by Countable | 6.7.17
On Thursday ousted FBI Director James Comey will offer highly anticipated public testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Comey is expected to be questioned at length about Russia, whether the president asked him to stop the investigation concerning his campaign’s ties to the foreign power, and the details surrounding Comey’s firing.
Countable will be streaming the testimony live -- Here's what you need to know to follow along, a recap of the major highlights of the Comey story.
James Comey was appointed Director of the FBI by then-President Barack Obama. He was confirmed by the senate by a vote of 93-1. Senator Rand Paul (KY) was the lone dissenter.
Comey drew ire from Republicans when he announced he would not recommend charges against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Comey headed a year long investigation into Clinton’s use of an unsecured, private email server to do official business. Comey stated that "no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case" against her for mishandling classified information. He did, however, publicly admonish Clinton and her staff for being “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information”.
Comey’s announcement went against traditional protocol, since the FBI only has investigative power -- it cannot bring charges against anyone. That is the job of the Department of Justice. In March of 2017 the whys of Comey’s decision came to light. Don’t worry. We’ll get there.
Comey received praise or ire, and little in between, for informing congressional leaders and FBI employees eleven days prior to the U.S. presidential election that investigators were reviewing newly found emails related to the previously closed Clinton email probe. The move was widely referred to as his "October Surprise".
The news exploded, and was not diminished by Comey’s subsequent announcement two days prior to the election that there was nothing new or incriminating in the emails reviewed.
A week after the inauguration President Trump hosted Director Comey for a private dinner in the White House. He is alleged to have asked Director Comey to pledge loyalty to him, which Comey refused to do, promising "honesty" instead.
In a memo that Director Comey is reported to have created following a meeting in February with the president he documented that President Trump asked him to "let go" the investigation into Michael Flynn. The next day the New York Times reports that Comey demanded of Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he never be left alone with the President again.
Comey asked the Justice Department to publicly refute President Trump’s assertion on Twitter that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, had ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower. At that time some questioned whether or not Comey did not simply issue a statement himself based off of F.B.I records.
Comey testified publicly with Admiral Michael Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, in front of the House Intelligence Committee. In his testimony Comey asserted again that there was no basis for the president’s wiretapping claims on Twitter. He also testified that the F.B.I. was in the midst of investigating Russian election interference and any potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials:
"I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”
President Trump responds to an interview question regarding whether or not he should have asked Director Comey to step down from his position after the inauguration:
"No, it’s not too late, but, you know, I have confidence in him. We’ll see what happens. You know, it’s going to be interesting."
Director Comey testified publicly in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on F.B.I. Oversight, an annual hearing. Comey was questioned about whether he had ever been an anonymous source to the news media or whether he ordered anyone else to be, to which he responded no. He was also grilled about his decision to discuss an ongoing investigation (the Clinton email redux) so close to a presidential election.
Most notable, however, was that he misspoke when he discussed "hundreds and thousands" of emails, some of them containing “classified information”, forwarded from former Clinton aide Huma Abedin to her husband, disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner. He testified:
"[Anthony Weiner’s] then spouse, Huma Abedin, appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding e-mails to him, for him I think to print out for her so she could then deliver them to the Secretary of State...my understanding is that his role would be to print them out as a matter of convenience.”
The problem is that this information was misleading. The Bureau later clarified to the Committee that the vast majority of emails found on Weiner’s laptop were back-ups from Abedin’s phone, and only "a small number" had been forwarded directly to Weiner to print, two of which were classified.
Director Comey is fired, though he does not get the news directly. He hears it in the midst of a speech to agents in Los Angeles. The reasons, according to the president and the White House, for Comey’s abrupt firing were numerous and contradictory.
President Trump tweets what many perceive as a threat to now-former Director Comey, while also raising questions about whether there are tapes in the possession of the White House that would properly explain the events leading up to Comey’s firing.
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
The New York Times reports that Mr. Comey documented all of his meetings with President Trump in a series of memos, including notes on the meeting when the president is alleged to have asked him to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn. The media erupts, as does Capitol Hill. Several congress members, notable among them Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) who had recused himself from heading the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, request copies of any and all memos for review.
CNN reports then-Director Comey made his announcement that there would be no charges filed against Hillary Clinton in the investigation of her email server without informing then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch because of a Russian document he knew was fake:
"The Russian intelligence at issue purported to show that then-Attorney General Lynch had been compromised in the Clinton investigation. The intelligence described emails between then-Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a political operative suggesting that Lynch would make the FBI investigation of Clinton go away.”
That the document had factored into Comey’s decision was already known. That he had acted on it knowing it was fake out of concern if it "dropped" before he made the announcement not to pursue charges there would be questions of impropriety in the investigation was the revelation. The revelation raised questions about Comey’s personal motivations to protect the Bureau and his legacy, as well as continued to illuminate the ways in which Russia affected the outcome of the 2016 election.
Mr. Comey is "cleared" to publicly testify at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing June 8 after meeting with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the independent investigation into Russian election meddling and ties between the Trump campaign and administration with Putin’s government.
And that pretty much brings us to today! Countable will be livestreaming the Comey hearing tomorrow on Facebook and Youtube. Join us! And if you have questions you want committee members to ask tomorrow tell us what they are here.
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— Asha Sanaker
(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)
Written by Countable