Former FBI Director Comey Testifies On Capitol Hill

Jun 8, 2017
Originally published on June 8, 2017 11:27 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Former FBI Director James Comey is right now being questioned by senator - senators on Capitol Hill. In a written statement released yesterday, Comey detailed his discomfort with private meetings between the president of the United States and himself. Joining us now to bring us up to speed is NPR's Greg Myre. Hi, Greg.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.

MARTIN: So Former Director Comey came out strong even in his opening remarks today.

MYRE: Right. He said he - the prepared statement that he gave yesterday, he let that stand. He didn't read that. But he came out. And he said when he was fired, this was very confusing to him. He'd have these contacts with the president. President Trump seemed satisfied with the work he was doing. So he was very surprised.

And then he was also confused when he heard that he was fired by - because of the Russian investigation when the president said that. And he really had his strongest words for defending the FBI. He said he was very upset when he heard people in the administration saying that the FBI was in disarray or the confidence was lost. And he said flat out, these were lies.

MARTIN: So here he is. This is such long awaited testimony. He is in front of this Senate intelligence committee at this moment. What kind of questioning is he getting?

MYRE: Well, he just started getting questioned a few minutes ago by Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican who's the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee. And he dove straight in and asked - I think one of the most direct questions was, do you think it was obstruction of justice or the investigation was being influenced when the president asked you to go easy or lay off the Michael Flynn investigation?

MARTIN: Mike Flynn, the former national security adviser.

MYRE: Right, right. And Comey said, I don't think it's for me to say. He said, I think it was very disturbing that the president said this. But he said this investigation would have to - multiple investigations that are taking place by the FBI and by the Congress would just have to work themselves out.

MARTIN: We should take a step back and remind people what James Comey laid out in his prepared statement that was released yesterday. These were details of meetings he had - one-on-one meetings with the president. And the biggest headlines out of that were that he had met with the president. And he felt pressure from the president to ease off on the Mike Flynn investigation.

MYRE: Right. So Comey said that he had nine one-on-one contacts - three meetings, six phone calls - over a period of four months beginning just before Trump was inaugurated until this spring. And perhaps, the most - the one that's drawing the most legal attention was a White House meeting on February 14, where the president said to - had Flynn stay after a meeting involving other officials and said to him, can you go easy? Can you let it go with the Flynn investigation? Flynn had resigned just a day earlier.

Comey took detailed notes about this meeting and the other meetings and said this was very concerning. And throughout his meetings, he said he was saying that I felt uncomfortable. It was awkward. He's not saying explicitly, I think the president broke a law. But he's saying all of this interaction that is not customary between the president and an FBI director left him very - feeling very uneasy.

MARTIN: So what other kinds of questions can we expect from the Senate today?

MYRE: Well, certainly, the obstruction question, which came out right at the beginning. I think that might come up again in different forms because we often will see senators sort of repeat the same line of questioning. I think that's where the focus will be. They want to hear more about this relationship between Trump and Comey.

The collusion question - was there any evidence of collusion between the Trump administration and the Russians? Comey address that - was asked about that. And, again, he said foreign contacts are normal during a campaign. And it's very difficult. It requires nuance and context to decide what might constitute something more than just normal contacts and be collusion.

MARTIN: OK. We'll obviously be covering the hearing throughout the day. NPR's Greg Myre has been with us unpacking the first opening minutes of this long-awaited testimony. Thank you so much, Greg.

MYRE: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.