The Lazy Person's Guide To The Comey Hearing
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Politics and Activism

The Lazy Person's Guide To The Comey Hearing

Here's what you missed and why you should care.

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The Lazy Person's Guide To The Comey Hearing
USA Today

Who is James Comey?

Former F.B.I. Director who was fired by President Trump on May 9, 2017, after only serving four years of his ten year term.


Timeline

July 5, 2016 - Investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails ends with James Comey recommending no charges against her.

Oct. 28, 2016 - In a letter to Congress, Comey said that the F.B.I. was reopening its investigation into Clinton's emails as additional emails were discovered on former congressman, Anthony Weiner's computer.

Oct. 31, 2016 - F.B.I. investigation into Russian role in U.S. election found no conclusive or direct link between Trump and the Russian government.

Nov. 6, 2016 - Comey recommends no charges against Clinton a second time.

Nov. 8, 2016 - Trump wins the 2016 presidential elections. Clinton's team largely attributes the loss to Comey's letter.

Jan. 20, 2017 - Trump is inaugurated as president.

Feb. 13, 2017 - Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor to President Trump, resigns after it is discovered that he had misled the country about sanctions he had discussed with Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Feb. 14, 2017 - President Trump holds a private meeting with Comey in which he allegedly asks Comey to drop the F.B.I. investigation into Flynn's connection with Russia. Comey writes notes about said meeting with the president (often referred to as memos).

March 20, 2017 - Comey testifies before House Intelligence Committee, confirming F.B.I. investigation into possible collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia.

May 9, 2017 - Trump fires Comey, citing his handling of the Clinton email investigation as the cause. However, since Comey was also leading the Trump-Russia probe, people wonder if that had anything to do with Comey's untimely termination. Critics compared his firing to that of President Nixon firing the Watergate special prosecutor.

May 16, 2017 - Comey's memo, claiming President Trump asked him to end investigation on Flynn, is leaked to the press. Now people are wondering if this is obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense.

June 8, 2017 - After much anticipation, Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

What Happened During The Hearing?

On June 7, 2017, the Senate Intelligence Committee released Comey's prepared remarks. In it, Comey describes five private conversations, three in-person and two on the phone, he had with President Trump. He notes that they have shared a total of nine such conversations. Based on the document, most of their exchanges centered around the Russia investigation and Comey's loyalty to the president.

Although Comey's testimony did not present much information that had not already surfaced as a result of his leaked memos, Comey did address several key questions in the hearing earlier today. Additionally, he expanded on topics mentioned in his written testimony.

Why Was Comey Terminated?

Regarding his termination, Comey said, "The shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me." There were several reasons for his confusion. Comey said that the president had had conversations with him about the great job he was doing at the F.B.I. and even hoped he would continue working in the Bureau. It seemed odd now that President Trump would so drastically tangent from this by firing him.

The reason behind his termination was also a blur. Comey said, "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 Russian investigation." However, this differed from the initial public explanation of Comey's dismissal, which attributed it to his mismanagement of the Clinton investigation during the election.

Clearly frustrated, Comey said, "The administration chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple."

However, Comey ultimately believes he was fired because of the Russia investigation. He said,"I believe the president at his word... Something about the way I was conducting it, the president felt created pressure on him that he wanted to relieve."

Why Did Comey Memo His Conversations With President Trump?

Several members of the Senate were curious as to why Comey chose to memo his interactions with President Trump, something he had not done with the previous two presidents, in part due to the fact that he only had a couple interactions with Presidents Obama and Bush.

However, things were different with President Trump. Within a span of four months, Comey had had nine one-on-one conversations with the president, most of which he had recorded. There were several factors that influenced Comey's decision to memorialize his interactions with the president. He said, "The circumstances, that I was alone, the subject matter and the nature of the person I was interacting with and my read of that person. Yeah, and really just gut feel."

Comey's decision also had the F.B.I.'s best interest at heart. He said, "I knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened, not just to defend myself, but to defend the F.B.I and our integrity as an institution and the independence of our investigative function."

Why Did Comey Leak His Memos?

Interestingly, it was a tweet by President Trump that provoked Comey into releasing his memos to a friend to disseminate to the media.

The tweet reads, "James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"

According to Comey, the idea that there might be a tape had not occurred to him until the tweet. That was when he decided to release his memos. He said,"My judgment was, I need to get that out into the public square. I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn't do it myself for a variety of reasons. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel."

In what was a comical moment for the internet during today's hearing, Comey also included in his testimony, "Lordy, I hope there are tapes."

Did President Trump Obstruct Justice?

While Comey did not say whether or not President Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice, his testimony and prepared remarks bring us a step closer to determining the truth.

In his recount of his Feb. 14, Oval Office meeting with the president, Comey quoted President Trump saying, "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." Although it seems like the case for obstruction is stronger now than before, Comey is hesitant to say that he had a sense the president had the intent to obstruct.

He said, "I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that's a conclusion I'm sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there." Similarly, when asked if he believed the president's actions to constitute obstruction of justice, he responded, "I don't know, that's Bob Mueller's job to sort that out."

Despite this, Comey did interpret the president's words to be a request for the investigation on Flynn to be dropped. Additionally, the president's conversation with him over dinner on Jan. 27, in which President Trump said, "I need loyalty. I expect loyalty," furthered his conviction.


Senator James Risch, however, was not quite having it. Using semantics, Sen. Risch fervently attempted to dispel any claims of obstruction by the president.

RISCH: There's 28 words now in quotes. 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 good guy. I hope you can let this go. Now, those are his exact words, is that correct.

COMEY: Correct.

RISCH: You wrote them here and put them in quotes.

COMEY: Correct.

RISCH: Thank you for that. He did not direct you to let it go?

COMEY: Not in his words, no.

RISCH: He did not order you to let it go?

COMEY: Again, those words are not an order.

RISCH: Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice or, for that matter, any other criminal offense, where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?

COMEY: I don't know well enough to answer. The reason I keep saying his words is I took it as a direction.

RISCH: You may have taken it as a direction but that's not what he said.

COMEY: Correct.

RISCH: He said, I hope.

COMEY: Those are his exact words, correct.

RISCH: You don't know of anyone ever being charged for hoping something, is that a fair statement?

COMEY: I don't as I sit here.

RISCH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Why Didn't Comey Come Forward About These Memos Sooner?

Many argue Comey should have come forth with these memos sooner. Senator Roy Blunt asked, "You had serious concerns about what the president had, you believed, directed you to do, and had taken no action... Do you have a sense looking back that that was a mistake?"

Comey said, " No. In fact, I think no action was the most important thing I could do."

Why Should We Care?

Although Comey's testimony did not provide substantial evidence for any immediate action to be taken, it does force us to consider the power of the president and the limits of executive power and call into question the validity of our elections. Was President Trump out of line in asking for Comey, former director of the independent F.B.I., for his loyalty? In firing Comey for his investigation into the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia, did he abuse his executive power as president and possibly negate the purpose of elections?

As eligible voters, U.S. citizens, residents of the U.S., international students, etc, it is important for us to stay informed of current events and consider the consequences that come with it. Be it to generate small talk, understand memes on Twitter, or to be able to make informed decisions about our future, we should at least try to have some knowledge pertaining to the Comey hearing. Many of us might not realize this now, but we just lived through another significant day in our country's history.


Watch the testimony in full here

Read the full transcript here

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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