,” Comey said.

Update 12:02 a.m. June 8, 2017: Ex-FBI Director James Comey repeatedly dodged questions about whether believed President Donald Trump's decision to fire him amounted to obstruction of justice, but he did say he was "sure" special counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the Russia investigation, would look into it.

Several senators asked the question of Comey, most recently Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia asked, "Will this rise to an obstruction of justice?"

"That’s Bob Mueller’s job to sort that out," Comey said.

Update 11:55 a.m. June 8: Republican James Lankford of Oklahoma asks Comey if any other administration officials tried to convince him to drop the Flynn investigation outside of the March 30 conversation.

“This seems like a pretty light touch to drop it,” Lankford said.

Comey pushed back on Lankford's assumption, describing the "chilling effect" of having the president of the United States shooing superior officers out of the Oval Office to assert his views upon the director of the FBI.

“We have important norms against this," Comey said.

Update 11:46 a.m. June 8, 2017: Columbia University Law School website goes down follwing Comey's reference to leaking his memos to "a good friend of mind who’s a professor at Columbia Law school.” 

Update 11:39 a.m. June 8, 2017: Ex-FBI Director James Comey said the investigation into Russian hackers interfering in the 2016 presidential election was a "forward thinking" investigation and as much to find out the details of what ocurred during the last campaign system as to stop it from happening again.

"It's not a Republican thing or Democratic thing, it really is an American thing thing. Russia is not devoted to either in my experience, just to whichever is to their advantage. They will be back," he said.

Update: 11:37 a.m. June 8, 2017: CNN White House reporter Jeremy Diamond announces Trump's lawyer will make a statement after Comey testifies.

UPDATE 11:26 a.m. June 8, 2017: Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine again asked Comey why he felt the need to record his conversations with the president.

Comey doubled down on his earlier statement, adding, “Really just a gut feel... that it’s going to be important to protect this organization and that I make records.”

Collins asked who Comey had shared his memos with and if he had shared it with anyone outside of the Department of Justice, to which Comey replied, "yes."

“The president tweeted on Friday after I got fired that ‘I hope that there’s not tapes,” Comey said. He said he woke up in the middle of the night that Monday and realized he needed to get his own version out. He gave the memos to a "close friend" who is a professor at Columbia Law School who passed the information to a reporter.

UPDATE 11:15 a.m. June 8, 2017: Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon says he hasn't always agreed with ex-FBI Director James Comey on policy, but said, “I believe that the timing of your firing stinks.”

“The odor of presidential abuse of power is strong,” Wyden said.

Wyden discussed a dinner where Trump asked Comey for his loyalty. 

“I got the sense my job would be contingent upon how he felt I conducted myself and whether I demonstrated loyalty, but I don’t know that I’d go so far as to connect it to the [Russia] investigation,' Comey said, noting the president was after a "patronage relationship" where the underling considers their boss when making decisions.

UPDATE 11:09 a.m. June 8, 2017: Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio takes the floor, asking if the Flynn meeting on March 30 was the only time Trump asked Comey to drop the Flynn investigation.

"Yes," Comey said.

Rubio continued, doubling down on Dianne Feinstein's earlier question on why Comey didn't just tell the president his request to "drop" the Flynn investigation wasn't an appropriate request.

“I don’t know. Whether I was a bit stunned, I didn’t have the presence of mind. What came to my mind was, be careful what you say.”

Rubio criticizes the numerous leaks in the Department of Justice that have slipped information to the public on the Russia investigation and tries to downplay Trump's request to drop the investigation into Flynn.

Rubio breaks down Trump’s requests: 1. be loyal, 2. let Flynn go, and 3. tell the public that I’m not under investigation. Is that right?

“Those are the three things he asked, yes sir,” Comey said.

“The only thing that’s never been leaked is the fact that the president has never been under investigation,” Rubio said. 

UPDATE 10:55 a.m. June 8, 2017: California Democrat Dianne Feinstein asks Comey whether, in his opinion, the Russia investigation figured into his firing.

“Yes, because I’ve seen the president say so.”

Feinstein acknowledged the weight of the Oval Office, but she questioned by Comey would continue with a conversation with the president, which he knew was improper, even after Trump had dismissed other official including the attorney general.

"Maybe if I were stronger I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in."

Comey continued, "I saw the tweet about the tapes, Lordy I hope there are tapes. I remember saying ‘I agree he’s a good guy,’ as a way of saying ‘I’m not agreeing with what you asked me to just do.’"

UPDATE 10:47 a.m. June 8, 2017: Comey said Trump did not tell him to drop the Russia investigation.

UPDATE 10:40 a.m. June 8, 2017: Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committe Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, asks ex-FBI Director James Comey why he felt the need to start documenting conversations with President Donald Trump as early as January.

“A combination of things. The circumstances, the subject matter and the person I was interacting with — I was meeting alone with the president-elect, soon to be president of the United States," Comey said, noting they were discussing sensitive issues.

"And then the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting," Comey said, adding "I knew someday there might be a day where I would need a written record not only to defend myself but hte FBI and the integrity of our organization."

Warner responded, "I think that's a very significant statement you just made here."

UPDATE 10:36 a.m. June 8, 2017: Comey says he has "no doubt" the Russian governenment was behind the hacking of the Russian elections and the intrusion into U.S. voting software. He also said he was confident that no votes had been altered and that there was no evidence to suggest they had been at the time when he left the FBI.

UPDATE 10:25 a.m June 8, 2017: After being sworn in to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committe just after 10 a.m. Thursday, fired FBI Director James Comey said President Donald Trump's shifting explanations on why he was fired "confused me and increasingly concerned him."

When I was appointed as FBI director in 2013, I understood I served at the pleasure of president even though I was appointed to 10-year term that Congress created to underscore the importance of the position, I knew I could be fired by the president for any reason and that's why I went home that day as a private citizen," Comey said. "But then the explanations, the shifting explanations confused me and increasingly concerned me."

Comey said the president had told him on numerous occasions that he was doing a great job, adding that he didn't buy the initial explanation that his firing was due to his handling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal, because there had been a "whole lot of water under the bridge" since then. 

Just a day later Trump himself admitted in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt that Comey's firing had to do with relieving pressure on the Russia investigation.

"And then the administration chose to defame me, and more importantly to defame the FBI, saying that it was in disarry, poorly run, and that the worforce didn’t like me. Those were lies," Comey said. "I'm so sorry that FBI workforece had to hear them and so sorry the American people had to hear them."

Originally posted at 10 a.m.  June 8, 2017: As the Senate Intelligence Committee delves deeper into their investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, fired FBI Chief James Comey takes center stage Thursday.

Controversy around Comey’s May 9 firing has fueled suspicion that President Donald Trump wanted to put an end to the federal investigation into possible collusion by members of his campaign team in the Russian election hacking scandal. Some have equated Trump’s firing of Comey to obstruction of justice.

The Department of Justice’s investigation started after ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was fired after just 24 days on the job when it was revealed he failed to disclose ties and communications with Russian officials.

The president allegedly pressured Comey to end his investigation into Flynn, calling him a “good guy,” according to transcripts of Comey’s prepared testimony released yesterday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In the transcripts, which will read Thursday before the 15-member Senate Intelligence Committee pane, Comey claims Trump demanded loyalty from him and asked him to let the investigation into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn go.

“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,” Trump allegedly said to Comey on March 30, according to written memos he made of nine conversations he had with the president.

Comey noted he did not tell the president he would “let this go."

Comey’s prepared testimony paints a picture of uncomfortable conversations with the president, cryptic references to “that thing, you know” and borderline obstructionist appeals by the president for Comey to drop the FBI investigation.

Thursday’s testimony is Comey’s chance to get his version of events out and they are allegations the president has vehemently disputed.

Watch the event here as it unfolds live: