11:18 AM ET
Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee today in one of the most highly anticipated moments in Donald Trump's presidency. As the hearing progresses, this article will be updated with the transcript along with tweets, links and video clips for context. The initial transcript is based on closed-captioning data and subject to some error, and will be replaced by the official transcript when it becomes available.
Speakers include Comey, committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina; ranking Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia; Republican Sens. Marco Rubio, Susan Collins, Roy Blunt, James Lankford, Tom Cotton and John Cornyn; Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Ron Wyden, Martin Heinrich, Joe Manchin and Kamala Harris; and independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats.
Related content from TIME: James Comey Says President Trump Told Him: 'I Need Loyalty. I Expect Loyalty'
Chairman Richard Burr - North Carolina:
Director Comey, I appreciate your willingness to appear before the committee today. And more importantly for thank you for your dedicated service and leadership to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Your appearance today speaks to the trust we have built over the years, and I'm looking forward to a very open and candid discussion today. I'd like to remind my colleagues, that we will reconvene in closed session at 1:00 P.M. Today. And I ask that you reserve for that venue any questions that might get into classified information. The director has been very gracious with his time, but the vice chairman and I have worked out a very specific timeline for his commitment to be on the Hill. We'll do everything we can to meet that agreement. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence exists to certify for the other 85 members of the United States Senate and the American people that the intelligence community is operating lawfully and has the necessary authorities and tools to accomplish its mission, and keep America safe. Part of our mission beyond the oversight we continue to provide to the intelligence community and its activities, is to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. The committee's work continues. This hearing represents part of that effort. Allegations have been swirling in the press for the last several weeks. And today is your opportunity to set the record straight. Yesterday, I read with interest your statement for the record. And I think it provides some helpful details surrounding your interactions with the president. It clearly lays out your understanding of those discussions. Actions you took following each conversation. And your state of mind. I very much appreciate your candor, I think it's helpful as we work through to determine the ultimate truth behind possible Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Your statement also provides texture and context to your interactions with the president from your vantage point and outlined a strained relationship. The American people need to hear your side of the story, just as they need to hear the President's descriptions of events. These interactions also highlight the importance of the committee's ongoing investigation. Our experienced staff is interviewing all relevant parties and some of the most sensitive intelligence in our country's possession. We will establish the facts, separate from rampant speculation and lay them out for the american people to make their own judgment. Only then will we as a nation be able to move forward and to put this episode to rest. There are several outstanding issues not addressed in your statement that I hope you'll clear up for the american people today. Did the president's request for loyalty, your impression, that the one-on-one dinner of January 27th was, and I quote, at least in part an effort to create some sort of patronage relationship or his March 30th phone call asking what you could do to lift the cloud of Russian investigation in any way. Alter your approach into the investigation. In your opinion, did potential Russian efforts to establish links with individuals in the Trump orbit rise to the level we could define as collusion, or was it a counterintelligence concern. There's been a significant public speculation about your decision making related to the clinton e-mail investigation. Why did you decide publicly to -- to publicly announce FBI's recommendations that the department of justice not pursue criminal charges? you have described it as a choice between a bad decision and a worse decision. The American people need to understand the facts behind your action. This committee is uniquely suited today investigate Russia's interference in the 2016 elections. We have a unified bipartisan approach to what is a highly partisan issue. Russian activities may have been aimed at one party's colleague but as my colleague Senator Rubio says frequently, in 2018 and 2020 it could be aimed at anyone at home or abroad. My colleague Senator Warner and I have worked to stay in lockstep on this investigation. We've had our differences. On approach, at times. But I've constantly stressed we need to be a team. I think Senator Warner agrees with me. We must keep these questions above politics and partisanship. It's too important to be tainted by anyone trying to score political points. With that, I welcome you, director and I turn to the vice chairman for any comments he might have.
Vice Chairman Mark Warner - Virginia:
Let me start by thanking all the members of the committee for the seriousness for which they've taken on this task. Mr. Comey, thank you for agreeing to come testify as part of this committee's investigation into Russia. I realize that this hearing has been obviously, the focus of a lot of Washington in the last few days. The truth is, many Americans who may be tuning in today probably haven't focused on every twist and turn of the investigation. So I'd like to briefly describe, at least from this senator's standpoint, what we already know, and what we're still investigating. To be clear, this investigation is not about relitigating the election. It's not about who won or lost. And it sure as heck is not about democrats versus republicans. We are here because a foreign adversary attacked us right here at home. Plain and simple. Not by guns or missiles but by foreign operatives seeking to hijack our most important democratic process, our presidential election. Russian spies engaged in a series of online cyber raids, and a broad campaign of disinformation. All ultimately aimed at sowing chaos in our leadership and ultimately in ourselves. That's not just this senator's opinion. It's the unanimous determination of the entire u.S. Intelligence community. So we must find out the full story. What the Russians did and candidly as some other colleagues have mentioned, why they were so successful. And more importantly, we must determine the necessary steps to take to protect our democracy, and insure they can't do it again. The chairman mentioned elections in 2018 and 2020. In Virginia, we have elections this year in 2017. Simply put, we cannot let anything or anyone prevent us from getting to the bottom of this. Mr. Comey let me say at the outset, we haven't always agreed on every issue. In fact, I've occasionally questioned some of the actions you've taken. But I've never had any reason to question your integrity, your expertise, or your intelligence. You've been a straight shooter with this committee. And have been willing to speak truth to power. Even at the risk of your own career. Which makes the way in which you are fired by the president ultimately shocking. Recall we began this entire process with the president and his staff first denying that the Russians were ever involved, and then falsely claiming that no one from his team was ever in touch with any Russians. We know that's just not the truth. Numerous trump associates had undisclosed contacts with Russians before and after the election. Including the president's attorney general, his former national security advisor, and his current senior advisor, mr. Kushner. That doesn't even begin to count the host of additional campaign associates and advisors who have also been caught up in this massive web. We saw mr. Trump's campaign manager, Mr. Manafort forced to step down over ties to Russian backed entities. The national security advisor, General Flynn had to resign over his lies about engagements with the Russians. And we saw the candidate himself express an odd and unexplained affection for the Russian dictator, while calling for the hacking of his opponent. There's a lot to investigate. Enough, in fact, then Director Comey publicly acknowledged he was leading an investigation into those links between Mr. Trump's campaign and the Russian government. As the director of the FBI, Mr. Comey was ultimately responsible for conducting that investigation. Which might explain why you're sitting now as a private citizen. What we didn't know was that the same time this investigation was proceeding, the president himself appears to have been engaged in an effort to influence, or at least co-op the director of the FBI. The testimony Mr. Comey has submitted for today's hearing is very disturbing. On January 27th after summoning director Comey to dinner. The president appears to have threatened the director's job while telling him, quote, I need loyalty. I expect loyalty. At a later meeting, on February 14th, the president asked the attorney general to leave the oval office so that he could privately ask Director Comey, again, quote, to see way clear to letting Flynn go. That is a statement that director Comey interpreted as a request that he drop the investigation connected to General Flynn's false statements. Think about it. The President of the United States asking the FBI director to drop an ongoing investigation. And after that, the president called the FBI director on two additional occasions, March 30th and April 11th. And asked him, again, quote, to lift the cloud on the Russian investigation. Now, Director Comey denied each of these improper requests. The loyalty pledge, the admonition to drop the Flynn investigation, the request to lift the cloud, and the Russian investigation. Of course, after his refusals, Director Comey was fired. The initial explanation for the firing didn't pass any smell tests. Somehow Director Comey was fired because he didn't treat Hillary Clinton appropriately. Of course, that explanation lasted about a day because the President himself then made very clear that he was thinking about Russia when he decided to fire Director Comey. Shockingly, reports suggest that the president admitted as much in an oval office meeting with the Russians the day after director Comey was fired. Disparaging our country's top law enforcement official is a quote unquote, nut job. The president allegedly suggested his firing relieved great pressure on his feelings about Russia. This is not happening in isolation. At the same time the president was engaged in these efforts with Director Comey he was also, at least allegedly asking senior leaders of the intelligence community to downplay the Russian investigation or to intervene with the director. Yesterday, we had DNI Director Coates and NSA Director Admiral Rogers who were offered a number of opportunities to flatly deny those press reports. They expressed their opinions, but they did not take that opportunity to deny those reports. They did not take advantage of that opportunity. My belief, that's not how a president of the United States should behave. Regardless of the outcome of our investigation into the Russia links, Director Comey's firing and his testimony raised separate and troubling questions that we must get to the bottom of. Again, as I said at the outset I've seen first-hand how seriously every member of this committee is taking his work. I'm proud of the committee's efforts so far. Let me be clear, this is not a witch-hunt. This is not fake news. It is an effort to protect our country from a new threat that quite honestly will not go away anytime soon. So, Mr. Comey, your testimony here today will help us move towards that goal. I look forward to that testimony, thank you Mr. Chairman.