In an almost three-hour-long session before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, June 8, the recently ousted former FBI Director James Comey answered questions to shed light on his working relationship with President Donald Trump and the Bureau’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But, despite answering dozens of questions, aside from those he couldn’t answer in a public setting for reasons of security, Comey’s testimony led to even more questions arising.
But to understand exactly where we stand after Comey’s statements in the public Senate hearing, it’s important to look at what was actually learned that day. The nature of the relationship between Comey and Trump is virtually unmistakable, especially since the unexpected firing of the FBI chief a few weeks ago. But now we understand exactly what Comey thinks of the president, and it is a sentiment echoed across social media and cable news stations.
James Comey thinks Donald Trump is a blatant liar.
In his testimony, James Comey called Trump a liar several times. He talked about their first meeting at Trump Tower in January and explained how he sat in his car and typed out exactly how that meeting had played out, and everything that was said, on his laptop.
“I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting, so I thought it important to document,” Comey told the Intelligence Committee. That feeling obviously never left his mind, because he documented all nine of the conversations he had with President Trump in the same exact way.
Trump also gave Comey an uneasy feeling on more than one occasion, and in more than one way. The first when the president had asked Comey to drop the investigation into then-National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn. After sitting in silence for a moment following the request, Comey said the only thing that he could think of.
“I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took in,” he recalled. “I remember saying, ‘I agree he is a good guy,’ as a way of saying, ‘I’m not agreeing with what you asked me to do.’”
Another time that Comey felt uneasy was regarding what, if anything, he would tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the incident. “We decided the best move would be to hold it, keep it in a box, document it, figure out what to do with it down the road,” he said of the Flynn investigation request. “Is there a way to corroborate it? It was our word against the president’s. No way to corroborate this.”
However, despite his unease with the president or the thinly veiled threats he made regarding the possibility of recorded conversations between the two, Comey was confident. “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” he said, challenging the president to make good on his threat.
Comey on coversations with @realDonaldTrump "I’ve seen the tweet about tapes…Lordy, I hope there are tapes…"— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) June 8, 2017
But perhaps the most damning part of Comey’s testimony had nothing to do with President Trump at all. Rather, it was his admission that Obama’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch had told him to use certain language regarding the investigation into the mishandling of sensitive information by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staff. According to Comey, he was ordered to call it a “matter” and not an investigation, which confused him and made him wary, but he did as instructed. This was the same language being used to downplay the significance of the investigation by the Clinton presidential campaign, which had called it a “security review” among other euphemisms.
But aside from these revelations, what else did we learn from the former FBI director’s testimony? Well, because it is such a sensitive matter, we heard a lot of “I can’t answer that in a public setting” from Comey, so, not much. And now we have even more questions.
Will the special counsel on the Russian collusion investigation interview Trump? We can’t be sure, since according to Comey’s testimony, the investigation never focused directly on Trump himself, but on his campaign and aides. However, obviously Comey couldn’t give out too many details of the investigation, particularly because it is still ongoing, so it really depends on the path the inquiry takes. But special counsels are not good for presidents. Just ask Bill Clinton, whose special counsel investigation led by Kenneth Starr resulted in his unsuccessful impeachment.
Is there still grounds for an obstruction of justice case? This was the favored talking point of many following Comey’s firing, and many believe that his testimony laid a clear case for moving forward in that avenue. However, Trump never ordered the investigation to be shut down, only requested that Comey “let it go.” And firing Comey would not have shut down the investigation either, though some might argue that the intimidation by Trump would lead to that result.
These are questions we’ll just have to wait to find out the answers to, and due to the nature of the investigation, we could be waiting quite some time. Regardless, it’s apparent that, despite being fired, Donald Trump still has much to worry about when it comes to testimony from former FBI Director James Comey.
[Featured Image by Alex Brandon/AP Images]