Former FBI Director James Comey told Congress that the Trump administration’s comments about him and the agency were “lies plain and simple”.
James Comey told a Senate committee they were wrong to denigrate the FBI and its leadership.
The ex-FBI chief was also “confused” by the “shifting explanations” for his sacking, which came as he led a probe into any links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
President Trump later said he never sought to impede the inquiry.
Donald Trump’s attorney, Marc Kasowitz, said in a statement James Comey’s testimony “finally confirmed publicly” that the president was not under investigation as part of any probe in Russian political meddling.
In his testimony, James Comey said President Trump had repeatedly told him he was doing a “great” job.
The former FBI chief also suggested he was fired to “change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted”.
He remained largely composed throughout almost three hours of testimony but became impassioned when delivering his opening remarks.
James Comey told the panel that the White House “chose to defame me, and more importantly the FBI” by claiming the agency was “poorly led”.
“Those were lies, plain and simple. And I’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them,” James Comey continued.
“The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is and always will be independent,” he said in his opening remarks.
James Comey was leading one of several Russia investigations before President Trump fired him.
US intelligence agencies believe Moscow interfered in the US election and they are investigating alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
However, there is no known evidence of collusion and President Donald Trump has dismissed the story as “fake news”.
On June 8, Donald Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Sanders hit back at James Comey, saying: “I can definitively say the president is not a liar.”
During today’s testimony, James Comey emphasized that Russia’s political meddling was “not a close call”, adding: “There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever.”
When asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee whether the president tried to stop the Russia investigation, James Comey said: “Not to my understanding, no.”
He said he it was not for him to say whether Donald Trump’s actions were an obstruction of justice.
Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the committee’s vice chairman, pressed James Comey on why he decided to keep a record of his conversations with President Trump.
“I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting” he said.
James Comey, who published his prepared remarks a day before the hearing, detailed one meeting with Donald Trump in which the president asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House aide Jared Kushner to leave the Oval Office.
“I knew something was about to happen that I needed to pay very close attention to,” James Comey said.
“I remember thinking that that was a very disturbing development.”
During another meeting with Donald Trump, James Comey said the president appealed to him to “let go” an investigation into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn and his ties to the Kremlin.
After media reported the conversation, the president warned James Comey in a tweet, saying he “better hope there are no <<tapes>> of our conversations”.
James Comey told the committee he hoped there were tapes, calling on President Trump to release them.
“The president surely knows whether he taped me, and if he did my feelings aren’t hurt. Release all the tapes, I’m good with it,” he said.
The White House has refused to say whether any such tapes exist.
After President Trump’s tweet about potential tapes, James Comey said he realized it was important to release his own account of the story.
James Comey revealed that he asked a “good friend of mine” who is a professor at Columbia Law School to share contents of the memo with a reporter, in order to build pressure for a special counsel.
As a result of this episode, former FBI chief Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to lead an independent investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia.
James Comey said he was “sure” Robert Mueller was also looking at whether President Trump obstructed justice.
Donald Trump attacked James Comey for leaking the documents, saying it showed that members of the US government are “actively attempting to undermine this administration”.
According to recent reports, President Donald Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to drop an inquiry into links between his ex-national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, and Russia.
“I hope you can let this go,” President Trump reportedly told James Comey after a White House meeting in February, according to a memo written by ex-FBI Director James Comey.
The memo was written immediately after the meeting, a day after Michael Flynn resigned, according to media reports.
The White House has denied the allegation in a statement.
The statement said: “The president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn.”
Jason Chafettz, an influential Republican congressman who chairs the House Oversight Committee has called for the FBI to hand over all relevant documents within a week.
He demanded all correspondence relating to communications between James Comey and President Trump be presented by May 24.
Michael Flynn was forced out in February after he misled the vice-president about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador before President Trump took office.
The latest Russian twist, first reported by the New York Times, comes a week after Donald Trump fired James Comey over his handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while at the state department.
Image source Wikipedia
James Comey’s dismissal sent shockwaves through Washington, with critics accusing the president of trying to thwart the FBI investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the US election and any Moscow ties to Trump associates.
The FBI director reportedly wrote a memo following a meeting with the president on February 14 that revealed Donald Trump had asked him to close an investigation into Michael Flynn’s actions.
James Comey reportedly shared the memo with top FBI associates.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” President Trump told James Comey, according to the memo.
“He is a good guy.”
James Comey did not respond to his request, according to the memo, but replied: “I agree he is a good guy.”
In response to the report, a White House official pointed out that acting FBI director Andrew McCabe had testified last week that there had been “no effort to impede our investigation to date”.
He resigned as White House national security adviser after just 23 days on the job over revelations that he had discussed lifting sanctions on Moscow with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, before Donald Trump was sworn in.
It is illegal for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy.
Since Michael Flynn stepped down, the Pentagon has launched an investigation into whether he failed to disclose payments from Russian and Turkish lobbyists for speeches and consulting work.
Michael Flynn’s Russian ties are under investigation by the FBI and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, as part of wider inquiries into claims Moscow sought to tip the election in favor of Donald Trump.
Adam Schiff, the highest ranked Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said this intervention by President Trump, if correct, amounted to “interference or obstruction of the investigation”.
Senator John McCain reportedly said at a dinner that the Trump scandals had now reached “Watergate size”.
The key legal statute is 18 US Code Section 1512, which contains a broad definition allowing charges to be brought against someone who “obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so”.
Section 1512 requires a person not only to attempt to obstruct justice but to do it with “corrupt” intent, and legal experts have told the Washington Post that is not clear in this case.
The FBI probe and parallel congressional investigations into alleged Russian political meddling, and whether any Trump campaign officials colluded with the Kremlin, have dogged his young presidency.
The search for a new FBI director is beginning on May 13, with four possible candidates being interviewed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Image source Flickr
In yesterday’s daily briefing, Sean Spicer refused to comment on questions about whether President Trump had been making surreptitious recordings in the White House.
Donald Trump tweeted hours earlier that James Comey had “better hope there are no tapes” of their conversations.
Sean Spicer denied the tweet was a threat.
“The president has nothing further to add on that,” he told reporters repeatedly when pressed about the post.
“The tweet speaks for itself.”
However, James Comey believes “if there is a tape, there is nothing he is worried about”, a source told CNN.
Donald Trump’s comments provoked fresh comparisons between his administration and that of disgraced President Richard Nixon, who famously recorded conversations, speeding his downfall during the Watergate scandal.
The top Democrats on the House judiciary and oversight committees wrote to the White House on May 12 demanding copies of any recordings.
John Conyers and Elijah Cummings’ letter noted “it is a crime to intimidate or threaten any potential witness with the intent to influence, delay or prevent their official testimony”.
James Comey has declined an invitation to testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 16.
President Trump told NBC News that James Comey requested the one-on-one dinner, but the former FBI director reportedly maintains it was the president who invited him.
James Comey had said he was “uneasy” before the dinner, according to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
James Clapper told MSNBC on May 12 that he had spoken to James Comey before the White House meal.
The FBI chief had confided he was concerned it might compromise his Trump-Russia inquiry, said James Clapper.
President Trump has said James Comey told him three times he was not a target of the FBI inquiry, fuelling accusations the president was interfering in the investigation.
Still chafing at media coverage of the firing, President Trump tweeted on May 12: “Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future <<press briefings>> and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???”
Sean Spicer said the president was a “little dismayed” that his press team’s attempts to give out information were being turned into a “game of gotcha” by the media.
President Trump doubled down in an interview with Fox News by threatening to hold the press briefings only once a fortnight, with himself at the podium.
“Unless I have them every two weeks and I do them myself, we don’t have them,” he said.
“I think it’s a good idea. First of all, you have a level of hostility that’s incredible and it’s very unfair.”
James Comey was leading an inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the last year’s election and possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Moscow.
Donald Trump has dismissed the probe as a “charade”, a claim directly contradicted by James Comey’s successor.
In his first interview since firing the FBI director, President Trump told NBC News on May 11 he had asked James Comey whether he was under investigation.
“I said, if it’s possible would you let me know, <<Am I under investigation?>>. He said: <<You are not under investigation>>.”
“I know I’m not under investigation,” President Trump told the interviewer, repeating a claim he made in May 9 letter of dismissal to James Comey.
Donald Trump said James Comey first told him this at a dinner at the White House, which the FBI chief had requested because “he wanted to stay on” in his post under the new administration.
However, NBC later quoted an unnamed former senior FBI official close to James Comey as saying it was the White House that had requested the dinner, and that Comey would not have told the president he was not under investigation.
“He would say, <<Look sir, I really can’t get into it, and you don’t want me to>>,” the former official was quoted as saying.
Image source Wikipedia
The White House has rejected concerns raised by legal experts that the conversation, as described by President Trump, may have been improper.
Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she “did not see it as a conflict of interest”.
According to the New York Times, two people who had heard James Comey’s account – apparently of the same dinner – said the former FBI director declined a request to pledge loyalty to President Trump, but said he would be honest with him.
Donald Trump also appeared to undercut the initial White House explanation that he had fired James Comey on the recommendation of top justice officials.
“He’s a showboat. He’s a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. I was going to fire Comey. My decision,” President Trump said.
White House officials had previously pinned the decision on a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which President Trump refers to in the opening paragraph of his termination letter to James Comey, saying: “I have accepted their recommendation.”
However, the president told NBC: “I was going to fire him regardless of the recommendation.”
Donald Trump also denied that he wanted the FBI inquiry on Russia dropped, saying he, instead, wanted it “speeded up”.
“I want to find out if there was a problem with the election having to do with Russia… or any other country, I want that to be so strong and so good, and I want it to happen.”
This is despite what he tweeted on May 8: “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”
“There’s no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians,” the president told NBC.
Donald Trump said he had just sent a letter via a law firm to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham stating that he has no stake in Russia.
“I have nothing to do with Russia,” he said.
“I have no investments in Russia. I don’t have property in Russia. I’m not involved with Russia.”
The White House has depicted the Russia inquiry as “probably one of the smallest things” that the FBI has “got going on their plate”.
However, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said on May 11 that it was “a highly significant investigation”.
In testimony to the Senate intelligence committee, Andrew McCabe also cast doubt on White House claims that James Comey had lost the confidence of his staff.
“I can confidently tell you that the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey,” he said.
Andrew McCabe vowed not to update the White House on the status of the investigation and to notify the Senate panel of any attempt to interfere with the inquiry.
Republican committee chairman Richard Burr asked Andrew McCabe if he had ever heard James Comey tell Donald Trump the president was not the subject of investigation.
Andrew McCabe said he could not comment on an ongoing inquiry.
The acting FBI director did not confirm reports that Director Comey had asked for more resources for the agency’s Russia inquiry.
Andrew McCabe said he believed the FBI had sufficient funding to conduct the probe.
President Donald Trump has decided to fire FBI Director James Comey over his handling of the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails, the administration says.
The White House shocked Washington by announcing that James Comey “has been terminated and removed from office”.
However, Democrats said James Comey was fired because the FBI was investigating alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The move came as it emerged James Comey gave inaccurate information about Hillary Clinton’s emails to Congress last week.
James Comey, 56, was addressing FBI agents in Los Angeles when, according to media, he learned he had just been fired when he saw the news on TV.
He reportedly laughed, thinking it was a prank.
James Comey was three-and-a-half years into his 10-year term as FBI director.
Image source Wikipedia
The White House said the search for a successor would begin immediately. It is only the second time the head of the FBI has been fired.
President Trump wrote in a letter to James Comey that he agreed with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recommendation that “you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau”.
Jeff Sessions said the department of justice was “committed to a high level of discipline, integrity, and the rule of law”, and “a fresh start is needed”.
Many have expressed surprise that James Comey should be fired for his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for sensitive government business, given that Donald Trump once praised the FBI director’s conduct in the matter.
In the final days of the presidential campaign, Donald Trump told a rally it “took guts” for James Comey to reopen the inquiry.
“What he did brought back his reputation,” Donald Trump said.
However, on May 9, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he “cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgement that he was mistaken”.
“Almost everyone agrees the director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”
Democrats swiftly suggested that President Trump had fired James Comey to influence the FBI inquiry into whether members of the Trump election campaign colluded with Russia.
The House of Representatives and Senate intelligence committees are looking into the same allegations.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a news conference on May 9: “Were these investigations getting too close to home for the president?
“This does not seem to be a coincidence.”
President Trump responded on Twitter that Chuck Schumer had recently expressed his lack of confidence in the FBI chief.
Donald Trump has repeatedly insisted the Russia allegations are “fake news”.
Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, says FBI director James Comey may have broken the law by revealing the bureau was investigating emails possibly linked to Hillary Clinton.
He accused James Comey of violating an act which bars officials from influencing an election.
News of the FBI inquiry comes less than two weeks before the Election Day.
The FBI has meanwhile obtained a warrant to search a cache of emails belonging to Huma Abedin, a top Hillary Clinton aide.
Emails from Huma Abedin are believed to have been found on the laptop of her estranged husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner.
There are reportedly 650,000 emails to search through, making it unlikely investigators can give a verdict on them before election day.
The FBI believes the emails might be “pertinent” to its previous inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server when she was secretary of state in the Obama administration.
The case was closed in July without any charges being brought against Hillary Clinton.
Anthony Weiner is subject to a separate investigation on suspicion of sending explicit messages to an underage girl.
Harry Reid accused James Comey of practicing double standards with the intention of helping one political party over another.
In a letter, Harry Reid said James Comey may have violated the Hatch Act, which bars officials from using their position to influence an election.
“Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law,” he said.
Harry Reid also accused James Comey of withholding “explosive information about close ties between [Republican candidate] Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government”.
“The public has a right to know about this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public,” Harry Reid said.
Richard Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007, revealed on October 30 he had filed a complaint against the FBI with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations.
Writing in the New York Times he said: “I never thought that the FBI could be dragged into a political circus surrounding one of its investigations. Until this week.”
Opinion polls showed Hillary Clinton’s lead against Donald Trump tightening even before the email controversy surfaced again.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll published on October 30 put Hillary Clinton just one percentage point ahead.
Hillary Clinton has described James Comey’s actions as “unprecedented” and “deeply troubling”.
However, Donald Trump has praised the FBI’s decision, accusing the Department of Justice of protecting Hillary Clinton in a “rigged system”.
“The Department of Justice is trying their hardest to protect the criminal activity of Hillary Clinton,” Donald Trump told a rally in Nevada.
It emerged on October 30 that the Department of Justice had urged the FBI not to inform Congress of the new inquiry so close to the election.
The Federal Bureau has used drones for surveillance in limited cases over US soil, FBI Director Robert Mueller has told a US Senate committee.
Robert Mueller said the agency had “very few” drones and had used them in “a very minimal way” and “very seldom”.
But the director said the FBI was in the “initial stages” of developing drone policies.
In May, President Barack Obama said he would curtail the use of armed drones in operations outside the US.
Under the new policy described by the White House, the US will only allow drones to be used in areas that are not overt war zones when there was a “continuing, imminent threat” to the US and capture was not feasible.
Robert Mueller has told a US Senate committee the FBI has used drones for surveillance in limited cases over US soil
Wednesday’s acknowledgment that the US federal investigative service has also used drones comes as the nation debates electronic surveillance following the recent disclosure of massive internet and telephone data snooping programmes.
Robert Mueller, who is retiring in July after 12 years as FBI director, described the drone use in testimony in a hearing of the US Senate judiciary committee.
“I will tell you that our footprint is very small,” he said.
He said drones were used in “particular incidents where you need the capability” but said he was unsure how long images captured by the drones were kept.
A surveillance drone was used during a February stand-off with an Alabama man who shot dead a school bus driver and then took a five-year-old boy hostage, according to media reports at the time.
FBI Director Robert Mueller says the US is taking “all necessary steps” to hold Edward Snowden responsible for exposing secret surveillance programmes.
Robert Mueller confirmed to the House judiciary committee that a criminal investigation had been launched.
Edward Snowden, 29, has admitted leaking information about National Security Agency (NSA) programmes that seize data from US internet and telephone firms.
Meanwhile, US senators briefed on the programmes have largely defended them.
Edward Snowden, who has pledged to fight any attempt to extradite him to the US, fled his home in Hawaii for Hong Kong shortly before reports of the top secret programmes were published by the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers last week.
China says it has “no information to offer” on the leaker’s whereabouts.
Edward Snowden, a former NSA contract computer technician, has admitted giving the newspapers information about NSA programmes that seize vast quantities of data from US internet and telephone companies.
In testimony on Thursday, Robert Mueller told the judiciary committee the leak caused “significant harm to our nation and to our safety”.
The FBI director, who is due to step down in September after 12 years in the job, said intelligence gathered following the leaks showed plotters were adapting to the revelations.
“One of my problems is that we’re going to… lose our ability to get their communications,” Robert Mueller said.
“We are going to be exceptionally vulnerable.”
He also stressed the phone records programme collected “no content whatsoever”.
Some committee members remained unconvinced by Robert Mueller’s defense.
Representative John Conyers, the committee’s top Democrat, said he feared the US was “on the verge of becoming a surveillance state”.
FBI Director Robert Mueller says the US is taking “all necessary steps” to hold Edward Snowden responsible for exposing secret surveillance programmes
Robert Mueller said if the programmes had been place before the 9/11 attacks, they might have uncovered the plot.
“That opportunity would have been there,” he said.
But John Conyers replied: “I am not persuaded that that makes it OK to collect every call.”
The FBI director also told lawmakers Edward Snowden was the “subject of an ongoing criminal investigation” related to the leaks but would not give details on the status of the case.
Meanwhile, senators leaving a closed-door briefing with General Keith Alexander of the NSA largely defended the programmes.
Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska insisted procedures were already in place to protect Americans from government snooping and that the revelations in the news media had mischaracterized the programmes.
“It is misunderstood that American private information, emails and phone calls are being rummaged through by the government – that is not true,” he said.
“Only when there is probable cause given with a court order of a federal judge can they go into the content of phone calls and emails in order to be able to disrupt a terrorist plot.”
Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker told reporters lawmakers were given “some specific and helpful information about how these programmes have helped keep Americans safe”.
Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, predicted the Senate would consider legislation to curb contractors’ access to secret data.
In an interview at an undisclosed Hong Kong location published in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday, Edward Snowden said he believed there had been more than 61,000 NSA global hacking operations which targeted powerful “network backbones”.
He vowed to fight extradition to the US.
“All I can do is rely on my training and hope that world governments will refuse to be bullied by the United States into persecuting people seeking political refuge,” the paper quoted Edward Snowden as saying.
“Things are very difficult for me in all terms, but speaking truth to power is never without risk,” he said.
“It has been difficult, but I have been glad to see the global public speak out against these sorts of systemic violations of privacy.”
Who is Edward Snowden?
Age 29, grew up in North Carolina
Joined army reserves in 2004, discharged four months later, according to the Guardian
First job at National Security Agency was as security guard
Worked on IT security at the CIA
Left CIA in 2009 for contract work at NSA for various firms including Booz Allen
Called himself Verax, Latin for “speaking the truth”, in exchanges with the Washington Post
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