That’s a wrap, folks. Thanks for joining us. A lot went down in that hearing, and you can follow all of it by starting at the beginning of this live blog and scrolling up.
If you don’t feel like reliving Comey’s testimony chronologically, I asked FiveThirtyEighters what they thought the main takeaways were, and here are their responses:
Nate: Repeating myself here, but my big takeaways are that 1) Comey is quite directly saying that Trump fired him because of Russia and 2) the Republicans don’t really have any good counterarguments to this and, overall, have legalistic messages that are targeted toward assuaging their Fox News base rather than winning over swing voters.
Perry: Overall, Comey owned the day. His story is now the story. The hearing was basically him reciting his take. The Republicans didn’t poke any real holes in his story. And they didn’t even really try.
Clare: I think what we saw here today was Comey — an excellent witness — coming out hard against Trump. You also saw the Republican lines of defense coalescing, noting that Comey says Trump wasn’t under investigation, questioning why Comey wouldn’t publicly say so (when he’d spoken out about the Clinton emails), and generally saying that Comey overread his conversations with Trump about Flynn.
Julia: This hearing cut against the conventional wisdom that what brings you down is the cover-up, not the crime. That may prove to be true eventually, but Russia interference was a very clear theme, alongside the inappropriateness of Trump’s solo meeting with Comey. One other note, though: Potential obstruction of justice was a much smaller theme relative to its overall importance.
Harry: We did learn some interesting things during the hearing. I thought the fact that Comey said he leaked material after he left office to try to trigger a special prosecutor was quite newsworthy. The other big thing, to me, was Comey’s calling Trump a liar. In terms of the Republicans, I didn’t think they managed to poke holes in Comey’s testimony. Blunt probably came the closest.
Ben: My takeaway is that Republicans are still standing by Trump for now. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the “Comey was the leaker” thing used to try to undermine his credibility. (Although all the lavish praise for him as a public servant may make that argument more difficult.)
McCain seemed all over the place. The gavel banged numerous times, and McCain didn’t stop talking. Very odd. The whole thing was just very odd.
One way to make sense of McCain’s line of questioning and bringing up of Clinton is to think about it again through the political sound-bite lens. This was the basic partisan logic of the election — many Republican voters had some reservations about Trump but had much stronger negative feelings toward Clinton. As a political cue, it makes perfect sense to mention her.
McCain has generally been among the most anti-Trump, pro-Russia investigation GOP senators. So this was an odd direction for his questioning to take.
McCain is being a little … confusing in his line of questioning to Comey. He’s bringing up the Clinton email affair over and over, generally, I think, to insinuate that Comey should have felt comfortable saying publicly that President Trump was not under investigation.
I don’t think McCain’s reputation for being a maverick is particularly well-deserved, but his mood also seems to vary a lot from day to day.
So, Nate — McCain seems to be taking a pretty pro-Trump line of questioning?
McCain is really asking this in a totally incoherent way.
McCain wants to know the difference between Comey putting out public statements about the Clinton investigation vs. the Russia investigation. Comey answers that the Clinton investigation was over with, hence he could comment. The Russia one was ongoing. McCain doesn’t seem happy with that answer.
Comey is of course inferring from what Trump told Lester Holt, but he’s still being quite direct — more than I would have thought, because he’s hesitated to speculate on other matters — that he was fired because of reasons related to the Russia investigation. I continue to think that’s the big takeaway for today, especially given that the GOP hasn’t come up with any persuasive counterarguments to it.
Apparently, we’ll be hearing from Trump soon.
“There was an explanation, I just don’t buy it,” Comey says of his firing.
Sen. Jack Reed is asking if Comey’s feeling of the investigation was that it could include the president. Comey again brings up that one of the FBI’s leaders had argued that the president should be considered under investigation.
One thing that’s interesting is that the last two questioners (Harris and now Cornyn) aren’t really focusing on Trump. Harris went after Jeff Sessions, and now Cornyn is going after Loretta Lynch. I guess focusing on other things is what happens when you’re going into hour three of testimony.
Cornyn brought up the Clinton email investigation and asked Comey if it’s unreasonable for a president to want the FBI director to publicly say he is not under investigation (again, another GOP/White House line of defense).
The leaks about Comey’s interactions with Trump have held up remarkably well — no doubt because Comey (as he admitted today) himself was behind them. But certain other stories based on anonymous sources, such as a New York Times story in February alleging contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign, have been less accurate, Comey said earlier.
This gets to one of our heuristics for interpreting stories based on anonymous sourcing: demand specificity, especially the sort of details that might be confirmed by an on-the-record source later. The stories about Comey’s interactions with Trump had lots of very specific details. The NYT story on the campaign’s contacts with Russia lacked them, on the other hand.
Cornyn asks if you’re trying to make an investigation go away, does it make sense to fire the director of the FBI. (This is a GOP line that Trump fired Comey for the good of the party, even though it was an unpopular move.) Comey answers: “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but obviously I’m hopelessly biased.”
Comey was just asked to talk about Sessions’s body language during their interaction. Which is … interesting!
This has been a bad week for Sessions. There were reports this week that he might be on the outs with Trump, and this hearing has done him no favors. It’ll be interesting to hear the followups in the days and weeks ahead.
Yeah, one thing we haven’t learned very much about today — although Comey might have no way of knowing it — is what Trump told other people such as Sessions about his reasons for firing Comey.
Harris asks Comey if he thinks the attorney general should have been involved in his firing given Sessions’s recusal from all Russia-related matters. Comey says he thinks it’s a “reasonable question” but won’t answer. Sessions has been brought up an awful lot today.
Now we’ve got Sen. Kamala Harris asking about whether there are any meetings between Trump officials and Russians during the campaign that have not yet been disclosed — Comey says he can’t answer anything along these lines. But it’s a tactic meant to sow seeds in the public’s mind about nefarious doings.
Cotton is pushing on a lot of details about Flynn calls with Russians, and Comey is saying that he can’t answer the questions in an open hearing — I think a lot of people are wishing they had high government security clearance right about now.
The president hasn’t tweeted about the Comey testimony yet. If that holds, I guess those bars down in the capital won’t be giving out free booze after all.
When someone asks, “Do you think the president colluded with Russia?” and the answer is anything other than “no,” that’s not the most normal moment in American politics.
Cotton pressing Comey on whether Trump is under investigation. Comey is not answering.
Manchin’s questioning of Comey is a reminder that the committee’s investigation is about far more than the Comey-Trump interactions. Amid the larger intrigue of why Comey was fired, it can be difficult to remember that this all started because of the Russians’ attempt to pervert American elections, not the Trump administration’s potential attempt to pervert an FBI investigation.
We’re still not sure about the exact particulars of the latter. But the former — the Russians’ attempt to alter the axis of American politics — seems to have been particularly successful.
Comey’s remarks about Russian meddling, references to being influenced only by other Americans and our great experiment, really highlights that this show is political and not legal.