Former FBI Director James Comey’s “statement for the record” — released in advance of his testimony on Thursday to the Senate Intelligence Committee — essentially addressed and confirmed most of what has appeared in a number of reports about the President Trump-Comey relationship. Comey, in the seven pages of written testimony, suggested that President Trump asked him for his loyalty, urged the FBI to stop its investigation of former national security adviser and longtime Trump adviser Michael Flynn and pressed Comey to declare publicly that the president himself was not under investigation.
So what might Comey say on Thursday that wasn’t addressed in the statement? We had actually prepared a list of reported-but-unconfirmed claims about Trump’s interactions with Comey before Comey’s statement was released:
In his written statement, Comey hit on a number of previously reported claims, but not all of them. And Comey’s statement is less definitive on whether Trump administration officials pushed the FBI investigation toward leaks and away from Russia. It says only that Trump “made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information…” in a Feb. 14 meeting between Comey and the president in the Oval Office.
There are a couple of questions that Comey’s statement completely failed to address:
- Was the Russia investigation expanding? Congressional sources told The New York Times that in the days before his firing, Comey made a request to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for prosecutors and other personnel for the Russia investigation.
- Did Trump suggest jailing reporters? One of Comey’s associates told the Times that at a February meeting between Trump and Comey, the president suggested that Comey should consider jailing reporters who published classified information.
These aren’t the only questions that we’re looking for Comey to answer. There are several others on the Russia probe that Comey could address, sidestep or choose to deal with only in the private session with senators that follows his public testimony. Is Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, under investigation? Are any other current administration officials under investigation?
Or, more broadly, has the investigation expanded or changed? When he testified at a March hearing, Comey described the Russia probe as a “counterintelligence effort.” What would be interesting is if Comey said the investigation is now being conducted or framed differently, such as probing financial dealings between Russians and Americans (Kushner met with the head of a controversial Russian bank).
Moreover, what does Comey know about an alleged cyberattack (described by the Intercept in a story earlier this week, citing an intelligence report) by Russian officials before last fall’s elections that was aimed at a U.S. voting software supplier and local election officials?
Comey is likely to duck many of these investigative questions, arguing that he does not want to speak out of turn and offer details of a probe that is ongoing. And even if he truly says nothing new, Comey’s appearance could be the biggest hearing on Capitol Hill since Hillary Clinton’s 11 hours of testimony on the 2012 Benghazi attack almost two years ago.