June 28, 2017

Comey testimony: Senator says Trump can't be prosecuted 'for hoping something'

09 June 2017, 11:44 | Grady King

Live: James Comey's Senate Intelligence Committee testimony

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So far the party has broadly backed the president, with most Republican members of Congress who were present yesterday saying they believed that Mr Comey's testimony did not prove that the president was guilty of obstructing justice.

Sitting alone at a small table facing a bank of senators who fired question after question, Comey gave short, deliberative answers.

It noted that "multiple news outlets have since published accounts that support the main elements of The Times's article, including information about phone calls and in-person meetings between Mr. Trump's advisers and Russians, some believed to be connected to Russian intelligence".

Remember that the original focus of the investigation was Russia's efforts to meddle in American politics.

Comey's story of his encounters with Trump unraveled like a $5 mystery thriller you'd pick up at a grocery store-there's not a lot of flourish in the language-but the little details kept theater patrons on the edge of their seats.

Comey was also reticent about his interactions with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was his boss - and who had to recuse himself from Russia-related investigations.

That friend, since confirmed to be Columbia University law professor Daniel Richman, was asked by Comey to share the contents of the memo with a journalist in hopes that it might "prompt the appointment of a special counsel" to investigate Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, Comey said. "Well, I think there's a double standard there to tell you the truth".

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said Comey's testimony "makes clear that he expects Special Prosecutor [Robert] Mueller will investigate obstruction of justice by the President".

"The American people deserve a full accounting of attempts to meddle in our democratic process and assurances the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation are operating without political influence from both within or outside the agencies", Grassley said. The event was covered live by the major USA television networks, and seen around the world.

Russian Federation has denied such interference. But if it is, the White House is in real trouble.

No, this is not St. Comey of the Hill.

In a speech to supporters across town, Trump vowed to fight on. Russians are coming after America, he said.

Comey added an element of intrigue to the hearings when he said he knew of a "variety of reasons" why Attorney General Jeff Sessions' involvement in the Russian Federation investigation would be problematic but that he couldn't discuss those reasons "in an open setting".

Comey declined to say whether he thought Trump had tried to obstruct justice, leaving that for Mueller to determine. He also said that he had not requested Mr Comey's "loyalty", as claimed by Mr Comey.

"I had to do something separately to protect the credibility of the investigation, which meant both the FBI and the Justice Department", Comey told Burr.

Another theater patron, watching McCain fumbling, shouted at TV screen, "I think they're drinking Bloody Marys over there!" Comey said Trump didn't issue a direct order to Comey to release Flynn from the investigation, but "I took it as a direction". House Speaker Paul Ryan's defense of Trump's innocence by pleading his ignorance is embarrassing, and dishonors him and Trump alike.

Even before Comey's cryptic reference Thursday, Democratic senators had been raising more questions about Sessions' contacts with Kislyak. At the White House, the deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said: "I can definitively say the president is not a liar".

But the former director, fired by Trump last month, made plain that he took Trump's words about the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn - "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go" - as a directive. "Presumably that includes the conversation when President Trump asked Director Comey to "let go" of the Flynn investigation". He said that when Trump used the word hope, he understood that to be a command of some sort, and that strengthens the case for obstruction. Trump's inner circle is such a sieve that full transcripts surely would have leaked by now.

TRUMP: Look, he's a showboat.

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