James Comey testimony: Trump had ‘chilling effect’ on Russia investigation

James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, arrives to testify before the Senate Intelligence Select Committee during an open hearing.

Former FBI director James Comey has finished testifying in the open session. He now goes into a closed session with the senators.

Here’s what happened:

Comey said he understood an expression by Donald Trump of “hope” that he could shelve an investigation of Michael Flynn as a direction to do so.
Comey said Trump’s direction reminded him of Henry II ordering the murder of Becket: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

Comey said he believes when Trump fired him, “the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted. That is a very big deal, not just because it’s me…”

Comey said it was “a really significant fact to me” that Trump had asked senior White House officials to leave the room before bringing up Flynn.
Comey did not report the scene widely within the FBI for fear of “a real chilling effect” on the Russia investigation, he said.
Comey said Trump had not asked him to shelve the Russia investigation, apart from the Flynn piece.
Comey said Trump demanded three things: personal loyalty; that Comey let Flynn go; and that Comey state publicly that Trump was not personally under investigation.

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While Comey declined to speculate on whether Trump had committed an obstruction of justice, saying that was special counsel Robert Mueller’s job, Trump opponents argued that Comey’s description of the Flynn affair and of his own firing had established just that.
Trump supporters pointed to Comey’s point-blank denial that Trump had ever asked him to shelve the Russia investigation as exculpatory for Trump.
Comey said Trump’s tweeted threat about tapes of their conversations led him to ask a friend to share memos he took of his meetings with Trump with the media.
Comey began taking the memos, he said, because “I was honestly concerned that he [Trump] might lie about the nature of our meeting.”

“The president surely knows whether he taped me, and if he did my feelings aren’t hurt,” Comey said. “Release all the tapes, I’m good with it.” “Lordy I hope there are tapes,” he said.

Comey raised an alarm about Russian tampering in the election, saying the effort was major, continuous and that “they’ll be back.”
Comey declined to comment on whether he thought Trump colluded with Russia. He acknowledged advising Trump that he was not personally under investigation.
Comey said there was information about attorney general Jeff Sessions “that would make his presence in a continued Russia investigation problematic” but he wouldn’t say what it was.
Comey began his testimony by saying that Trump had defamed him and smeared the FBI.
Comey said though not in so many words that Trump lied on national TV when he told NBC News that Comey had requested to meet him for dinner.

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