Senate Intelligence Committee: AG Sessions Flip-Flops And Lies His Way Throughout

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to have his cake and eat it too when it came to his explanations during congressional testimony Tuesday for the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

On the one hand, Sessions didn’t feel like he needed to stay in the Oval Office on February 14 when President Trump said he wanted to speak privately with Comey. And he didn’t feel the need to do anything following a meeting the two men had in the days that followed in which Comey expressed his discomfort with these one-on-one conversations with the president.
Sessions’ justification in both instances was that Comey was a total pro, that he knew his stuff and that Sessions trusted him to handle his business.
“I felt (Comey), so long in the department — former deputy attorney general, as I recall — knew those policies probably a good deal better than I did,” said Sessions at one point. At another, Sessions said: “Our Department of Justice rules on proper communications between the department and the White House have been in place for years. Mr. Comey well knew them, I thought and assumed, correctly, that he complied with them.”
On the other hand, Sessions told the Senate intelligence committee that he and deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had discussed removing Comey as FBI director and agreed that it was time for a “fresh start” at the bureau before either man was confirmed to their current positions.
Huh?
Either Comey was the ultimate pro who could be trusted to handle his business or he was someone who Sessions had decided months before needed to go because he had badly mismanaged his role in the 2016 election. Comey can’t simultaneously be highly competent and a bungling, bumbling fool depending on what image suits Sessions’ needs at the moment.
But, time and again, Sessions tried to hold those totally oppositional thoughts in his head — and insisted that they weren’t at all contradictory.
As Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, noted in Tuesday’s hearing, in July and again in October — following Comey’s initial announcement that Hillary Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her handling of her private email server and his decision to re-open the case in October — Sessions praised the then FBI director.
This exchange between Reed and Sessions is telling:
REED: So, in July and November, Director Comey was doing exactly the right thing. You had no criticism of him. You felt that in fact he was a skilled professional prosecutor. You felt that his last statement in October was fully justified. So how can you go from those statements to agreeing with Mr. Rosenstein and then asking the President, or recommending he be fired?
SESSIONS: I think, in retrospect, as all of us begin to look at that clearly and talk about it, as perspectives of the Department of Justice, once the director had first got involved and embroiled in a public discussion of this investigation, which would have been better never to have been discussed publicly, and said he — it was over. Then when he found new evidence that came up, I think he probably was required to tell Congress that it wasn’t over, that new evidence had been developed.
Uh, what?
If you get what Sessions is driving at in his response to Reed, you are a better — and smarter — person than me.
(Also worth noting: Comey testified, under oath, that Trump called him several times in the first part of this year to tell him how great a job he was doing.)
Then there was the fact, revealed in Sessions’ testimony yesterday, that he had never met with Comey to discuss what he took to be his poor performance.
This back and forth with Mark Warner, D-Virginia, the vice chairman of the intelligence committee, gets at that oddity:
WARNER: So you were his — his superior, and there were some fairly harsh things said about Director Comey. You never thought it was appropriate to raise those concerns before he was actually terminated by the President?
SESSIONS: I did not do so. A memorandum was prepared by the deputy attorney general, who evaluated his performance and noted some serious problems with it.
Take one giant step back. We know, because Donald Trump told us, that the real reason he fired Comey was because of the former FBI director’s approach to the Russia investigation. Trump said that after his administration had tried to sell the same case Sessions was selling on Tuesday: That Comey was removed because of a memo from Rosenstein.
That’s the fact. Everything else — including Sessions’ attempts to spin his views on Comey and the circumstances surrounding his firing — are simply post-action spin.

6 Comey Testimony Revelations That Should Concern Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE)

6 Comey Testimony Revelations That Should Concern Trump

In his Senate committee hearing Thursday, the former FBI director said he believes the president to be a liar, among other things

Former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

Fired FBI director James Comey appeared Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, delivering an unvarnished account of President Trump’s efforts to influence the FBI investigation into disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

That wasn’t all Comey discussed in his testimony, though. He suggested that the FBI was investigating whether the president himself was being investigated for colluding with the Russian government to influence the election, whether Jeff Sessions was involved and whether there was any validity to the infamous dossier.

Contrary to Trump allies’ insistence that this was all a big, fat#NothingBurger, there were in fact several revelations that should concern the president, his attorney general and members of his campaign.

Trump is almost certainly under investigation for obstruction of justice.
Comey told the Senate committee on Thursday that Trump insisted on a closed-door meeting in which he repeatedly shared with the then-FBI director his “hope” that Comey could let go of the criminal investigation into Flynn. He said he immediately thought the president’s words were of “investigative interest.”

Comey demurred when asked directly if he believed the conversation constituted obstruction of justice in a legal sense. “I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct,” Comey said. But he added that he was confident the recently appointed special counsel, Robert Mueller, would be looking into the question. “I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning. But that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work toward, to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that’s an offense,” Comey said.

It sure sounds like Trump is also being investigated for collusion.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton got to ask the question everyone wants answered: “Do you believe Donald Trump colluded with Russia?”

“That’s a question I don’t think I should answer in an open setting,” Comey replied. “When I left, we did not have an investigation focused on President Trump. But that’s a question that will be answered by the investigation, I think.”

The FBI was aware of incriminating evidence against Sessions, too.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden noted that in the written remarks Comey provided to the committee Wednesday, the former FBI head said he had good reason to believe Attorney General Jeff Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia probe several weeks before Sessions actually did so. “What was it about the attorney general’s own interactions with the Russians or his behavior with regard to the investigation that would have led the entire leadership of the FBI to make this decision?” Wyden wanted to know.

“Our judgment, as I recall, was that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons,” Comey answered. “We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic. And so we were convinced and, in fact, I think we had already heard that the career people were recommending that he recuse himself, that he was not going to be in contact with Russia-related matters much longer. That turned out to be the case.”

The bureau was investigating the Steele dossier.
The FBI is or was attempting to confirm explosive allegations contained in an unverified dossier, authored during the campaign by a former British intelligence agent named Christopher Steele on behalf of Trump’s rivals. In addition to the eye-popping claim that the Russian government was blackmailing Trump with an explicit videotape, the document included allegations that Trump campaign officials met with emissaries of the Russian government to hammer out an agreement: that Russia would provide damaging emails it hacked from the DNC and the Clinton campaign to WikiLeaks in exchange for assurances from Trump that he would not discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during the campaign.

Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, asked Comey point-blank if he could confirm any criminal allegations described in the Steele dossier. Comey answered by confirming, as he intimated in his opening statement, that the FBI was investigating the document. “Mr. Chairman, I don’t think that’s a question I can answer in an open setting because it goes into the details of the investigation,” he said.

Comey arranged to have his personal memos leaked to the press.
Comey freely admitted that he provided his memos – which he said he considered personal memorializations, not government documents – to the media via an intermediary in the hopes that the revelation that Trump tried to strong-arm him into dropping the Flynn investigation would trigger the appointment of a special counsel. The decision to provide the documents to the media, he said, was motivated by Trump’s tweet that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

“Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey said on Thursday, inviting the president to release them if they exist.

Comey believed Trump would lie about their interactions.
Perhaps the least surprising revelation to emerge from the three-hour hearing was that the former FBI director believes Trump to be a liar who would not hesitate to lie to the public about Comey. Questioned about why he took notes on the nine one-on-one conversations he had with President Trump, the former FBI director was blunt: “I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting.”

That fear, Comey said, “led me to believe I’ve got to write it down. … I knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what would happen, not just to defend myself but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution and the independence of our investigative function.”

James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Watch here.

Former FBI Director James Comey Is Testifying Before Senate Intelligence Committee

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

James Comey testifies: Former FBI director says he helped reveal details of conversations with Trump

June 8 at 12:09 PM
Former FBI director James B. Comey said Thursday he helped reveal details of his private conversations with President Trump because he thought doing so would spur the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the administration — a remarkable admission showing the degree of concern he had about both Russian interference with U.S. politics, and his doubts about the Justice Department’s ability to probe such activity.Testifying at the Senate intelligence committee, Comey described how details of his private memos about his one-on-one conversations came to light shortly after his dismissal.

“The president tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I’d better hope there are not tapes,” Comey said. He said he woke up on Monday thinking that if there are tapes, there might be corroboration of Comey’s account. Comey said he asked “a friend of mine to share” a memo he had written about his conversation with Trump “with a reporter.”

Comey said the memo was one he had written about his Oval Office conversation with Trump in which the president had expressed a desire that the Flynn probe be dropped.

‘Those were lies. Plain and simple.’: Comey knocks Trump administration in opening statement
At the June 8 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, former FBI director James B. Comey said the Trump Administration “chose to defame” him and the FBI after he was fired.

He said the person he asked to share the information was “a good friend of mine who’s a professor at Columbia Law School. “I thought it might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”

Asked by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) why he felt he had the authority to do that, Comey replied, “as a private citizen, I felt free to share that. I thought it was very important to get it out.”

Comey said he used someone else to share the information because he was worried, with reporters camped out at his home, that giving the information to a reporter directly “would be like feeding seagulls at the beach.’’

The friend is Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor. He confirmed his role but declined further comment. The reporter is Michael Schmidt of the New York Times.

A special counsel was appointed — Robert S. Mueller III, who is a former colleague of Comey — and Comey has provided him with his memos, he testified Thursday.

Comey also blasted the Trump administration for bad-mouthing the bureau and his leadership to justify his firing, saying “those were lies, plain and simple’’—a stark challenge to the president’s rationale for his ouster.

A former federal prosecutor, Comey said he took detailed notes of his private talks with the president, a practice that was a departure from his practice with Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama. Comey said he did so because he wanted to make a clear record of what was said.

He said he took copious notes because he was “honestly concerned’’ that the president might lie about what had been said in their meeting. He kept doing so for future conversations, and the two spoke in private a total of nine times before Comey was fired, he said.

Comey sat grim-faced at a witness table before the Senate Intelligence Committee shortly after 10 a.m. as the committee chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), began the hearing by calling for a “very open and candid discussion’’ about the “strained relationship’’ between the president and Comey. Comey’s written account of those discussions, made public on Wednesday, have fueled the debate over whether the president may have attempted to obstruct justice by pressuring the FBI director about a sensitive investigation.

“This is not a witch hunt, this is not fake news,’’ said the senior Democrat on the panel, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.). “This is an effort to protect our country from a new threat that quite frankly will not go away anytime soon.’’

Comey began his testimony by saying he became “confused and increasingly concerned’’ about the public explanations by White House officials for his firing on May 9, particularly after the president said he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire him.

He wasted little time repudiating White House statements that he was fired in part because of low morale among FBI employees, and those employees’ supposedly soured attitude toward his leadership.

“The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led,’’ Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple. And I’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry the American people were told them.’’

The former director also said that Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch asked him last year to refer to the Clinton email probe as a “matter,” rather than an “investigation.”

Comey said he was concerned by Lynch’s direction to refer to it as a “matter” because the wording too closely tracked how the Clinton campaign was trying to describe the FBI investigation.

The former FBI director said he thought the wording used by Lynch “looked silly’’ but decided it was “not a hill worth dying on.’’

But, he acknowledged, “it gave the impression that the attorney general was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way the campaign” was referring to it. “That was inaccurate,” he said. “That gave me a queasy feeling.”

Comey wrote in his testimony that Trump told him that “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty” in a private White House dinner conversation in January.

“I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed,” Comey wrote. “We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.”

Comey said the conversation, in which Trump raised the question of whether Comey intended to stay as FBI Director, despite their three prior discussions about him doing so, raised concerns in his mind.

“My common sense told me what’s going on here is he’s looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job,’’ Comey testified.

In testimony broadcast live on national television networks, Comey described his state of mind as he tried to navigate a series of awkward conversations with the president about the investigation into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russian operatives.

The former FBI director made clear he felt the discussions were problematic and improper, in that Trump repeatedly pressing him about specific investigations that involved people close to the president.

After his January dinner when the two discussed loyalty, Comey and the president had another discussion in February at the White House. A number of senior officials met in the Oval Office on Feb. 14 to discuss terrorism. At the end of the meeting, according to Comey, the president asked everyone to leave but Comey.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions lingered behind until the president told him, too, to leave, Comey said.

“My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn’t be leaving which is why he was lingering,’’ said Comey. “I knew something was about to happen which I should pay very close attention to.’’

Once they were alone, the president told Comey he hoped he could let go of the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had been forced out of that job a day earlier.

“When it comes from the president, I took it as a direction,’’ said Comey. He said he was shocked and concerned about the president’s request, but decided not to tell Sessions about it because he expected Sessions would soon recuse himself from the Russia probe, which he did days later.

Comey did later complain to Sessions that he should not again be left alone with the president

His account made clear that his relationship with Trump was fraught from their very first meeting, which occurred before the inauguration, when he the president-elect that a dossier of unsubstantiated allegations against Trump had been circulating around Washington.

“I didn’t want him thinking that I was briefing him on this to sort of hang it over him in some way,’’ said Comey. “He needed to know this was being said, but I was very keen to not leave him with the impression that the bureau was trying to do something to him.’’

Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly tried to learn more about any conversations between Trump and officials in which the president tries to gain help pushing back against the FBI’s Russia investigation. On Wednesday, two of the country’s top intelligence officials went before the Senate Intelligence Committee and refused to discuss the specifics of conversations with the president, frustrating several lawmakers. Based on the testimony already released, Comey will have no such hesitation on Thursday.

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