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James Comey at Senate: Trump Chose to Defame Me With Lies, I Was Fired to Affect Russia Probe

Former FBI Director James Comey says he believes Trump fired him over Russia probe ■ Declines to openly address criminal allegations inside Trump-Russia dossier ■ Says he was 'so stunned' by Trump's request to back off Michael Flynn-Russia probe

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
LIVE: Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before CongressCredit: Vox / YouTube
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

Former FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday that he believes U.S. President Donald Trump fired him over the investigations into ties between Trump's presidential campaign and the Russian government.

Speaking during his testimony before the panel, Comey said that he kept notes of meetings with Trump because "I honestly thought he would lie." He added that he cannot address criminal allegations in the Trump-Russia dossier in public.

According to Comey's opening statement, made public on Wednesday, Trump told him he wanted his loyalty in one conversation, and said he hoped the investigation into ties between former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russia could be let go in another.

The contents of their conversations raise ethics and possibly legal concerns regarding Trump's conduct with the FBI, an a-political law enforcement organization, and in light of the ongoing investigations into ties between Trump's presidential campaign and the Russian government.

Here are the latest updates and analyses:

7:23 P.M.: Daniel Richman confirms he's the Columbia Law professor Comey referred to (Reuters)

James Comey had said he asked "a friend of mine," a professor at Columbia University's law faculty, to share the contents of his memo with a reporter because he thought "it might lead to a special counsel." Various reports named the professor as Daniel Richmond.

7:03 P.M. Comey won't comment on Trump-Russia collusion

Former FBI Director James Comey takes the oath before he testifies during a US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC, June 8, 2017Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP

James Comey was asked whether he thinks Trump colluded with Russia. He answered, "that's a question I don't think I should answer in an open setting."

6:46 P.M. Comey says Trump seemed to ask him to get 'rid' of Flynn

James Comey said that he interpreted Trump's request regarding Michael Flynn as if the president was asking, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

The quote was a reference to a controversy between King Henry II of England and Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was anti-monarchy. The king had asked, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" and the next day Becket was found dead.

6:35 P.M. Comey says should have dined with wife, not Trump

James Comey said he was supposed to go out to have dinner with his wife the night Trump invited him for dinner in January, and that in retrospect, he wishes he had stuck to the original plan

6:28 P.M. Comey says asked Columbia professor to share memo's contents

Former FBI Director James Comey arrives to testify during a US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC, June 8, 2017.Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP

James Comey said he asked "a friend of mine," a professor at Columbia University's law faculty, to share the contents of his memo with a reporter because he thought "it might lead to a special counsel." Various reports have named the professor as Daniel Richmond.

6:18 P.M. Comey: Sessions' involvement in Russia probe 'problematic,' but can't discuss in open forum

James Comey said that the FBI believed Attorney General Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia probe over "a variety of reasons," but refused to provide further details publicly. Comey said there were facts that would make Sessions' involvement in the investigation "problematic."

6:11 P.M. James Comey: My job was contingent on 'whether I showed loyalty' to Trump

James Comey said that after his first meeting with Trump, he felt his job was contingent on "how I conducted myself and whether I showed loyalty" to the president, but that he "wouldn't go as far" as saying it was strictly focused on the Russia investigation.

5:56 P.M. James Comey: 'I have seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.'

James Comey said that he was "stunned" by Trump's request on Flynn, and very carefully chose his words in reply.

5:53 P.M. James Comey: 'I don't know for sure why I was fired, but the president felt the Russia investigation created pressure on him that he wanted relieved. I take him by his word.'

James Comey said he understood the president wanted him to drop any investigation into Flynn's conversation with the vice president over his connections with the Russians.

5:48 P.M. James Comey says Trump asked him to 'let go' of Flynn investigation

James Comey describes the February 14 meeting with Trump, when the president asked him to "let go" of the investigation into Trump's former National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn.

Comey said that once the president asked the senior advisers in the room, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, to leave the room, "I thought something big is about to happen." What happened next was that Trump raised the investigation issue and asked Comey to stop it.

Comey said that the FBI has tens of thousands of open investigation, yet the Flynn-Russia one was the only one Trump had ever asked him anything about during the months they worked together. Comey said that he interpreted Trump's request on the Flynn investigation as a direction to close the investigation.

5:43 P.M. James Comey suggests Trump 'wanted loyalty' in return for keeping him on as FBI chief

Comey said that he thought Trump or someone near him believed that the president should seek his loyalty as a price for "letting" him stay on the job. "He wanted loyalty," Comey explained, saying that Trump himself brought it up, and that this caused concern.

Trump, in Comey's words, was "looking to get something" in return for keeping him on as FBI Director for the remaining six years of his term.

5:39 P.M. James Comey: 'I was honestly concerned that Trump might lie,' so I took notes of that meeting

James Comey said that with Presidents Bush and Obama he never felt a need to document his conversations, yet with President Trump, he began documenting the contents of their conversations in memos as soon as after their first meeting, which took place during the presidential transition period. He added that he feared Trump would later lie about the contents of their conversation.

5:35 P.M. James Comey confirms he made public statements about Clinton probe in part due to Bill Clinton-Loretta Lynch meet

In reply to a question about the Hillary Clinton investigations, James Comey publicly confirms that one of the reasons for his decision to make a public statement in the summer of 2016 was the controversial meeting between former President Bill Clinton and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Comey said Lynch at some point asked him not to publicly refer to the Clinton investigation as an "investigation" but instead as a "matter," and that this request confused him and helped him realize the importance of publicly addressing the issue.

5:31 P.M. James Comey says the FBI notified all the victims of the Russian hacks, starting from 2015

He adds that the Obama administration held discussions on how exactly to respond, but stops short of saying what steps were taken on this issue.

5:30 P.M. Asked if he can confirm criminal allegations inside Trump-Russia dossier, Comey says 'I can't address in open session'

James Comey was asked about the "dossier" which was published two weeks before Trump's inauguration and included a number of outrageous claims about Trump's ties to Russia, which were not independently corroborated. Comey said he could not discuss the issue in an open session.

5:20 P.M. James Comey delivers opening testiomy. Read his full remarks here

Comey began his testimony by saying that "the shifting explanations" for his firing confused him and made him worried.

"The president repeatedly told me I was doing a good job and that he was hoping I would stay for the remaining six years of my term," he said.

Comey added that "it confused me when I watched television and saw that he [Trump] said he fired me because of the Russia investigation." He also said that "it didn't make any sense to me" to hear Trump say that in fact, Comey was fired because of his conduct during the 2016 elections.

"Those were lies, plain and simple," Comey said about the Trump administration's claims that the FBI wasn't functioning well during his tenure. He praised the FBI workforce and said that the organization will continue to carry out its duties independently. Comey said that he has no doubt Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, and that the Russian government itself was behind the hacks into the Democratic Party and state voter files.

5:18 P.M. James Comey swears in.

5:15 P.M. Read Senator Richard Burr's full opening statement

5:14 P.M. Sen. Mark Warner: Mustn't let Comey's 'shocking' firing interfere with probing Russia's role in 2016 election

Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, said we cannot let anything or anyone prevent us from getting to the bottom of Russia's alleged role in the 2016 election.

Warner called Comey's firing "shocking."

5:10 P.M. Senate intel committee chair: Americans need to hear Comey's side

Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, opened the hearing by saying the American people need to hear Comey's side of the story.

Burr added that there are several outstanding issues not addressed in his written testimony, and that Americans need to hear Trump's description of events.

5:03 P.M. An emotionless James Comey sits down to begin his testimony.

4:24 P.M. People start queing up six hours early to attend Comey hearing

James Comey's testimony is the hottest ticket in town: People reportedly started lining up to get in at 4:15 A.M.

3:35 P.M. Does Comey's testimony amount to grounds for impeachment for Trump?

Seen in the kindest light, legal experts say conversations attributed by the fired FBI director to Trump were clumsy and inappropriate. In the worst light, Comey's recollections could provide enough evidence to build a case that the president tried to interfere with a criminal investigation. (AP) Full story here

2:21 P.M. Analysis: Comey-Trump talks sound like medley of West Wing and Godfather IV

Obstruction of justice or not, the FBI Director’s opening statement makes clear he thinks the president is a creep (Chemi Shalev) Full story here

12:50 P.M. Read the full text of Comey's opening statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee

12:47 P.M. Trump 'feels completely vindicated' after Comey 'confirmed' he was not under investigation, lawyer says

U.S. Donald Trump said in a statement released by his lawyers that he was "pleased" and "feels completely vindicated" after former FBI director James Comey's opening statement was made public. (Haaretz and Reuters) Full story here

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