Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

What To Expect From Ex-FBI Director James Comey’s Senate Testimony About the Russia Probe

Did president Trump pressure the FBI to drop an investigation?

Ousted FBI director James Comey will publicly testify about the events that led up to his firing this Thursday morning, June 8, to a US Senate committee, and already US politics wonks and curious overseas observers alike are stocking up on the popcorn.

“Comey mania about to take over Washington,” CNN declared, with several major US networks carrying his testimony live. Excited US television pundits are already making comparisons to events that changed history like the 1973 Watergate hearings, and web-based news outlets are planning live-blogs and live streams.

This will be the first time that Comey speaks publicly since he was unceremoniously fired on May 9, just as the FBI was issuing subpoenas for the business records of former US national security advisor Michael Flynn, and after president Donald Trump reportedly encouraged him to drop an investigation into Russia’s interference in the last US presidential election.

Comey is testifying in front of the 13 members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is conducting its own investigation into election meddling by Russia. The first half of his testimony will be broadcast, while the second will be behind closed doors to discuss classified matters. Some members of the committee have already been explaining what they hope to learn on Thursday. Here’s what to watch for:

When and where did Comey and Trump talk privately?

The two spoke on several occasions since Trump took office, at least once at Trump’s initiation, the president said in an interview after Comey was fired, without being more specific about the timing. Comey kept detailed memos of those meetings, the New York Times reported (paywall), and those details are some of the most highly anticipated parts of the hearings. Legal experts consider a president calling the FBI about an ongoing investigation “well-nigh incomprehensible,” as the Lawfare blog wrote. Expect questions on who contacted whom, where they met, when, and what was said.

Did Trump pressure Comey to be “loyal” or halt the investigation?

These are probably the most important questions. Trump at one point told Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” according to the Times report, and pressured Comey within weeks of taking office to put out word that Trump himself was not under investigation, according to a second Times report.

During a dinner at the White House, Trump asked Comey to pledge his “loyalty,” according to multiple news reports.

Comey was “preoccupied throughout this period with the need to protect the FBI from these inquiries on investigative matters from the White House,” Lawfare editor Benjamin Wittes wrote, citing personal conversations with Comey (the two are friends). If true, Trump’s actions would be “unthinkable,” said Mark Warner, a Democratic senator on the committee.

Did Comey tell Trump he wasn’t under investigation?

The letter in which Trump dismissed Comey also thanks Comey for confirming “on three separate occasions” that Trump was not being investigated. This has perplexed the intelligence community, lawyers, and senators because it would be highly unusual for the FBI head to tell him such a thing.

Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine and a member of the intelligence committee, told CBS that the letter raises questions including: “Does Mr. Comey agree that that is what was said? Why would he tell the President that? What was the tone and the context of those discussions on three different occasions, if they in fact are accurately portrayed in this letter?”

Where are all the leaks coming from, anyway?

There are few public statements about the ongoing investigations, but there has been a steady drip of leaks about the behavior of Trump campaign officials, White House officials, attorney general Jeff Sessions, and Trump himself. Expect the Republican-led Senate committee to spend some time grilling Comey on where this information is coming from, and whether classified information is being improperly shared.

Is the Russian threat real?

The investigation into Russia’s involvement in the last election has become a highly charged issue. Trump supporters, including his sons, have called it a “hoax,” even as top intelligence officials, including Trump appointees Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, and Mike Pompeo, head of the CIA, have testified (paywall) that Russia did interfere in the election. Comey’s testimony is a chance to reinforce that the investigation is based on valid concerns, Warner said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.