The Senate Intelligence Committee has taken some of the excitement out of the planned media-blitz coverage of fired FBI Director James Comey's testimony before that committee Thursday, June 8.
The committee has released the opening statement of that testimony, which outlines his view of conversations with President Donald Trump, and likely to the extent he will do so when queried by the Senators.
CNN has reported that Comey was not planning to characterize those conversations in terms of whether he believes the President's request that he back off an investigation of then-NSA director Michael Flynn's contacts with Russia was obstruction of Justice or whether that line of questioning made him feel pressured to back off.
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In the testimony, Comey did confirm news media reports that the President had cleared the room of everyone but the two of them following a meeting, then had said about the Flynn investigation, accrding to Comey's nearly contemporaneous notes: "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."
Comey said he did not pledge to do so. He also said he thought the President's question was focused on Flynn. "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. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency."
In a subsequent phone call, Comey says the President asked if he could do anything to lift the "cloud" of the Russia investigation, which had included salacious claims of Trump with prostitutes. "He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia," Comey writes. Comey says he told the President that the best he could do was conduct the investigation as quickly as possible, and that if it did not find anything, it would also have been important to have done that work well. Comey says Trump agreed, but repeated that it was causing him problems.
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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