At a historic hearing, the former FBI chief casts the president as a liar who engaged in improper conduct.
Here is the bombshell: a former FBI director has said publicly and under oath that the current president of the United States cannot be trusted.
This is unprecedented and highly troubling. Though James Comey, whom President Donald Trump fired in May, had the day before disclosed his prepared testimony chronicling his disturbing interactions with Trump, his dramatic and much-anticipated appearance Thursday morning before the Senate intelligence committee reinforced and expanded the damning indictment Comey presented in his statement. He noted that he believed that Trump had privately directed him to drop the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn that was part of the FBI's ongoing Russia probe. He also testified that he saw Trump's statements to him about the Russia investigation as an order to quash the probe. And he accused the president and the White House of lying.
In his prepared testimony, Comey recounted in just-the-facts manner a series of private communications with Trump, during which the president asked Comey to pledge him loyalty, to go easy on Flynn, to "lift the cloud" created by the Russia investigation, and to publicly state that Trump was not personally under investigation. Before the intelligence committee, which is mounting its own probe of the Trump-Russia scandal, Comey detailed how these discussions worried him and other senior FBI officials.
Republicans on the committee tried to protect Trump by highlighting how Trump had asked Comey to help Flynn, noting the president had said, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go." Expressing hope, they noted, is not a command. Yet Comey swatted that away, saying he was shocked by the request and interpreted Trump's statement as an instruction. "I took it as a direction," Comey testified, adding, "I didn't obey." This was solid testimony that the president was trying to block an FBI investigation of a close associate. Whether or not that qualifies as obstruction of justice -- Comey told the senators that special counsel Robert Mueller will be reviewing this question -- it is a serious charge. Moreover, Comey's account directly contradicts Trump's assertion that he did not ask Comey to let Flynn off the hook. Unless Comey is making up this tale, Trump has been caught in a bold lie.
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