In a Senate testimony today, ousted FBI director James Comey said he was confused and concerned by President Donald Trump’s explanations for his firing.
According to Comey, the President lied when he claimed the FBI was in disarray following the director’s removal.
New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen discussed the hearing with NHPR’s Peter Biello.
What was the main takeaway for you from James Comey’s testimony today?
l didn’t get a chance to see his testimony, all of his testimony, before the committee. But I found what was posted, and the excerpts that I’ve seen, very troubling regarding the president’s actions and his behavior. And I think my number one concern was that President Trump didn’t really express any concern or understanding about the urgency of getting into Russia’s interference in our elections.
That’s the piece that undermines our American democracy. When people lose faith in our elections and when we have a foreign power like Russia, who is an aggressor against the United States, that’s trying to influence the outcome of our elections, that is a very serious issue, and the fact that the President didn’t express any concern about that to Jim Comey, I found the most disturbing.
Do you think this comes down to an issue of comparing these two men’s credibility?
I don’t, and I’m relieved that we now have an independent special counsel who is going to continue with this investigation—this is in addition to what’s being done in both the House and Senate. I think the sooner the American people know where this investigation goes, the better for everybody.
Based on Comey’s testimony, were President Trump’s private meetings with the FBI Director inappropriate, in your view?
I believe they were, and they were certainly unprecedented. In terms of the meetings themselves, it’s what took place in those meetings. The fact that, as Jim Comey said in response to a question from Senator Risch, that he interpreted the President’s comments as an order to stop investigation into Mike Flynn—and Comey said yes, he did interpret that as an order.
Well that’s really unprecedented, in terms of what a president would do about an independent investigation into someone who may be a participant in an effort to undermine the credibility of our elections, which goes at the heart of our democracy.
What do you make of the fact that James Comey admitted today that he had given notes about his conversation with the President to a friend, with the intention of giving them to the press, in hopes that it would lead to a special counsel.
Well again, that’s why I’m glad we have a special counsel who has been appointed. As he testified, there were a number of high-ranking officials within the FBI who were aware of his actions, and he said, very directly, it was because he was concerned the President might lie—he used the word lie—about their interactions.
Right, but was James Comey overstepping by taking actions that would prompt the introduction of a special counsel?
Well. We have a special counsel who’s been appointed, and that’s one of the things that I’m sure, if there’s concern that he acted in any way that overstepped his authority, that that will come out of the special counsel’s investigation.
What would you like to see happen next?
I would like to see as speedy an end to this investigation as possible. I would like the White House to provide any information that they may be withholding, I would like to see the committees in both the House and Senate to move forward as expeditiously as possible, so we can get to the bottom of this.
And we need to take action in the meantime against Russia, because they’re clearly continuing to undermine Western democracies all across Europe.
What actions against Russia should be taken?
I think we need strong sanctions. It’s something that’s being debated right now, in terms of what might come to the floor of the Senate around a Russia sanctions bill. There are a number that have been introduced, and I think we need to go forward in the strongest way possible.