James Comey hit Donald Trump hard by repeatedly calling him a liar - and there may be more to come

Analysis: The former FBI director's testimony has opened the door for others to bash the President - despite Mr Trump's lawyer attacking Mr Comey for leaking information 

Kim Sengupta
Thursday 08 June 2017 20:30 BST
Mr Comey did not shy away from his criticism of Mr Trump
Mr Comey did not shy away from his criticism of Mr Trump (EPA)

The director of the FBI was so concerned about Donald Trump’s lying that he made detailed and contemporaneous notes after each of their meeting - something he never felt he had to do with Presidents Obama and Bush or any other member of past and present administrations.

The damning view from James Comey about the honesty and veracity of the current President of the United States by the one of the country’s chief law officers was one of the most memorable moments from one of the most eagerly anticipated evidence sessions on Capitol Hill in recent times.

The former FBI director confirmed for the first time that the FBI was scrutinising Mr Trump’s actions in relation to Russia. Although he was not specifically under investigation himself, the President’s conduct fell within the “scope of the FBI investigation” as well as that of the newly appointed special counsel Robert Mueller. The notes made by Mr Comey have been handed over to Mr Mueller and are also likely to be given to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Directly, forcefully, and often emotionally, Mr Comey described how he was fired by the President because of his refusal to back off from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s links with Russia. After he was dismissed, the White House tried to smear him, said the former director. They “chose to defame me, and more importantly, the FBI” by falsely claiming that the Agency was in disarray, Mr Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple, and I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them and I am so sorry the American people were told them.’

In the hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee the word “lies” repeatedly came from Mr Comey in his account of dealing with Mr Trump and his coterie and what he saw as an attempt by the President to make him cover up the potential Russia connection.

Mr Comey described a meeting in which Mr Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner to leave before asking him to shelve an investigation into Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who had to resign after lying about his links with Moscow. The FBI director was “stunned” by the request and chose not to reveal it to his colleagues at the FBI because of fear that it would have a “real chilling effect on the Russia investigation”. He was fired soon afterwards. He said Mr Trump’s “endeavour was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted”.

The former director refused to say whether that and other interventions in the Russia investigation amounted to obstruction of justice. That, he said, was up to Mr Mueller who, among other allegations, was investigating whether Mr Trump personally colluded with the Russians to get to the White House. Mr Trump had attempted to dismiss claims of Russian hacking of the US Presidential election as a “hoax” and “fake news”. Describing the vast range and reach of Kremlin’s covert operation, Mr Comey observed “it was as unfake as it gets”.

Depth charges were placed by Mr Comey during his testimony, about possible secrets which may emerge by saying he could not answer a number of questions in an open hearing. One was about the dossier produced by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele who had claimed that the Kremlin held sexual and financial secrets about Mr Trump. “Was the FBI able to confirm any criminal allegations concerning the Steele document” he was asked. The former director responded “ I don’t think that’s a question I can answer in an open setting because it goes into the details of the investigation”.

Mr Trump had sought to threaten Mr Comey after sacking him by hinting that there may be secret tape recordings of his conversation with the FBI chief. “Lordy I hope there are tapes”, Mr Comey told the hearing.

The threat may have backfired spectacularly for Mr Trump as it led to Mr Comey organising a leak to the media of the President asking him to drop the investigation into Lt Gen Flynn. He said he did so with the explicit hope of triggering the appointment of special counsel to investigate Russian election interference. That has now happened, and the many enemies the President has made will be hoping that more of his secrets and lies will be exposed in the future.

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