The testimony of former FBI Director James Comey raised serious questions about President Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions. On Thursday, Comey told the Senate that the FBI was "aware of facts that I can't discuss in an open setting" about Sessions "that [would have made] his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic." And in a closed-door session that followed, Comey reportedly told senators that Sessions had a third, previously undisclosed interaction with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., CNN reports.
During Sessions' confirmation hearing, the then-senator testified that he "did not have communications with the Russians" during Trump's campaign. The Washington Post later reported Sessions had spoken at least twice with Russia's ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Sessions responded by sending a supplementary letter to the Senate in March, but it made no mention of a third meeting with Kislyak.
"The information [about a third meeting] is based in part on Russian-to-Russian intercepts where the meeting was discussed," people familiar with the information told CNN. "But the sources said it is possible the ambassador … was exaggerating the extent of the encounter."
On Thursday, the Justice Department refuted part of Comey's public testimony, saying Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe was entirely due to a part of the Code of Federal Regulations, which says a Department of Justice attorney "should not participate in investigations that may involve entities or individuals with whom the attorney has a political or personal relationship," with that entity being the Trump campaign.
But Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told CNN: "I can't confirm what may have been provided in a classified setting, but with a third meeting, even without it, what we have is a pattern of contacts with the Russians by [Michael] Flynn, by Sessions, by [Jared] Kushner — secret and then concealed. ... [It] could be perjury." Jeva Lange
Over the past year, former FBI Director James Comey has been making headlines for everything from his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server to his explosive firing to his highly-anticipated testimony Thursday in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
His omnipresence is making a major impact, David Menefee-Libey, professor of politics at Pomona College, told The Week Thursday. "James Comey may now be the most influential FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover," he said. "Despite never having run for office, Comey has asserted a massive role for himself as an arbiter of who is an acceptable leader of the U.S. government. His intervention last year may have kept Hillary Clinton out of the White House, and his intervention this year has deeply undermined Donald Trump's presidency."
Menefee-Libey doesn't expect the hearing will change many minds, saying, "Most Americans are fairly locked into their views about President Trump and the Republican majorities in Congress, and will find ways to assimilate what they heard today without breaking those locks." While a majority of Americans might not be swayed by what they heard, it doesn't mean the testimony wasn't powerful. "The substance of Comey's public testimony today — who knows what he said in the closed session — was striking enough to press the Senate Intelligence Committee to continue its work," Menefee-Libey said. "This Russia investigation may go on for months, or even years." Catherine Garcia
For those who weren't glued to their televisions during former FBI Director James Comey's testimony Thursday in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Seth Meyers grabbed some highlights from the circus surrounding his appearance.
He started with some helpful flashbacks of President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway lamenting back in October the poor treatment Comey was receiving from people like the Clintons, juxtaposed with Republicans today lashing out at Comey and undermining his credibility. Meyers found it incredibly funny to see people like House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) defending Trump and his interactions with Comey, saying "he's new at this" and didn't know better than to have one-on-one meetings. "So wait, the president is just learning on the job?" Meyers asked. "Even at Chipotle you have to shadow someone for a week."
Meyers was also incredulous over Comey saying he was "honestly concerned" Trump might lie about the nature of their first get together. "That's the FBI director, a guy who has dealt with liars and criminals his whole life, walking out of this first meeting with the president thinking, 'I've gotta write this s—t down," Meyers said. One thing that didn't happen was Trump going on a Twitter spree, which Meyers believes was prevented by aides making his schedule so packed he was preoccupied. "It's a sad state of affairs when the White House staff has to handle the president like a toddler on a road trip," Meyers said. "'OK, I've got the iPad and the sticker book, a ziplock fill of Cheerios, three binkies. I think we're good, let's roll, let's see what we do — oh, he's already out of his carseat." Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia
In a statement released Thursday evening, the Department of Justice refuted part of former FBI Director James Comey's testimony regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russia.
Spokesman Ian Prior said that shortly after he was sworn in, Sessions "began consulting with career Department of Justice ethics officials to determine whether he should recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States." The discussions were centered around a part of the Code of Federal Regulations, which says a Department of Justice attorney "should not participate in investigations that may involve entities or individuals with whom the attorney has a political or personal relationship," Prior said.
Because of Sessions' participation in President Trump's campaign "and that reason alone," Sessions announced on March 2 he was recusing himself. During his testimony, Comey said he was unaware of any memo sent to the FBI from the Justice Department or Attorney General about the recusal, but Prior claims Sessions' chief of staff sent Comey an email about the recusal and its parameters and asked that he not brief Sessions on anything having to do with the investigation. Catherine Garcia
Fox News' Judge Napolitano argues Comey's testimony illustrates a 'credible and compelling argument' that Trump has been dishonest
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano wasn't feeling too optimistic before former FBI Director James Comey's congressional testimony Thursday — and he wasn't feeling much better after it was over. "Today certainly advanced the ball on the seriousness of this investigation and the breadth of its scope," Napolitano said Thursday, after earlier warning Fox News hosts not to feel vindicated just yet. "If you look … at the big picture … you get a very, very credible and compelling argument that the president of the United States has not been truthful with the American people and ordered the director of the FBI to shut down an investigation."
Fox News anchor Shannon Bream pointed out that the hearing also revealed Comey purposefully leaked to the press via a friend his written memos regarding conversations he'd had with Trump, but Napolitano refused to bite. He contended the argument could be made that Comey acted "improperly and unlawfully" and leaked a government document to "protect his own reputation." However, he also said it could also be argued that Comey simply "wanted to advance the ball of truth."
Watch it below. Becca Stanek
Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch was a surprising target during former FBI Director James Comey's testimony before the Senate on Thursday. "At one point, the attorney general had directed me not to call [the probe into Hillary Clinton's private email server an] investigation but instead to call it a 'matter,' which confused me and concerned me," Comey said, referring to Lynch. "That was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude I have to step away from the department if we're to close this case credibly."
Appearing on CNN later, Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager, Robby Mook, found himself in an uncomfortable position trying to explain the situation. "If [Lynch] did that, Robby, would that be appropriate?" anchor Brooke Baldwin asked after Mook denied Comey's account.
"I just don't know, I'm not an expert on the Justice Department," Mook awkwardly dodged. "I don't know what its status was at that time."
Robby Mook on CNN right now squirming trying to say nice things about Comey
— Logan Dobson (@LoganDobson) June 8, 2017
Watch the uncomfortable interview below. Jeva Lange
“Not at all. I didn’t know anyone in the Justice Department” Robby Mook on Clinton camp and AG Lynch communication https://t.co/83bbrcxP4t
— Brooke Baldwin (@BrookeBCNN) June 8, 2017
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace's overwhelming verdict on former FBI Director James Comey's congressional testimony: It wasn't good for President Trump's political reputation.
In a segment Thursday after Comey testified before Congress on his conversations with Trump regarding the ongoing investigation into Russia's election meddling, Wallace declared Comey's testimony "politically ... very damaging to the president." "Repeatedly, James Comey called the president a liar, said that he lied about that the FBI was in disarray, that he defamed him, defamed the FBI, said that the reason he kept those kinds of notes in the first place is that he thought [Trump] was the kind of man who would lie about those kinds of things," Wallace said. "It's not good stuff to have said on national television."
On the flip side, Wallace said that if he were Trump's lawyer he'd be "pretty happy." "[R]epeatedly, and up to the day he was fired, Comey says there is no evidence that led to an investigation of Donald Trump. He was not under investigation and on the question of obstruction of justice — while he said that's still an open question that will have to be decided by the special counsel, Robert Mueller — he certainly didn't indicate that he viewed it as obstruction of justice," Wallace said.
Watch Wallace discuss Comey's testimony below. Becca Stanek
Fox's Chris Wallace explains why today's hearing was very damaging to Trump politically. Remember this when his network defends Trump. pic.twitter.com/pVZP2xUL0D
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) June 8, 2017
A late night ballgame between the San Diego Padres and the Arizona Diamondbacks made for a confusing line of questioning by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Thursday at the James Comey hearing, McCain said.
McCain abruptly brought up Hillary Clinton's emails while questioning Comey, the former FBI director, and his perplexing line of thinking led some people to express concern about the Arizona senator's wellbeing:
Caller to @cspan just now, on John McCain: "He just sounded senile and confused."
— Eric Kleefeld (@EricKleefeld) June 8, 2017
Rubio on McCain: "I didn't follow that line of questioning very well." pic.twitter.com/AfpRHsYgRy
— Jeremy Art (@cspanJeremy) June 8, 2017
Sen McCain is so experienced in these settings, he doesn't do anything by accident. (Misstating Comey's name aside), what was he getting at?
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) June 8, 2017
Other senators' faces as McCain talks. pic.twitter.com/2x1nmRzbkQ
— Emma Loop (@LoopEmma) June 8, 2017
"I get the sense from Twitter that my line of questioning today went over people's heads," McCain said in a statement afterward. "Maybe going forward I shouldn't stay up late watching the Diamondbacks' night games."
FWIW, the Dbacks was a long one last night -- 3:48 -- which had it ending at like 1:30AM Washington, D.C. time.
— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) June 8, 2017
McCain added: "What I was trying to get at was whether Mr. Comey believes that any of his interactions with the president rise to the level of obstruction of justice. In the case of Secretary Clinton's emails, Mr. Comey was willing to step beyond his role as an investigator and state his belief about what 'no reasonable prosecutor' would conclude about the evidence. I wanted Mr. Comey to apply the same approach to the key question surrounding his interactions with President Trump — whether or not the president's conduct constitutes obstruction of justice."
At least it was a good game for the senator: The Diamondbacks beat the Padres, 7-4. Jeva Lange