(Watch live coverage of Comey’s testimony: here)
WASHINGTON – Testifying under oath before the Senate Intelligence committee Thursday morning, James Comey confirmed the assertion made repeatedly by President Trump that he had not pressured the former FBI director to drop the Russia investigation.
Comey confirmed another Trump contention repeatedly made by the president, that the former FBI director had told him three times that he was not under investigation.
Those were the major revelations in Comey’s opening statement, his first public comments since Trump fired him as FBI director on May 9.
The testimony seemed to vindicate the president’s confidence his version of events would prevail when he announced on Monday he would not invoke executive privilege to prevent Comey from testifying.
Multiple commentators anticipated Comey’s remarks would show the president attempted to obstruct justice by asking the former FBI director to shut down the bureau’s investigation into possible ties between Russia and Trump associates.
CNN had reported Comey would testify that Trump tried to pressure him into dropping the investigation. CNN also reported Comey would deny having told Trump he was not under investigation.
But that was not what happened.
In his opening statement, Comey confirmed published reports that during a private conversation in the White House on Feb. 14, the two had a discussion about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whom Trump had fired the day before.
The former director recalled Trump saying, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
(Watch live coverage of Comey’s testimony: here)
Reports published in the mainstream media had claimed Comey took that as a sign that the president was trying to pressure him into dropping the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and whether any of Trump’s associate colluded with Moscow.
Some even thought, and many Democrats hoped, Comey would claim he believed the president had tried to obstruct justice.
However, not only did Comey not say he thought the president tried to obstruct justice, the former FBI director made clear he did not think the president was trying to interfere in the investigation or pressure him to drop it.
“I had understood, Comey testified, “the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December.”
He continued, “I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls.”
Perhaps somewhat contradictorily, Comey did add, “Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.”
He also described Trump’s requests for the FBI to be able to “lift the cloud” coming from the unsubstantiated allegations.
“I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could,” recalled Comey.
At a press conference on May 18, Trump said the entire investigation into collusion with Russia “has been a witch hunt.”
“And there is no collusion between, certainly, myself and my campaign – but I can always speak for myself – and the Russians,” he said. “Zero.”
WND reported last month that it was President Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan, who prompted the investigation into claims the Trump campaign had inappropriate contacts with the Russian government.
Brennan admitted to the House Intelligence Committee during testimony on May 30 that he instigated the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia even though he had seen no evidence of that.
Brennan claimed he had seen some contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials, and he was worried that might lead to collusion. So he referred the matter to the FBI, which launched an investigation.
As WND has reported repeatedly, top Democrats have all admitted investigators have not found any evidence of any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign or administration.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who serves on the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, twice said she had seen no such evidence. Other Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee have said they don’t expect to find any evidence of collusion.
Fierce Trump critic Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has had to admit there is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Obama’s own former top spies, Brennan, director of national intelligence James Clapper, as well as former acting CIA Director Michael Morell, have all said they have seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump team and the Russian government.