Today Jim Comey testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. If you were not around to watch it live, you can view it here:
As for what was learned at the hearing:
- Mr. Comey kept notes on his interactions with Donald Trump, hoping that they could, potentially, lead to a special council. He then gave the notes to a friend, with the intentions of having the notes leaked to the press.
- “Those were lies, plain and simple,” Mr Comey said in response to Trumps reasoning for firing the former Director because the FBI was in turmoil and people close had lost confidence in him.
- Mr Comey confirmed that former Nastsec Adviser, Michael T. Flynn was under criminal investigation when he was fired.
- Mr. Comey said, "I know I was fired because of something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation"
- Mr. Comey believed Trump was "looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job" when asked about whether or not the president was trying to get him to back off of the Flynn investigation.
- Mr. Comey said the FBI knew that Jeff Sessions would have to recuse himself from the Russia investigation - but he wouldn't give his reasoning as to why.
The real takeaway I had from the hearing was that, yes, Mr. Comey believes the president obstructed justice by asking to have the former FBI director to back off of Russia. The argument that Republicans on the panel were trying to make in Trump’s defense was that Mr. Trump did not understand the consequences of that action. There never any dispute about what Mr. Comey was saying, it was clear that everyone on the Committee believed the testimony.
When asked about whether the president obstructed justice by trying to influence the Russian investigation, House Speaker, Paul Ryan said the president was, “just new this.” The new defense from the right seems to be one of ignorance and incompetence. It should be noted that ignorance of committing a crime does not excuse the crime.
There was also a semantics argument made by a couple Republican Senators, focusing on the word hope. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go…” Mr. Trump said when asking Mr. Comey to lay off of Flynn. They tried to make the argument that the use of the word hope, implied that there was no threat given by the president, but the firing of Mr. Comey after refusing to let the matter go adds a context that the Senators are either trying to hide, or simply can’t comprehend - I’m leaning towards the former in this case.
There was a lot that Mr. Comey would not say in front of an open committee, and who knows what kind of information, if any, will come out of the closed meeting the Intelligence Committee has lined up. It’s clear that Mr. Comey knows information regarding the Trump/Russia investigation that is still classified, and will probably stay that way until the end of the investigation being headed up by Robert Mueller.
Here’s where I fall on today’s events. It’s pretty clear that there are some within the Republican Party who have no interest in prosecuting our president of any wrongdoing w/r/t the election and Russia. Just last night the Republican Party was sending out information about Mr. Comey to be used to discredit his testimony. While none of the Republicans on the panel directly questioned the truth of Mr. Comey’s testimony, they certainly did the best they could poke holes in any perspective obstruction of justice charge. The sincere worry I have is not whether the president has at any time, past or present, tried to stop an ongoing investigation of his ties to a foreign government. No. The greater worry is that we have a major political party that is willing to look past these charges, in the service of passing their political agenda.
I’m biased against a lot of what the Republican Party is trying to right now, especially this healthcare bill that Mitch McConnel is trying to fast track through the Senate. I’ve been working as hard as I can to make sure that this bill at least gets a chance to be run through committees and argued, for and against, before it is put to a vote. I also have a lot of qualms with where the Republican Party stands in regards to tax reform, bank regulation, school funding, and the list goes on. You get the idea. I’m a Democrat through-and-through.
There is a time and a place to have arguments about public policy and the role that the federal government should play in our lives. We live in a country that is deeply divided politically, but my hope is that this divide will not blind us from the truth. If the truth comes out that our president conspired with a foreign power to influence a presidential election, I hope that we will be willing and able to do what is right. I hope the truth is brought to light sooner than later, so we can get back to rigorously debating some of the policies being put forward by the majority party. There's an instinct to want to stop paying attention to the Trump/Russia story, to move on with our lives, but today's hearing proved that there is reason to believe that our very democratic process is being threatened by a hostile country. I'll leave the last words to Mr. Comey himself, talking about the prospects of Russian interference with our elections:
We have this big messy wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time. But nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for except other Americans. And that's wonderful and often painful. But we're talking about a foreign government that using technical intrusion, lots of other methods tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. That is a big deal. And people need to recognize it. It's not about Republicans or Democrats. They're coming after America, which I hope we all love equally. They want to undermine our credibility in the face the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them. So they're going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible. That's what this is about and they will be back. Because we remain -- as difficult as we can be with each other, we remain that shining city on the hill. And they don't like it.