It’s been a month of extraordinary drama since President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, rife with leaked details of private memos detailing interactions with the president and the rare appointment of a special counsel to alleviate concerns of White House interference in an ongoing investigation.
See how today’s congressional hearing — one of the most anticipated in recent memory — played out, moment by moment.
Trump’s lawyer releases a statement:
While the President did not respond directly to Comey’s testimony, his personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, spoke with reporters and released this statement about an hour after the session concluded.
Full statement emailed by press person for Marc Kasowitz: pic.twitter.com/YXXkGztKUW— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) June 8, 2017
Senators Burr and Warner again thanked Comey for his service before adjourning the session.
Hearing adjourned.— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Sen. John McCain questions Comey, repeatedly raising his confusion over why Clinton probe has been completed, and why Russia probe has not.— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
What road is McCain trying to travel?— Dan Janison (@Danjanison) June 8, 2017
McCain appears to be saying there's a double standard because there is no ongoing investigation about Clinton and…Russia?— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) June 8, 2017
"I’d like to know what the hell “that thing” was,especially if I was FBI director," McCain tells Comey re: Trump saying "we had that thing"— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
“I think I would have had some curiosity if it had been about me,” McCain added.
"Its my judgement that i was fired because of the Russia investigation," Comey says adding "endeavor" was to "change" course of probe— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Comey says "I know i was fired" by Trump because Russia probe was "in someway putting pressure on him…in someway irritating him."— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
#JamesComey: “I was fired because of the Russia investigation” and to change how it was being conducted. “That is a very big deal.”— Edward Colby (@EdwardBColby) June 8, 2017
12:24 p.m. ‘The work is going to go on’
Comey on whether actions by members of Trump administration will rise to obstruction of justice: “That’s Bob Mueller’s job to sort that out” pic.twitter.com/IWFYx9DBcV— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) June 8, 2017
"The work is going to go on as before…" Comey tells Sen. Cornyn, says his firing will not impede ongoing Russia probe.— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Comey says same thing that Trump aides have been saying, essentially – he is one man, and the work goes on at the FBI without him.— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) June 8, 2017
Comey decided against special prosecutor because "I knew there was no case there…it would send the message 'aha there’s something there.'" https://t.co/xoRcbbvmnQ— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
12:09 p.m. A lighter moment
There’s a lot Comey can’t say in public, he continues, adding a joke:
"I'm between opportunities now," Comey jokes of unemployment status allowing him time to testify— Emily Ngo (@epngo) June 8, 2017
A few senators have said they’ll save their questions for the private session, set to begin at 1 p.m.
"That’s not a question i can answer in an open setting,"Comey responds during line of questioning about Trump aides communicating w/ Russia— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Asked if Flynn ever deceived Comey or FBI, Comey pauses, says:— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
"I don’t want to go too far, that was the subject of the criminal inquiry"
Wow. Comey says that whether or not Flynn lied to a federal agent was the focus of the federal investigation.— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) June 8, 2017
NOW: Pres Trump just left the White House. En route to speech to evangelicals at Faith & Freedom Coalition's conference.— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) June 8, 2017
"It's a question that I don't think I should answer in an open setting," Comey says— Emily Ngo (@epngo) June 8, 2017
Q was: Do you believe Trump colluded with Russia?
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) asks Comey if Hillary Clinton would have fired him. Comey takes a long pause before answering.
"If Hillary Clinton has been elected, I might have been terminated, i don’t know," Comey says of criticism over his handling of e-mail probe— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Comey said Russia via 2016 election interference: "Tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act."— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
"They’re coming after America, which I hope we all love equally," Comey says of Russia,says Americans should be alarmed by election meddling— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
"That is a big deal and people need to recognize it. … They're coming after America," Comey says Russian interference isn't partisan issue— Emily Ngo (@epngo) June 8, 2017
Comey unleashes on how much that's happened is related to Russia seeking to sand down faith in Democratic institutions— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) June 8, 2017
Sen. Lankford (R-OK): If the president wanted to stop an investigation how would he do that? Comey says he could direct who to investigate— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Comey recalling Clinton e-mail probe says he was uneasy, AG Loretta Lynch told him not to call it an investigation, to "call it a 'matter'"— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Comey said he didnt think it was a "hill to die on" given that media would likely cover it the right way as investigation, which happened— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) June 8, 2017
Sen. Angus King asks if Comey took Trump’s words on Flynn as a direction.
#ComeyTestimony (When president says I hope you will drop it did you take it as directive?) Yes/Will no-one rid me of this meddlesome priest— Christian Fraser (@ChristianFraser) June 8, 2017
Comey says Trump request did not slow down investigation into Flynn.— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) June 8, 2017
BREAKING: House Speaker Paul Ryan says FBI director needs to be independent, says Trump unfamiliar with protocol, `just new to this'— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) June 8, 2017
Sen. Roy Blunt follows up on the memo that Comey gave to friend.
JUST IN: Columbia U professor Dan Richman confirms to @washingtonpost he was the friend Comey asked to share info about his mtg w/ Trump.— Ed O'Keefe (@edatpost) June 8, 2017
"I was worried it would be like feeding the seagulls at the beach," Comey says of personally handing over memos amid press stakeout. Thanks?— Emily Ngo (@epngo) June 8, 2017
Can’t remember the last time someone in DC openly acknowledged orchestrating a leak — and without any senator having even asked.— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) June 8, 2017
Newsy: Comey says he gave all of his memos, documents, etc. to the special counsel. #ComeyHearing— Ed O'Keefe (@edatpost) June 8, 2017
Comey indicates Flynn role to come out in closed session https://t.co/7Eb0NUewip— Emily Ngo (@epngo) June 8, 2017
Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz will deliver a statement after the Comey hearing— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) June 8, 2017
11:24 a.m. Comey wanted to prompt special prosecutor
Sen. Collins returns to the issue of the memos.
Sen. Collins: "What was it about that very first memo that made you write that memo?"— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Comey: "A gut feeling is an important overlay…"
Comey says he asked a close friend to share the contents of a memo to a reporter to prompt special prosecutor appointment— Emily Ngo (@epngo) June 8, 2017
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon): "I believe the timing of your firing stinks,” shows “why the odor of presidential abuse of power is so strong.”— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Wyden asks Comey: How would you characterize Session’s adherence to his recusal from Russia probe. Comey: "that's a question I can't answer"— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
BREAKING: Comey: FBI thought Sessions would recuse himself from Russia probe for `variety of reasons;' wouldn't say more in public.— The Associated Press (@AP) June 8, 2017
Asked if VP Pence, who was head of Trump's transition team, was aware of concerns over Flynn, Comey says "my understanding is that he was."— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Sen. Marco Rubio presses Comey on why he didn’t push back when Trump brought up Flynn.
Comey responds to Rubio: "I was a bit stunned…I didn’t have the presence of mind…" https://t.co/y5lbhod2jH— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Trump relentlessly mocked Rubio as "Little Marco." Today, Rubio seems to be giving him most robust cover. Had dinner with Trump this week.— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) June 8, 2017
11:02 a.m. ‘Lordy, I hope there are tapes’
What President Trump tweeted on May 12:
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
What Comey said in his hearing:
Comey: "What was playing in my mind was what should be my response" jokes that he hopes there are Oval Office tapes to prove conversation— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
"Lordy I hope there are tapes."— Dan Janison (@Danjanison) June 8, 2017
We can all agree with Jim Comey that, Lordy, we hope there are tapes.— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) June 8, 2017
Sen. James Risch asks Comey to confirm that the president of the United States was not under investigation. Comey confirms. Then the nature of questioning turns back to obstruction of justice.
Senator Risch: “The President of the United States was not under investigation.”— Matt Viser (@mviser) June 8, 2017
Comey: “That’s correct."
Comey says he did not construe Trump's words re Flynn probe to be a direction or order— Emily Ngo (@epngo) June 8, 2017
Now: "I took this as a direction"— Emily Ngo (@epngo) June 8, 2017
A Trump response
Almost an hour into the hearing, President Trump has yet to tweet. But his son Donald Trump Jr. sent out a string of tweets in response to the testimony about Flynn.
1/3 Flynn stuff is BS in context 2 guys talking about a guy they both know well. I hear "I hope nothing happens but you have to do your job"— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 8, 2017
2/3 very far from any kind of coercion or influence and certainly not obstruction!— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 8, 2017
3/3 Knowing my father for 39 years when he "orders or tells" you to do something there is no ambiguity, you will know exactly what he means— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 8, 2017
Hoping and telling are two very different things, you would think that a guy like Comey would know that. #givemeabreak— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 8, 2017
BREAKING: Comey says he believed Trump was `looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job'— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) June 8, 2017
"What the President whispered in my ear was, 'I really look forward to working with you.'" Comey says of Blue Room encounter w/ Trump pic.twitter.com/KpX4e5OSpd— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Sen. Warner asks Comey why he wrote memos after conversations with Trump.
Comey on documenting meetings w/ Trump: "I knew there might come a day that I would need a record of what happened" in part to defend FBI— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
"I gotta write it down," Comey says he understood of making records of Trump meetings— Emily Ngo (@epngo) June 8, 2017
"I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting" — the former FBI director on the current president— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) June 8, 2017
Comey spoke twice to Obama, once to Bush, but felt no need to document as he did after talks with Trump, he says— Emily Ngo (@epngo) June 8, 2017
#BREAKING Comey says Trump never asked him to stop Russia investigation— AFP news agency (@AFP) June 8, 2017
Comey said he first became aware of Russia connected cyber intrusion in late Summer 2015, said 100s of hacking attacks against govt groups— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Comey just said he is "sure" Mueller is investigating Trump for obstruction of justice.— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) June 8, 2017
Comey declines to answer if the allegations in the dossier are true. Interesting…— Phil Elliott (@Philip_Elliott) June 8, 2017
10:20 a.m. Trump administration ‘chose to defame me’
In Comey’s opening, he says he left office intending to return to life as a private citizen. He rejoined the conversation because of what Trump was saying about his firing — he said: “those were lies plain and simple.”
"So it confused me when I saw on television that the president actually fired me because of the Russia investigation": Comey— Emily Ngo (@epngo) June 8, 2017
Comey says Trump administration "chose to defame me" #comeyDay— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
"Those were lies plain and simple" !!!!— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) June 8, 2017
History made: Former FBI director calls a sitting president a liar.— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) June 8, 2017
Comey won't read the opening statement committee already published— Emily Ngo (@epngo) June 8, 2017
Sen. Warner kicks things off
Sen. Warner says "the initial explanation" of Comey's firing, over his handling of Clinton email investigation "didn’t pass any smell tests"— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
"You've been a straight shooter with this committee & have been willing to speak to truth to power," Sen. Warner tells Comey— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Person close to Trump's legal team says Trump will dispute key parts of Comey's testimony: https://t.co/KQlvPN9cam— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) June 8, 2017
As the testimony gets underway, cameras flashed on a stoic-looking Comey.
The pattern of behavior laid out in Comey's prepared testimony is extremely disturbing. Important for him to provide more context today.— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) June 8, 2017
Sen. Richard Burr tells Comey: "Allegations have been swirling in the press…today is your opportunity to set the record straight."— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
Former FBI Director James Comey arrives to Senate Intelligence Committee hearing to the sounds of photographers snapping away.— Laura Figueroa (@Laura_Figueroa) June 8, 2017
BREAKING: Associated Press reports that Trump `disputes' Comey claim that Trump asked for loyalty and to let go of Flynn probe.— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) June 8, 2017
Following the public session, Comey will meet with the committee privately.
Line to get in to see Former FBI Director Comey started early a.m., now stretches to the adjoining Senate office bldg pic.twitter.com/5ZflH2d0Ai— Tom Brune (@TomBruneDC) June 8, 2017
The President will be in the West Wing watching Comey's testimony with his legal team and senior advisors.— Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) June 8, 2017
Comey mania on the Hill right now feels a bit like rock concert meets CSPAN meets Black Friday-esque shopping lines— Mary Bruce (@marykbruce) June 8, 2017
Former FBI Director Comey exits his garage and enters an SUV to head to Capitol Hill to testify before the Senate Intel Committee. pic.twitter.com/cVzhZcd4RU— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 8, 2017
What you need to know
The testimony, Comey’s first public comments since his May 9 firing, unfolds against the extraordinary backdrop of an FBI investigation that has shadowed the Trump White House from the outset and threatens to cripple its agenda.
At the time he was fired, Comey had been overseeing the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign for months.
The White House’s stated reasons for firing Comey were contradicted by the president himself, raising questions about whether Trump had fired Comey to derail the Russia investigation.
The White House initially said Trump was acting on the recommendation of Justice Department leaders, citing as justification a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that lambasted Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email server investigation. But Trump gave a different explanation when he said in an NBC News interview that he had already decided to dismiss Comey and was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he did so.
Trump’s actions and justifications presented the possibility that Trump’s intention was to obstruct justice.
The official release of Comey’s remarks on Wednesday afternoon came shortly after the conclusion of testimony from Comey’s former national security peers who refused to answer senators’ questions about their own interactions with Trump. There have been reports that the president tried to pressure NSA Director Mike Rogers and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to publicly push back on the investigation.
The former director’s prepared remarks answered many of the looming questions:
Did the president ask Comey for his loyalty? Yes. “I didn’t move, speak or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed,” Comey said in his written testimony.
Did the president ask Comey to stop investigating his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn? Yes. “I had 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,” Comey said.
How often did Trump and Comey communicate with each other before he was fired? Nine times, Comey said. “Three in person and six on the phone.”
After one of these encounters, did Comey actually tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he did not want to meet with the president alone again? Yes. “I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me,” Comey said.
But Republicans are likely to press Comey on why he did not raise his concerns about Trump publicly or resign. Some may attempt to divert attention from Comey’s remarks about Trump by focusing on two issues they’ve repeatedly seized on: leaks and revealing the names of Americans in intelligence reports.
Will Thursday turn into a Comey-Trump debate about their private conversations? Will GOP senators ask Comey question from Trump's tweets? https://t.co/AY18BbrHDf— Tom Brune (@TomBruneDC) June 6, 2017
The White House said Monday it would not invoke executive privilege over Comey’s upcoming testimony — officials predicted it would look bad otherwise.
Comey, who is used to not answering lawmakers’ questions about ongoing investigations, is not likely to say anything Thursday that could interfere with, or undercut, the ongoing federal investigation into Russia ties. That investigation is being led by Comey’s predecessor, Robert Mueller.
On Tuesday, Trump was asked what his message for Comey would be. He said, “I wish him luck.” (After the release of Comey’s opening remarks Wednesday, Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz said “The President is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the President was not under investigation in any Russian probe … [Trump] feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda.”)
Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2017
From the opening statement: Comey’s account of previous Trump meetings
Jan. 6, Trump Tower
Comey stays behind in a conference room to speak privately with Trump after intelligence officials brief the president-elect in his New York headquarters about explosive findings that the Russians tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
It is Comey’s job to warn Trump that a dossier containing salacious and unverified allegations about the president-elect is floating around.
Comey skips over Trump’s exact response, but says that “based on President-elect Trump’s reaction,” he assures Trump that his personal conduct isn’t under investigation.
Comey starts writing up a record of the encounter on a laptop in the car as soon as he gets out of the building.
Jan. 7, White House Green Room
Comey gets a midday phone call from now-President Trump inviting him to dinner at the White House that night. Comey’s not sure who else is invited, but assumes other people are coming. It turns out it’s just the two of them, at a small oval table.
Trump asks whether Comey wants to keep his job even though the FBI director had twice before told Trump he wanted to stay on.
This makes Comey uncomfortable, because it feels like Trump is creating a “patronage” situation in which Comey will owe Trump for his job.
Things get stranger from there, when Trump tells Comey: “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”
“I didn’t move, speak or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed,” Comey writes. “We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on.”
Trump returns to the salacious allegations against him, calling them disgusting and saying he’s considering ordering Comey to investigate and disprove them. Comey warns that such an investigation could “create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t.”
The president circles back to loyalty.
Trump: “I need loyalty.”
Comey: “You will always get honesty from me.”
Trump: “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.”
Comey: “You will get that from me.”
Comey writes up the whole exchange, and concludes: “It is possible we understood the phrase ‘honest loyalty’ differently.”
Trump and Comey in the Blue Room on Jan. 22. Getty Images photo.
Feb. 14, Oval Office
Comey is part of a group giving Trump a counter-terrorism briefing, but the president asks him to stay behind at the end.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions lingers, and Trump shoos him away. Senior adviser Jared Kushner lags behind, too, and Trump sends him on his way.
Alone at last, Trump gets right to the point: “I want to talk about Mike Flynn,” the president’s fired national security adviser. Trump says he fired Flynn for misleading the vice president about his contact with the Russians but nonetheless calls Flynn a “good guy” and urges Comey to “let this go.” To Comey, it’s a not-so-veiled request that the FBI drop any investigation of Flynn regarding false statements about his contact with the Russians.
To Comey, the president’s request was “very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.”
At some point, chief of staff Reince Priebus sticks his head in the door by the grandfather clock, a group of people waiting behind him, and Trump waves him off.
Comey offers only that Flynn is a “good guy.”
He adds: “I did not say I would ‘let this go.”’
Comey exits the Oval Office through the door by the grandfather clock, making his way through the crowd of people just outside.
After Comey writes up his latest encounter, he implores Sessions “to prevent any further direct communication between the president and me.”
That turns out to be the last meeting between Trump and Comey, but the two talk by phone at least twice more before Trump fires Comey on May 9.
March 30, phone call
Comey says Trump told him the Russia investigation was creating a “cloud” over his presidency.
And Comey says the president asked him what they could do to “lift the cloud.”
Comey also says Trump told him that he “had nothing to do with Russia” and “had not been involved with hookers in Russia.”