Full Text Political Transcripts June 8, 2017: President Donald Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz’s statement on James Comey Senate hearing

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Donald Trump’s lawyer’s statement on Comey Senate hearing

Source: CNN, 6-8-17

I am Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal lawyer.

Contrary to numerous false press accounts leading up to today’s hearing, Mr. Comey has now finally confirmed publicly what he repeatedly told the President privately: The President was not under investigation as part of any probe into Russian interference. He also admitted that there is no evidence that a single vote changed as a result of any Russian interference.
Mr Comey’s testimony also makes clear that the President never sought to impede the investigation into attempted Russian interference in the 2016 election, and in fact, according to Mr. Comey, the President told Mr. Comey “it would be good to find out” in that investigation if there were “some ‘satellite’ associates of his who did something wrong.” And he did not exclude anyone from that statement.
Consistent with that statement, the President never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone, including suggesting that that Mr. Comey”let Flynn go.” As he publicly stated the next day, he did say to Mr. Comey, “General Flynn is a good guy, he has been through a lot” and also “asked how is General Flynn is doing.” Admiral Rogers testified that the President never “directed [him] to do anything . . . illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate” and never “pressured [him] to do so.” Director Coates said the same thing. The President likewise never pressured Mr. Comey. .
The President also never told Mr. Comey, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty” in form or substance. Of course, the Office of the President is entitled to expect loyalty from those who are serving in an administration, and, from before this President took office to this day, it is overwhelmingly clear that there have been and continue to be those in government who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications. Mr. Comey has now admitted that he is one of these leakers.
Today, Mr. Comey admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the President. The leaks of this privileged information began no later than March 2017 when friends of Mr. Comey have stated he disclosed to them the conversations he had with the President during their January 27, 2017 dinner and February 14, 2017 White House meeting. Today, Mr. Comey admitted that he leaked to friends his purported memos of these privileged conversations, one of which he testified was classified. He also testified that immediately after he was terminated he authorized his friends to leak the contents of these memos to the press in order to “prompt the appointment of a special counsel.” Although Mr. Comey testified he only leaked the memos in response to a tweet, the public record reveals that the New York Times was quoting from these memos the day before the referenced tweet, which belies Mr. Comey’s excuse for this unauthorized disclosure of privileged information and appears to entirely retaliatory. We will leave it the appropriate authorities to determine whether this leaks should be investigated along with all those others being investigated. .
​ In sum, it is now established that there the President was not being investigated for colluding with the or attempting to obstruct that investigation. As the Committee pointed out today, these important facts for the country to know are virtually the only facts that have not leaked during the long course of these events. As he said yesterday, the President feels completely vindicated and is eager to continue moving forward with his agenda with this public cloud removed. Thank you.
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Full Text Political Transcripts June 8, 2017: James Comey testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Trump and Russia

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Full text: James Comey testimony transcript on Trump and Russia

Source: Politico, 6-8-17

A transcript of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8.

SEN. RICHARD BURR: I call this hearing to order. Director Comey, I appreciate your willingness to appear before the committee today, and more importantly I 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, the vice chairman and I worked out a very specific timeline for his commitment to be on the hill, so we will 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. Jim, 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, and I think it provides 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, and 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 outlines 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, let the one-on-one dinner of January 27th was and I quote “at least in part” an effort to create some patronage relationship and March 30th phone call asking what you could do to lift the cloud of Russia investigation in any way alter your approach of the FBI’s investigation into general Flynn or the broader investigation into Russia, and possible links to the campaign? In your opinion did potential Russian efforts to establish a link with individuals in the Trump orbit rise to the level we could define as collusion or was it a counter-intelligence concern? There’s been a significant public speculation about your decision-making related to the Clinton email investigation. Why did you decide publicly, 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 to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections. We also have a unified bipartisan approach to what is a highly charged partisan issue. Russian activities during 2016 election may have been aimed at one party’s candidate, 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 lock step on this investigation. We’ve had our differences on approach, at times, but I’ve constantly stressed that we need to be a team, and 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, again, I welcome you director, and I turn to the vice chairman for any comments he might have.

SEN. MARK WARNER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and let me start by again absolutely thanking all the members of the committee for the seriousness in 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 this hearing has been obviously the focus of a lot of Washington, in the last few days. But 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 to undermine public faith in our process, in our leadership, and ultimately in ourselves.

And that’s not just this senator’s opinion. It is 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 mentioned, why they were so successful, and more importantly we must determine the necessary steps to take to protect our democracy and ensure they can’t do it again. The chairman mentioned elections in 2018 and 2020, in my home state of 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. Now 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 were 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 adviser and his current senior adviser, Mr. Kushner. That doesn’t even begin to count the host of additional campaign associates and advisers 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 back entities. The national security adviser, 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, that director Comey publicly acknowledged that 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 do know was at the same time that this investigation was proceeding, the president himself appears to have been engaged in an effort to influence or at least co-opt the director of the FBI. The testimony Mr. Comey submitted for today’s hearing is very disturbing. For example, on January 27th, after summoning Director Comey to dinner, the president appears to have threatened director’s job while telling him “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 “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 “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 on the Russian investigation. Of course, after his refusals, Director Comey was fired. The initial explanation for the firing didn’t pass any smell test. So now 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 as a “nutjob,” the president allegedly suggested that 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 Russia investigation or to intervene with the director. Yesterday we had DNI Director Coats 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 the 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 raise separate and troubling questions that we must get to the bottom of. Again, as I said at the outset, I’ve seen firsthand 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 I can from a new threat that quite honestly will not go away any time 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.

BURR: Thank you, vice chairman. Director has discussed when you agreed to appear before the committee it would be under oath. I’d ask you to please stand. Raise your right hand.

Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god?

FORMER FBI DIRECTOR JAMES COMEY: I do.

BURR: Please be seated. Director Comey you’re now under oath. And I would just note to members, you will be recognized by seniority for a period up to seven minutes, and again, it is the intent to move to a closed session no later than 1:00 P.M. With that director Comey, you are recognized, you have the floor for as long as you might need.

COMEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, ranking member Warner, members of the committee, thank you for inviting me here to testify today. I’ve submitted my statement for the record, and I’m not going to repeat it here this morning. I thought I would just offer some very brief introductory remarks and I would welcome your questions. When I was appointed FBI Director in 2013, I understood that I served at the pleasure of the president. Even though I was appointed to a 10-year term, which Congress created in order to underscore the importance of the FBI being outside of politics and independent, I understood that I could be fired by a president for any reason or for no reason at all. And on May the ninth, when I learned that I had been fired, for that reason I immediately came home as a private citizen. But then the explanations, the shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me. They confused me because the president and I had had multiple conversations about my job, both before and after he took office, and he had repeatedly told me I was doing a great job, and he hoped I would stay. And I had repeatedly assured him that I did intend to stay and serve out the years of my term. He told me repeatedly that he had talked to lots of people about me, including our current Attorney General, and had learned that I was doing a great job, and that I was extremely well-liked by the FBI workforce.

So it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation, and learned again from the media that he was telling privately other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation. I was also confused by the initial explanation that was offered publicly that I was fired because of the decisions I had made during the election year. That didn’t make sense to me for a whole bunch of reasons, including the time and all the water that had gone under the bridge since those hard decisions that had to be made. That didn’t make any sense to me. And although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, 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, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple. And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry that the American people were told them.

I worked every day at the FBI to help make that great organization better, and I say help, because I did nothing alone at the FBI. There no indispensable people at the FBI. The organization’s great strength is that its values and abilities run deep and wide. The FBI will be fine without me. The FBI’s mission will be relentlessly pursued by its people, and that mission is to protect the American people and uphold the constitution of the United States. I will deeply miss being part of that mission, but this organization and its mission will go on long beyond me and long beyond any particular administration. I have a message before I close for my former colleagues of the FBI but first I want the American people to know this truth. The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is and always will be independent. And now to my former colleagues, if I may. I am so sorry that I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to you properly. It was the nor of my life to serve beside you, to be part of the FBI family, and I will miss it for the rest of my life. Thank you for standing watch. Thank you for doing so much good for this country. Do that good as long as ever you can. And senators, I look forward to your questions.

BURR: Director, thank you for that testimony, both oral and the written testimony that you provided to the committee yesterday and made public to the American people. The chair would recognize himself first for 12 minutes, vice chair for 12 minutes, based upon the agreement we have. Director, did the special counsel’s office review and/or edit your written testimony?

COMEY: No.

BURR: Do you have any doubt that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections?

COMEY: None.

BURR: Do you have any doubt that the Russian government was behind the intrusions in the D triple C systems and the subsequent leaks of that information?

COMEY: No, no doubt.

BURR: Do you have any doubt the Russian government was behind the cyber intrusion in the state voter files?

COMEY: No.

BURR: Are you confident that no votes cast in the 2016 presidential election were altered?

COMEY: I’m confident. When I left as director I had seen no indication of that whatsoever.

BURR: Director Comey, did the president at any time ask you to stop the FBI investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. Elections?

COMEY: Not to my understanding, no.

BURR: Did any individual working for this administration, including the justice department, ask you to stop the Russian investigation?

COMEY: No.

BURR: Director, when the president requested that you, and I quote “Let Flynn go,” General Flynn had an unreported contact with the Russians, which is an offense, and if press accounts are right, there might have been discrepancies between facts and his FBI testimony. In your estimation, was general Flynn at that time in serious legal jeopardy, and in addition to that, do you sense that the president was trying to obstruct justice or just seek for a way for Mike Flynn to save face, given that he had already been fired?

COMEY: General Flynn at that point in time was in legal jeopardy. There was an open FBI criminal investigation of his statements in connection with the Russian contacts, and the contacts themselves, and so that was my assessment at the time. I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there, and whether that’s an offense.

BURR: Director, is it possible that, as part of this FBI investigation, the FBI could find evidence of criminality that is not tied to the 2016 elections, possible collusion, or coordination with Russians?

COMEY: Sure.

BURR: So there could be something that fits a criminal aspect to this that doesn’t have anything to do with the 2016 election cycle?

COMEY: Correct, in any complex investigation, when you start turning over rocks, sometimes you find things that are unrelated to the primary investigation that are criminal in nature.

BURR: Director, Comey, you have been criticized publicly for the decision to present your findings on the email investigation directly to the American people. Have you learned anything since that time that would have changed what you said or how you chose to inform the American people?

COMEY: Honestly, no. It caused a whole lot of personal pain for me but as I look back, given what I knew at the time and even what I’ve learned since, I think it was the best way to try to protect the justice institution, including the FBI.

BURR: In the public domain is this question of the “steel dossier,” a document that has been around out in for over a year. I’m not sure when the FBI first took possession of it, but the media had it before you had it and we had it. At the time of your departure from the FBI, was the FBI able to confirm any criminal allegations contained in the steel document?

COMEY: 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.

BURR: Director, the term we hear most often is collusion. When people are describing possible links between Americans and Russian government entities related to the interference in our election, would you say that it’s Normal for foreign governments to reach out to members of an incoming administration?

COMEY: Yes.

BURR: At what point does the normal contact cross the line into an attempt to recruit agents or influence or spies?

COMEY: Difficult to say in the abstract. It depends upon the context, whether there’s an effort to keep it covert, what the nature of the request made of the American by the foreign government are. It’s a judgment call based on a whole lot of facts.

BURR: At what point would that recruitment become a counterintelligence threat to our country?

COMEY: Again, difficult to answer in the abstract, but when a foreign power is using especially coercion, or some sort of pressure to try and co-opt an American, especially a government official, to act on its behalf, that’s a serious concern to the FBI and at the heart of the FBI’s counterintelligence mission.

BURR: So if you’ve got a 36-page document of specific claims that are out there, the FBI would have to for counter intelligence reasons, try to verify anything that might be claimed in there, one, and probably first and foremost, is the counterintelligence concerns that we have about blackmail. Would that be an accurate statement?

COMEY: Yes. If the FBI receives a credible allegation that there is some effort to co-opt, coerce, direct, employee covertly an American on behalf of the foreign power, that’s the basis on which a counterintelligence investigation is opened.

BURR: And when you read the dossier, what was your reaction, given that it was 100% directed at the president-elect?

COMEY: Not a question I can answer in open setting, Mr. Chairman.

BURR: Okay. When did you become aware of the cyber intrusion?

COMEY: The first cyber — there was all kinds of cyber intrusions going on all the time. The first Russian-connected cyber intrusion I became aware of in the late summer of 2015.

BURR: And in that time frame, there were more than the DNC and the D triple C that were targets?

COMEY: Correct, a massive effort to target government and nongovernmental, near governmental agencies like nonprofits.

BURR: What would be the estimate of how many entities out there the Russians specifically targeted in that time frame?

COMEY: It’s hundreds. I suppose it could be more than 1,000, but it’s at least hundreds.

BURR: When did you become aware that data had been exfiltrated?

COMEY: I’m not sure exactly. I think either late ’15 or early ’16.

BURR: And did you, the director of the FBI, have conversations with the last administration about the risk that this posed?

COMEY: Yes.

BURR: And share with us, if you will, what actions they took.

COMEY: Well, the FBI had already undertaken an effort to notify all the victims, and that’s what we consider the entities attacked as part of this massive spear-phishing campaign so we notified them in an effort to disrupt what might be ongoing, and then there was a series of continuing interactions with entities through the rest of ’15 into ’16, and then throughout ’16, the administration was trying to decide how to respond to the intrusion activity that it saw.

BURR: And the FBI in this case, unlike other cases that you might investigate, did you ever have access to the actual hardware that was hacked, or did you have to rely on a third party to provide you the day that that they had collected?

COMEY: In the case of the DNC, and I believe the D triple C, but I’m sure the DNC, we did not have access to the devices themselves. We got relevant forensic information from a private party, a high class entity, that had done the work but we didn’t get direct access.

BURR: But no content.

COMEY: Correct.

BURR: Isn’t content an important part of the forensics from a counter-intelligence standpoint?

COMEY: It is but what was briefed to me by the people who were my folks at the time is that they had gotten the information from the private party that they needed to understand the intrusion by the spring of 2016.

BURR: Let me go back if I can very briefly to the decision to publicly go out with your results on the email. Was your decision influenced by the attorney general’s tarmac meeting with the former president, Bill Clinton?

COMEY: Yes. In ultimately conclusive way that was the thing that capped it for me, that I had to do something separately to protect the credibility of the investigation, which meant both the FBI and the justice department.

BURR: Were there other things that contributed to that, that you can describe in an open session?

COMEY: There were other things that contributed to that. One significant item I can’t but know the committee’s been briefed on, there’s been some public accounts of it which are nonsense but I understand the committee has been briefed on the classified facts. Probably the only other consideration that I guess I can talk about in open setting is that at one point the attorney general had directed me not to call it an investigation, but instead to call it a matter, which confused me and concerned me, but that was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude I have to step away from the department if we’re to close this case credibly.

BURR: Director, my last question, you’re not only a seasoned prosecutor. You’ve led the FBI for years. You understand the investigative process. You’ve worked with this committee closely, and we’re grateful to you, because I think we’ve mutually built trust in what your organization does, and what we do. Is there any doubt in your mind that this committee carry out its oversight role in the 2016 Russia involvement with the elections in parallel with the now special counsel set up?

COMEY: No, no doubt. It can be done. Requires lots of conversations but Bob Mueller is one of the this country’s great, great pros and I’m sure you’ll be able to work it out with him to run it in parallel.

BURR: Thank you. I turn it over to the vice chairman.

WARNER: Thank you, director Comey, again, for your service. Your comments to your FBI family, I know were heartfelt. Know that there are some in the administration who tried to smear your reputation. You had Acting Director McCabe in public testimony a few weeks back, and in public testimony yesterday reaffirm that the vast majority in FBI community had great trust in your leadership, and obviously trust in your integrity. I want to go through a number of the meetings that you referenced in your testimony, and let’s start with the January 6th meeting in Trump Tower, where you went up with a series of officials to brief the President-elect on the Russia investigation. My understanding is you remained afterwards to brief him, on again, “Some personally sensitive aspects of the information you relayed.” Now you said after that briefing you felt compelled to document that conversation that you actually started documenting it as soon as you got into the car.

Now you’ve had extensive experience at the department of justice and at the FBI. You’ve worked under presidents of both parties. What was about that meeting that led you to determine that you needed to start putting down a written record?

COMEY: A combination of things. I think the circumstances, the subject matter, and the person I was interacting with. Circumstances, first, I was alone with the president of the United States, or the president-elect, soon to be president. The subject matter I was talking about matters that touch on the FBI’s core responsibility, and that relate to the president, president-elect personally, and then the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting so I thought it important to document. That combination of things I had never experienced before, but had led me to believe I got to write it down and write it down in a very detailed way.

WARNER: I think that’s a very important statement you just made. Then, unlike your dealings with presidents of either parties in your past experience, in every subsequent meeting or conversation with this president, you created a written record. Did you feel that you needed to create this written record of these memos, because they might need to be relied on at some future date?

COMEY: Sure. I created records after conversations that I think I did it after each of our nine conversations. If I didn’t, I did it for nearly all of them especially the ones that were substantive. I knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened, not just to defend myself, but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution and the Independence of our investigative function. That’s what made this so difficult is it was a combination of circumstances, subject matter and the particular person.

WARNER: And so in all your experience, this was the only president that you felt like in every meeting you needed to document because at some point, using your words, he might put out a non-truthful representation of that meeting.

COMEY: That’s right, senator. As I said, as FBI director I interacted with President Obama, I spoke only twice in three years, and didn’t document it. When I was Deputy Attorney General I had a one one-on-one with President Bush been I sent an email to my staff but I didn’t feel with president bush the need to document it in that I way. Again, because of the combination of those factors, just wasn’t present with either President Bush or President Obama.

WARNER: I think that is very significant. I think others will probably question that. Now, the chairman and I have requested those memos. It is our hope that the FBI will get this committee access to those memos so again, we can read that contemporaneous rendition so that we’ve got your side of the story. Now I know members have said and press have said that a great deal has been made whether the president asked and indicated whether the president was the subject of any investigation, and my understanding is prior to your meeting on January 6th, you discussed with your leadership team whether you should be prepared to assure then President-elect Trump that the FBI was not investigating him personally. Now, I understand that your leadership team, agreed with that but was that a unanimous decision? Was there any debate about that?

COMEY: Wasn’t unanimous. One of the members of the leadership team had a view you that although it was technically true we did not have a counter-intelligence file case open on then President-elect Trump. His concern was because we’re looking at the potential, again, that’s the subject of the investigation, coordination between the campaign and Russia, because it was President Trump, President-elect Trump’s campaign, this person’s view was
inevitably his behavior, his conduct will fall within the scope of that work. And so he was reluctant to make the statement. I disagreed. I thought it was fair to say what was literally true. There was not a counterintelligence investigation of Mr. Trump, and I decided in the moment to say it, given the nature of our conversation.

WARNER: At that moment in time, did you ever revisit that as in the subsequent sessions?

COMEY: With the FBI leadership team? Sure. And the leader had that view that didn’t change. His view was still that it was probably although literally true, his concern was it could be misleading, because the nature of the investigation was such that it might well touch, obviously it would touch, the campaign, and the person that headed the campaign would be the candidate, and so that was his view throughout.

WARNER: Let me move to the January 27th dinner, where you said “The president began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI director.”

He also indicated that “lots of people” again your words, “Wanted the job.” You go on to say the dinner itself was “Seemingly an effort to” to quote have you ask him for your job and create some “patronage” relationship. The president seems from my reading of your memo to be holding your job or your possibility of continuing your job over your head in a fairly direct way. What was your impression, and what did you mean by this notion of a patronage relationship?

COMEY: Well, my impression, and again it’s my impression, I could always be wrong but my common sense told me what was going on is, either he had concluded or someone had told him that you didn’t, you’ve already asked Comey to stay, and you didn’t get anything for it. And that the dinner was an effort to build a relationship, in fact, he asked specifically, of loyalty in the context of asking me to stay. As I said, what was odd about that is we’d already talked twice about it by that point and he said I very much hope you’ll stay. In fact, I just remembered sitting a third, when you’ve seen the. IC tour of me walking across the blue room, and what the president whispered in my ear was “I really look forward to working with you.” So after those encounters —

WARNER: That was a few days before your firing.

COMEY: On the Sunday after the inauguration. The next Friday I have dinner and the president begins by wanting to talk about my job and so I’m sitting there thinking wait a minute three times we’ve already, you’ve already asked me to stay or talked about me staying. My common sense, again I could be wrong but 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.

WARNER: Again, we ail understand, I was a governor, I had people work for me but this constant requests and again quoting you, him saying that he, despite you explaining your independence, he said “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” Have you ever had any of those kind of requests before from anyone else you’ve worked for in the government?

COMEY: No, and what made me uneasy at that point I’m the director of the FBI. The reason that Congress created a t10-year term is so that the director is not feeling as if they’re serving at, with political loyalty owed to any particular person. The statue of justice has a blindfolds on. You’re not supposed to peek out to see there your patron was please pleased with what you’re doing. That’s why I became FBI director to be in of that position. That’s why I was uneasy.

WARNER: February 14th, seems strange, you were in a meeting, and your direct superior the attorney general was in that meeting as well, yet the president asked everyone to leave, including the attorney general to leave, before he brought up the matter of general Flynn. What was your impression of that type of action? Have you ever seen anything like that before?

COMEY: No. My impression was something big is about to happen. I need to remember every single word that is spoken, and again, I could be wrong, I’m 56 years old, I’ve been, seen a few things, my sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn’t be leaving which was why he was leaving and I don’t know Kushner well but I think he picked up on the same thing so I knew something was about to happen that I needed to pay very close attention to.

WARNER: I found it very interesting that, that in the memo that you wrote after this February 14th pull-aside, you made clear that you wrote that memo in a way that was unclassified. If you affirmatively made the decision to write a memo that was unclassified, was that because you felt at some point, the facts of that meeting would have to come clean and come clear, and actually be able to be cleared in a way that could be shared with the American people?

COMEY: Well, I remember thinking, this is a very disturbing development, really important to our work. I need to document it and preserve it in a way, and this committee gets this but sometimes when things are classified, it tangled them up.

WARNER: Amen.

COMEY: It’s hard to share within an investigative team. You have to be careful how you handled it for good reason. If I write it such a way that doesn’t include anything of a classification, that would make it easier for to us discuss within the FBI and the government, and to hold onto it in a way that makes it accessible to us.

WARNER: Well again it’s our hope particularly since you are a pretty knowledgeable guy and wrote this in a way that it was unqualified this committee will get access that unclassified document. I this I it will be important to our investigation. Let me ask you this in closing. How many ongoing investigations at any time does the FBI have?

COMEY: Tens of thousands.

WARNER: Tens of thousands. Did the president ever ask about any other ongoing investigation?

COMEY: No.

WARNER: Did he ever ask about you trying to interfere on any other investigation?

COMEY: No.

WARNER: I think, again, this speaks volumes. This doesn’t even get to the questions around the phone calls about lifting the cloud. I know other members will get to that, but I really appreciate your testimony, and appreciate your service to our nation.

COMEY: Thank you, Senator Warner. I’m sitting here going through my contacts with him. I had one conversation with the president that was classified where he asked about our, an ongoing intelligence investigation, it was brief and entirely professional.

WARNER: He didn’t ask to you take any specific action?

COMEY: No.

WARNER: Unlike what we did vis-à-vis will Flynn and the Russia investigation?

COMEY: Correct.

WARNER: Thank you, sir.

BURR: Senator Risch?

SEN. JAMES RISCH: Thank you very much. Mr. Comey, thank you for your service. America needs more like you and we really appreciate it. Yesterday, I got and everybody got the seven pages of your direct testimony that is now a part of the record here. And the first — I read it, and then I read it again, and all I could think was number one, how much hated the class of legal writing when I was in law school, and you are the guy that probably got the A after reading this. I find it clear. I find it concise, and having been a prosecutor for a number of years and handling hundreds, maybe thousands of cases and read police reports, investigative reports, this is as good as it gets, and I really appreciate that. Not only the conciseness and the clearness of it, but also the fact that you have things that were written down contemporaneously when they happened, and you actually put them in quotes so we know exactly what happened and we’re not getting some rendition of it that’s in your mind.

COMEY: Thank you, sir.

RISCH: You’re to be complimented.

COMEY: I had great parents and great teachers who beat that into me.

RISCH: That’s obvious, sir. The chairman walked you through a number of things that the American people need to know and want to know. Number one, obviously, we all know about the active measures that the Russians have taken. I think a lot of people were surprised at this. Those of us that work in the intelligence community, it didn’t come as a surprise, but now the American people know this, and it’s good they know this, because this is serious and it’s a problem. I think secondly, I gather from all this that you’re willing to say now that, while you were director, the president of the United States was not under investigation. Is that a fair statement?

COMEY: That’s correct.

RISCH: All right, so that’s a fact that we are rely on?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

RISCH: I remember, you talked with us shortly after February 14th, when the “New York Times” wrote an article that suggested that the trump campaign was colluding with the Russians. Do you remember reading that article when it first came out?

COMEY: I do, it was about allegedly extensive electronic surveillance in their communications.

RISCH: Correct. That upset you to the point where you surveyed the intelligence community to see whether you were missing something in that. Is that correct?

COMEY: That’s correct. I want to be careful in open setting, but —

RISCH: I’m not going to go any further than that, so thank you. In addition to that, after that, you sought out both Republican and Democrat senators to tell them that, hey, I don’t know where this is coming from, but this is not the case. This is not factual. Do you recall that?

COMEY: Yes.

RISCH: Okay. So again, so the American people can understand this, that report by the New York Times was not true. Is that a fair statement?

COMEY: In the main, it was not true. And again, all of you know this. Maybe the American people don’t. The challenge, and I’m not picking on reporters about writing stories about classified information, is the people talking about it often don’t really know what’s going on, and going on are not talking about it. We don’t call the press to say, hey, you don’t that thing wrong about the sensitive topic. We have to leave it there.

I mentioned to the chairman the nonsense around what influenced me to make the July 5th statement. Nonsense. But I can’t go explaining how it is nonsense.

RISCH: Thank you. All right. So those three things we now know regarding the active measures, whether the president is under investigation and the collusion between the trump campaign and the Russians. I want to drill right down, as my time is limited, to the most recent dust up regarding allegations that the president of the United States obstructed justice. Boy, you nailed this down on page 5, paragraph 3. You put this in quotes. Words matter. You wrote down the words so we can all have the words in front of us now. There’s 28 words now in quotes. It says, quote, I hope — this is the president speaking — I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is good guy. I hope you can let this go. Now, those are his exact words, is that correct.

COMEY: Correct.

RISCH: You wrote them here and put them in quotes.

COMEY: Correct.

RISCH: Thank you for that. He did not direct you to let it go?

COMEY: Not in his words, no.

RISCH: He did not order you to let it go?

COMEY: Again, those words are not an order.

RISCH: He said, I hope. Now, like me, you probably did hundreds of cases, maybe thousands of cases, charging people with criminal offenses and, of course, you have knowledge of the thousands of cases out there where people have been charged. Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice or, for that matter, any other criminal offense, where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?

COMEY: I don’t know well enough to answer. The reason I keep saying his words is I took it as a direction.

RISCH: Right.

COMEY: I mean, this is a president of the United States with me alone saying I hope this. I took it as, this is what he wants me to do. I didn’t obey that, but that’s the way I took it.

RISCH: You may have taken it as a direction but that’s not what he said.

COMEY: Correct.

RISCH: He said, I hope.

COMEY: Those are his exact words, correct.

RISCH: You don’t know of anyone ever being charged for hoping something, is that a fair statement?

COMEY: I don’t as I sit here.

RISCH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

BURR: Senator Feinstein?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Thanks very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Comey, I just want you to know that I have great respect for you. Senator Cornyn and I sit on the judiciary committee and we have the occasion to have you before us. You’re a man of strength and I regret the situations we all find ourselves in. I just want to say that. Let me begin with one overarching question. Why do you believe you were fired?

COMEY: I guess I don’t know for sure. I believe — I think the president, at his word, that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. Something about the way I was conducting it, the president felt created pressure on him that he wanted to relieve. Again, I didn’t know that at the time. I watched his interview. I read the press accounts of his conversations. I take him at his word there. Look, I could be wrong. Maybe he’s saying something that’s not true. I take him at his word, at least based on what I know now.

FEINSTEIN: Talk for a moment about his request that you pledge loyalty and your response to that and what impact you believe that had.

COMEY: I don’t know for sure because I don’t know the president well enough to read him well. I think it was — first of all, relationship didn’t get off to a great start, given the conversation I had to have on January 6th. This didn’t improve the relationship because it was very, very awkward. He was asking for something, and I was refusing to give it. Again, I don’t know him well enough to know how he reacted to that exactly.

FEINSTEIN: Do you believe the Russia investigation played a role?

COMEY: In why I was fired?

FEINSTEIN: Yes.

COMEY: Yes. I’ve seen the president say so.

FEINSTEIN: Let’s go to the Flynn issue. The senator outlined, “I hope you could see your way to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” But you also said in your written remarks, and I quote, that you “had understood the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December,”. Please go into that with more detail.

COMEY: Well, the context and the president’s word are what led me to that conclusion. As I said in my statement, I could be wrong, but Flynn had been forced to resign the day before. And the controversy around general Flynn at that point in time was centered on whether he lied to the vice president about his nature of conversations with the Russians, whether he had been candid with others in the course of that. So that happens on the day before. On the 1, the president makes reference to that. I understood what he wanted me to do was drop any investigation connected to Flynn’s account of his conversations with the Russians.

FEINSTEIN: Now, here’s the question, you’re big. You’re strong. I know the oval office, and I know what happens to people when they walk in. There is a certain amount of intimidation. But why didn’t you stop and say, Mr. President, this is wrong. I cannot discuss this with you.

COMEY: It’s a great question. Maybe if I were stronger, I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took in. The only thing I could think to say, because I was playing in my mind — because I could remember every word he said — I was playing in my mind, what should my response be? That’s why I carefully chose the words. Look, I’ve seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes. I remember saying, “I agree he is a good guy,” as a way of saying, I’m not agreeing with what you asked me to do. Again, maybe other people would be stronger in that circumstance. That’s how Ed myself. I hope I’ll never have another opportunity. Maybe if I did it again, I’d do it better.

FEINSTEIN: You describe two phone calls that you received from president trump. One on March 30th and one on April 11. He, quote, described the Russia investigation as a cloud that was impairing his ability, end quote, as president, and asked you, quote, to lift the cloud, end quote. How did you interpret that? What did you believe he wanted you to do?

COMEY: I interpreted that as he was frustrated that the Russia investigation was taking up so much time and energy. I think he meant of the executive branch, but in the public square in general. It was making it difficult for him to focus on other priorities of his. But what he asked me was actually narrowing than that. I think what he meant by the cloud — and, again, I could be wrong — but the entire investigation is taking up oxygen and making it hard for me to focus on what I want to focus on. The ask was to get it out that I, the president, am not personally under investigation.

FEINSTEIN: After April 11th, did he ask you more ever about the Russia investigation? Did he ask you any questions?

COMEY: We never spoke again after April 11th.

FEINSTEIN: You told the president, I would see what we could do. What did you mean?

COMEY: It was kind of a cowardly way of trying to avoid telling him, we’re not going to do that. That I would see what we could do. It was a way of kind of getting off the phone, frankly, and then I turned and handed it to the acting deputy attorney general.

FEINSTEIN: So I want to go into that. Who did you talk with about that, lifting the cloud, stop the investigation back at the FBI, and what was their response?

COMEY: The FBI, during one of the two conversations — I’m not remembering exactly — I think the first, my chief of staff was sitting in front of me and heard my end of the conversation because the president’s call was a surprise. I discussed the lifting the cloud and the request with the senior leadership team who, typically, and I think in all the circumstances, was the deputy director, my chief of staff, the general counsel, the deputy director’s chief counsel and, I think in a number of circumstances, the number three in the FBI and a few of the conversations included the head of the national security branch. The group of us that lead the FBI when it comes to national security.

FEINSTEIN: You have the president of the United States asking you to stop an investigation that is an important investigation. What was the response of your colleagues?

COMEY: I think they were as shocked and troubled by it as I was. Some said things that led me to believe that. I don’t remember exactly. But the reaction was similar to mine. They’re all experienced people who never experienced such a thing, so they were very concerned. Then the conversation turned to about, so what should we do with this information? That was a struggle for us. Because we are the leaders of the FBI, so it’s been reported to us, and I heard it and now shared it with the leaders of the FBI, our conversation was, should we share this with any senior officials at the justice department? Our primary concern was, we can’t infect the investigative team. We don’t want the agents and analysts working on this to know the president of the united States has asked, and when it comes from the president, I took it as a direction, to get rid of this investigation because we’re not going to follow that request. So we decided, we have to keep it away from our troops.

Is there anyone else we ought to tell at the justice department? We considered whether to tell — the attorney general said we believe rightly he was shortly going to recuse. There was no other senate confirmed leaders in the justice department at that point. The deputy attorney general was Mr. Boente, acting shortly in the seat. We decided the best move would be to hold it, keep it in a box, document it, as we’d already done, and this investigation is going to do on. Figure out what to do with it down the road. Is there a way to corroborate it? It was our word against the president’s. No way to corroborate this. My view of this changed when the prospect of tapes was raised. That’s how we thought about it then.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Director Comey, the meeting in the oval office where he made the request about Mike Flynn, was that only time he asked you to hopefully let it go?

COMEY: Yes.

RUBIO: And in that meeting, as you understood it, he was asking not about the general Russia investigation, he was asking specifically about the jeopardy that Flynn was in himself?

COMEY: That’s how I understood it. Yes, sir.

RUBIO: As you perceived it, while he hoped you did away with it, you perceived it as an order, given the setting, the position and some of the circumstances?

COMEY: Yes.

RUBIO: At the time, did you say something to the president about, that is not an appropriate request, or did you tell the white house counsel, it’s not an appropriate request? Someone needs to tell the president he can’t do these things.

COMEY: I didn’t, no.

RUBIO: Why?

COMEY: I don’t know. I think — as I said earlier, I think the circumstances were such that it was — I was a bit stunned and didn’t have the presence of mind. I don’t know. I don’t want to make you sound like I’m captain courageous. I don’t know if I would have said to the president with the presence of mind, sir, that’s wrong. In the moment, it didn’t come to my mind. What came to my mind is be careful what you say. I said, I agree Flynn is a good guy.

RUBIO: On the cloud, we keep talking about this cloud, you perceive the cloud to be the Russian investigation in general?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

RUBIO: His specific ask was you’d tell the American people what you’d told him, told the leaders of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, he was not personally under investigation?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

RUBIO: What he was asking you to do, would you have done here today?

COMEY: Correct. Yes, sir.

RUBIO: Again, at that setting, did you say to the president, it would be inappropriate for you to do so and then talk to the White House counsel or somebody so hopefully they’d talked to him and tell him he couldn’t do this?

COMEY: First time I said, I’ll see what we can do. Second time, I explained how it should work, that the White House counsel should contact the deputy attorney general.

RUBIO: You told him that?

COMEY: The president said, okay. I think that’s what I’ll do.

RUBIO: To be clear, for you to make a public statement that he was not under investigation wouldn’t be illegal but you felt it could potentially create a duty to correct if circumstances changed?

COMEY: Yes, sir. We wrestled with it before my testimony, where I confirmed that there was an investigation. There were two primary concerns. One was it creates a duty to correct, which I’ve lived before, and you want to be very careful about doing that. And second, it is a slippery slope. If we say the president and the vice president aren’t under investigation. What is the principled investigation for stopping? So the leaderrship, at justice, acting attorney general Boente said, you’re not going to do that.

RUBIO: On March 30th during the phone call about general Flynn, you said he abruptly shifted and brought up something that you call, quote, unquote, the McCabe thing. Specifically, the Mccabe thing as you understood it was that Mccabe’s wife had received campaign money from what I assume means Terry McAuliffe?

COMEY: Yes.

RUBIO: Close to the Clintons. Did he say, I don’t like this guy because he got money from someone close to Clinton?

COMEY: He asked me about McCabe and said, how is he going to be with me as president? I was rough on him on the campaign trail.

RUBIO: Rough on Mccabe?

COMEY: By his own account, he said he was rough on McCabe and Mrs. McCabe on the campaign trail. How is he going to be? I shared with the president, Andy is a pro. No issue at all. You have to know people of the FBI. They’re not —

RUBIO: So the president turns to you and says, remember, I never brought up the McCabe thing because you said he was a good guy, did you perceive that to be a statement that, I took care of you. I didn’t do something because you told me he was a good guy. So I’m asking you potentially for something in return. Is that how you perceived it?

COMEY: I wasn’t sure what to make of it. That’s possible. It was so out of context I didn’t have a clear view of what it was.

RUBIO: On a number of occasions here, you bring up — let’s talk about the general Russia investigation, OK? Page 6 of your testimony you say, the first thing you say is, he asked what we could do to, quote, unquote, lift the cloud, the general Russia investigation, you responded, we are investigating the matter as quickly as we could and there would be great benefit if we didn’t find anything for having done the work well. He agreed. He emphasized the problems it was causing him. He agreed it’d be great to have an investigation, all the facts came out and we found nothing. He agreed that would be ideal, but this cloud is still messing up my ability to do the rest of my agenda. Is that an accurate assessment?

COMEY: Yes, sir. He went farther than that. He said, and if some of my satellites did something wrong, it’d be good to find that out.

RUBIO: That is the second part. The satellites, if one of my satellites, I imagine he meant some of the people surrounding his campaign, did something wrong, it’d be great to know that, as well.

COMEY: Yes, sir. That’s what he said.

RUBIO: Are those the only two instances in which that back and forth happened, where the president was basically saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, it’s okay. Do the Russia investigation. I hope it all comes out. I have nothing to do with anything Russia. It’d be great if it all came out, people around me were doing things that were wrong?

COMEY: Yes. As I recorded it accurately there. That was the sentiment he was expressing. Yes, sir.

RUBIO: What it comes down to is the president asked three things of you. Asked for your loyalty. You said you’d be loyally honest.

COMEY: Honestly loyal.

RUBIO: Honestly loyal. He asked you on one occasion to let the Mike Flynn thing go because he was a good guy. By the way, you’re aware he said the same thing in the press the next day. He is a good guy, treated unfairly, etc. I imagine your FBI agents read that.

COMEY: I’m sure they did.

RUBIO: The president’s wishes were known to them, certainly by the next day when he had a press conference with the prime minister. Going back, the three requests were, number one, be loyal. Number two, let the Mike Flynn thing go. He is a good guy, been treated unfairly. Number three, can you please tell the American people what these leaders in congress already know, which you already know and what you told me three times, that I’m not under personally under investigation.

COMEY: That’s right.

RUBIO: We learn more from the newspaper sometimes than the open hearings. Do you ever wonder why, of all the things in the investigation, the only thing never leaked is the fact the president was never personally under investigation, despite the fact that Democrats and Republicans and the leadership of congress have known that for weeks?

COMEY: I don’t know. I find matters that are briefed to the gang of eight are pretty tightly held, in my experience.

RUBIO: Finally, who are those senior leaders at the FBI you share these conversations with?

COMEY: As I said in response to Sen. Feinstein’s question, deputy director, my chief of staff, general counsel, deputy director’s chief counse and then, more often than not, the number three person at the FBI, the associate deputy director. And quite often, head of the national security branch.

BURR: Senator?

SEN. RON WYDEN: Mr. Comey, welcome. You and I have had significant policy differences over the years, particularly protecting Americans access to secure encryption. But I believe the timing of your firing stinks. Yesterday, you put on the record testimony that demonstrates why the odor of presidential abuse of power is so strong. Now, to my questions. In talking to senator Warner about this dinner that you had with the president, I believe January 27th, all in one dinner, the president raised your job prospects, he asked for your loyalty and denied allegations against him. All took place over one supper. Now, you told senator Warner that the president was looking to, quote, get something. Looking back, did that dinner suggest that your job might be contingent on how you handled the investigation?

COMEY: I don’t know that I’d go that far. I got the sense my job would be contingent upon how he felt I — excuse me — how he felt I conducted myself and whether I demonstrated loyalty. But I don’t know whether I’d go so far as to connect it to the investigation.

WYDEN: He said the president was trying to create some sort of patronage. Behaving in a manner consistent with the wishes of the boss?

COMEY: Yes. At least consider how what you’re doing will affect the boss as a significant consideration.

WYDEN: Let me turn to the attorney general. In your statement, you said that you and the FBI leadership team decided not to discuss the president’s actions with Attorney General Sessions, even though he had not recused himself. What was it about the attorney general’s 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?

COMEY: Our judgment, as I recall, is that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an opening setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic. So we were convinced — in fact, I think we’d already heard 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.

WYDEN: How would you characterize Attorney General Sessions’s adherence to his recusal? In particular, with regard to his involvement in your firing, which the president has acknowledged was because of the Russian investigation.

COMEY: That’s a question I can’t answer. I think it is a reasonable question. If, as the president said, I was fired because of the Russia investigation, why was the attorney general involved in that chain? I don’t know. So I don’t have an answer for the question.

WYDEN: Your testimony was that the president’s request about Flynn could infect investigation. Had the president got what he wanted and what he asked of you, what would have been the effect on the investigation?

COMEY: We would have closed any investigation of general Flynn in connection with his statements and encounters — statements about encounters with Russians in the late part of December. We would have dropped an open criminal investigation.

WYDEN: So in effect, when you talk about infecting the enterprise, you would have dropped something major that would have spoken to the overall ability of the American people to get the facts?

COMEY: Correct. And as good as our people are, our judgment was, we don’t want them hearing that the president of the United States wants this to go away because it might have an effect on their ability to be fair, impartial and aggressive.

WYDEN: Acting Attorney General Yates found out Mike Flynn could be blackmailed by the Russians and went immediately to warn the white house. Flynn is gone, but other individuals with contacts with the Russians are still in extremely important positions of power. Should the American people have the same sense of urgency now with respect to them?

COMEY: I think all I can say, senator, is it’s a — the special counsel’s investigation is very important, understanding what efforts there were or are by Russian government to influence our government is a critical part of the FBI’s mission. And you’ve got the right person in Bob Mueller to lead it, it is a very important piece of work.

WYDEN: Vice president Pence was the head of the transition. To your knowledge, was he aware of the concerns about Michael Flynn prior to or during general Flynn’s tenure as national security adviser?

COMEY: I don’t — you’re asking including up to the time when Flynn was —

WYDEN: Right.

COMEY: Forced to resign? My understanding is that he was. I’m trying to remember where I get that understanding from. I think from acting attorney general Yates.

WYDEN: So former acting attorney general Yates testified concerns about general Flynn were discussed with the intelligence community. Would that have included anyone at the CIA or Dan Coats’ office, the DNI?

COMEY: I would assume, yes.

WYDEN: Michael Flynn resigned four days after attorney general sessions was sworn in. Do you know if the attorney general was aware of the concerns about Michael Flynn during that period?

COMEY: I don’t as I sit here. I don’t recall that he was. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember that he was.

WYDEN: Let’s see if you can give us some sense of who recommended your firing. Besides the letter from the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, do you have any information on who may have recommended or been involved in your firing?

COMEY: I don’t. I don’t.

WYDEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

BURR: Senator Collins?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Comey, let me begin by thanking you for your voluntary compliance with our request to appear before this committee and assist us in this very important investigation. I want first to ask you about your conversations with the president, three conversations in which you told him that he was not under investigation. The first was during your January 6th meeting, according to your testimony, in which it appears that you actually volunteered that assurance. Is that correct?

COMEY: That’s correct.

COLLINS: Did you limit that statement to counterintelligence invest — investigations, or were you talking about any FBI investigation?

COMEY: I didn’t use the term counterintelligence. I was briefing him about salacious and unverified material. It was in a context of that that he had a strong and defensive reaction about that not being true. My reading of it was it was important for me to assure him we were not person investigating him. So the context then was actually narrower, focused on what I just talked to him about. It was very important because it was, first, true, and second, I was worried very much about being in kind of a J. Hoover-type situation. I didn’t want him thinking I was briefing him on this to sort of hang it over him in some way. I was briefing him on it because, because we had been told by the media it was about to launch. We didn’t want to be keeping that from him. He needed to know this was being said. I was very keen not to leave him with an impression that the bureau was trying to do something to him. So that’s the context in which I said, sir, we’re not personally investigating you.

COLLINS: Then — and that’s why you volunteered the information?

COMEY: Yes, ma’am.

COLLINS: Then on the January 27th dinner, you told the president that he should be careful about asking you to investigate because, “you might create a narrative that we are investigating him personally, which we weren’t.” Again, were you limiting that statement to counterintelligence investigations, or more broadly, such as a criminal investigation?

COMEY: I didn’t modify the word investigation. It was, again, he was reacting strongly against the unverified material, saying I’m tempted to order you to investigate it. In the context of that, I said, sir, be careful about it. I might create a narrative we’re investigating you personally.

COLLINS: There was the March 30th phone call with the president in which you reminded him that congressional leaders had been briefed that we were no personally — the FBI was not personally investigating president trump. And, again, was that statement to congressional leaders and to the president limited to counterintelligence investigations, or was it a broader statement? I’m trying to understand whether there was any kind of investigation of the president underway.

COMEY: No. I’m sorry. If I misunderstood, I apologize. We briefed the congressional leadership about what Americans we had opened counterintelligence investigation cases on. We specifically said, the president is not one of those Americans. But there was no other investigation of the president that we were not mentioning at that time. The context was, counterintelligence, but I wasn’t trying to hide some criminal investigation of the president.

COLLINS: And was the president under investigation at the time of your dismissal on May 9th?

COMEY: No.

COLLINS: I’d like to now turn to the conversations with the president about Michael Flynn, which had been discussed at great length.

First, let me make very clear that the president never should have cleared the room and he never should have asked you, as you reported, to let it go, to let the investigation go. But I remain puzzled by your response. Michael Flynn is a good guy. You could have said, Mr. President, this meeting is inappropriate. This response could compromise the investigation. You should not be making such a request. It’s fundamental to the operation of our government, the FBI be insulated from this kind of political pressure. You talked a bit today about that you were stunned by the president making the request. But my question to you is later on, upon reflection, did you go to anyone at the department of justice and ask them to call the white house counsel’s office and explain that the president had to have a far better understanding and appreciation of his role vis-à-vis the FBI?

COMEY: In general, I did. I spoke to the attorney general and spoke to the new deputy attorney general, Mr. Rosenstein, when he took office and explained my serious concern about the way in which the president is interacting, especially with the FBI. As I said in my testimony, I told the attorney general, it can’t happen that you get kicked out of the room and the president talks to me. Why didn’t we raise the specific? It was of investigative interest to figure out, what just happened with the president’s request? I wouldn’t want to alert the white house it had happened until we figured out what we were going to do with it investigatively.

COLLINS: Your testimony was that you went to attorney general sessions and said, don’t ever leave me alone with him again. Are you saying that you also told him that he had made a request that you let it go with regard to part of the investigation of Michael Flynn?

COMEY: No. I specifically did not. I did not.

COLLINS: Okay. You mentioned that from your very first meeting with the president, you decided to write a memo memorializing the conversation. What was it about that very first meeting that made you write a memo when you have not done that with two previous presidents?

COMEY: As I said, a combination of things. A gut feeling is an important overlay, but the circumstances, that I was alone, the subject matter and the nature of the person I was interacting with and my read of that person. Yeah, and really just gut feel, laying on top of all of that, that this is going to be important to protect this organization, that I make records of this.

COLLINS: Finally, did you show copies of your memos to anyone outside of the department of justice?

COMEY: Yes.

COLLINS: And to whom did you show copies?

COMEY: I asked — the president tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I better hope there’s not tapes. I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night because it didn’t dawn on me originally, that there might be corroboration for our conversation. There might a tape. My judgment was, I need to get that out into the public square. I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. I asked a close friend to do it.

COLLINS: Was that Mr. Wittes?

COMEY: No.

COLLINS: Who was it?

COMEY: A close friend who is a professor at Columbia law school.

COLLINS: Thank you.

SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH: Mr. Comey, prior to January 27th of this year, have you ever had a one-on-one meeting or a private dinner with a president of the United States?

COMEY: No. Dinner, no. I had two one-on-ones with President Obama. One to talk about law enforcement issues, law enforcement and race, which was an important topic throughout for me and for the president. Then once very briefly for him to say goodbye.

HEINRICH: Were those brief interactions?

COMEY: No. The one about law enforcement and race and policing, we spoke for probably over an hour, just the two of us.

HEINRICH: How unusual is it to have a one-on-one dinner with the president? Did that strike you as odd?

COMEY: Yeah. So much so, I assumed there would be others, that he couldn’t possibly be having dinner with me alone.

HEINRICH: Do you have an impression that if you had found — if you had behaved differently in that dinner, and I am quite pleased that you did not, but if you had found a way to express some sort of expression of loyalty or given some suggestion that the Flynn criminal investigation might be pursued less vigorously, do you think you would have still been fired?

COMEY: I don’t know. It’s impossible to say looking back. I don’t know.

HEINRICH: But you felt like those two things were directly relevant to the kind of relationship that the president was seeking to establish with you?

COMEY: Sure, yes.

HEINRICH: The president has repeatedly talked about the Russian investigation into the U.S. — or Russia’s involvement in the U.S. Election cycle as a hoax and fake news. Can you talk a little bit about what you saw as FBI director and, obviously, only the parts that you can share in this setting that demonstrate how serious this action actually was and why there was an investigation in the first place?

COMEY: Yes, sir. There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. It was an active measures campaign driven from the top of that government. There is no fuzz on that. It is a high confidence judgment of the entire intelligence community and the members of this committee have seen the intelligence. It’s not a close call. That happened. That’s about as unfake as you can possibly get. It is very, very serious, which is why it’s so refreshing to see a bipartisan focus on that. This is about America, not about a particular party.

HEINRICH: That is a hostile act by the Russian government against this country?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

HEINRICH: Did the president in any of those interactions that you’ve shared with us today ask you what you should be doing or what our government should be doing or the intelligence community to protect America against Russian interference in our election system?

COMEY: I don’t recall a conversation like that.

HEINRICH: Never?

COMEY: No.

HEINRICH: Do you find it —

COMEY: Not with President Trump.

HEINRICH: Right.

COMEY: I attended a fair number of meetings on that with President Obama.

HEINRICH: Do you find it odd that the president seemed unconcerned by Russia’s actions in our election?

COMEY: I can’t answer that because I don’t know what other conversations he had with other advisers or other intelligence community leaders. I just don’t know sitting here.

HEINRICH: Did you have any interactions with the president that suggested he was taking that hostile action seriously.

COMEY: I don’t remember any interactions with the president other than the initial briefing on January the 6th. I don’t remember — could be wrong, but I don’t remember any conversations with him at all about that.

HEINRICH: As you’re very aware, it was only the two of you in the room for that dinner. You told us the president asked you to back off the Flynn investigation. The president told a reporter —

COMEY: Not in that dinner.

HEINRICH: Fair enough. Told the reporter he never did that. You’ve testified that the president asked for your loyalty in that dinner. White house denies that. A lot of this comes down to who should we believe. Do you want to say anything as to why we should believe you?

COMEY: My mother raised me not to say things like this about myself so I’m not going to. I think people should look at the whole body of my testimony. As I used to say to juries, when I talked about a witness, you can’t cherry pick it. You can’t say, I like these things he said but on this, he’s a ten liar. You have to take it together. I’ve tried to be open, fair, transparent and accurate. Of significant fact to me is so why did he kick everybody out of the Oval Office? Why would you kick the attorney general, the president, the chief of staff out to talk to me if it was about something else? So that, to me, as an investigator, is a significant fact.

HEINRICH: As we look at testimony or as communication from both of you, we should probably be looking for consistency?

COMEY: Well, in looking at any witness, you look at consistency, track record, demeanor, record over time, that sort of thing.

HEINRICH: Thank you. So there are reports that the incoming Trump administration, either during the transition and/or after the inauguration, attempted to set up a sort of backdoor communication channel with the Russian government using their infrastructure, their devices, their facilities. What would be the risks, particularly for a transition, someone not actually in the office of the president yet, to setting up unauthorized channels with a hostile foreign government, especially if they were to evade our own American intelligence services?

COMEY: I’m not going to comment on whether that happened in an open setting, but the risk is — primary risk is obvious. You spare the Russians the cost and effort to break into our communications channels by using theirs. You make it a whole lot easier for them to capture all of your conversations. Then to use those to the benefit of Russia against the united States.

HEINRICH: The memos that you wrote, you wrote — did you write all nine of them in a way that was designed to prevent them from needing classification?

COMEY: No. On a few of the occasions, I wrote — I sent emails to my chief of staff on some of the brief phone conversations I had. The first one was a classified briefing. Though it was in a conference room at Trump Tower, it was a classified briefing. I wrote that on a classified device. The one I started typing in the car, that was a classified laptop I started working on.

HEINRICH: Any reason in a classified environment, in a skiff, that this committee, it would not be appropriate to see those communications at least from your perspective as the author?

COMEY: No.

HEINRICH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

BURR: Senator?

SEN. ROY BLUNT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Comey, when you were terminated at the FBI, I said, and still continue to feel, that you have provided years of great service to the country. I also said that I’d had significant questions over the last year about some of the decisions that you made. If the president hadn’t terminated your service, would you still be, in your opinion, the director of the FBI today?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

BLUNT: So you took as a direction from the president something you thought was serious and troublesome but continued to show up for work the next day?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

BLUNT: Six weeks later were still telling the president on March the 30th that he was not personally the target of any investigation?

COMEY: Correct. On March the 30th, and I think again on April 11th, as well, I told him we’re not investigating him personally. That was true.

BLUNT: The point to me, the concern to me there is, all these things are going on. You now in retrospect, or at least to this committee, you had serious concerns about what the president had, you believed, directed you to do, and had taken no action. Hadn’t even reported up the chain of command, assuming you believe there is a chain of command, that these things happened. Do you have a sense looking back that that was a mistake?

COMEY: No. In fact, I think no action was the most important thing I could do.

BLUNT: On the Flynn issue specifically, I believe you said earlier that you believe the president was suggesting you drop any investigation of Flynn’s account of his conversation with the Russian ambassador. Which was essentially misleading the vice president and others?

COMEY: Correct. I’m not going to go into the details but whether there were false statements made to government investigators, as well.

BLUNT: Any suggestion that the — General Flynn had violated the Logan Act, I always find incredible. The Logan Act has been on the books over 200 years. Nobody has ever been prosecuted for violating the Logan Act. My sense would be that the discussion, not the problem, misleading investigators or the vice president might have been?

COMEY: That’s fair. Yes, sir.

BLUNT: Had you previously on February 14th discussed with the president in the previous meeting anything your investigators had learned or their impressions from talking to Flynn?

COMEY: No, sir.

BLUNT: So he said he’s a good guy. You said he is a good guy. That was — no further action taken on that?

COMEY: He said more than that, but there was no — the action was, I wrote it up, briefed our senior team, tried to figure out what to do with it and made a decision. We’re going to hold this and see what we make of it down the road.

BLUNT: Did it mean you had no responsibility to report that to the Justice Department in some way?

COMEY: I think at some point, and I don’t know what Director Mueller is going to do with it, but at some point, I was sure we were going to brief it to the team in charge of the case. But our judgment was in the short term, doesn’t make sense to — no fuzz on the fact I reported to the attorney general. That’s why I stressed he shouldn’t be kicked out of the room. Didn’t make sense to report to him now.

BLUNT: You said the attorney general said, I don’t want to be in the room with him alone again, but you continued to talk to him on the phone. What is the difference in being in the room alone with him and talking to him on the phone alone?

COMEY: I think what I stressed to the attorney general was broader than just the room. I said, I report to you. It is very important you be between me and the white house.

BLUNT: After that discussion with the attorney general, did you take phone calls from the president?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

BLUNT: Why did you just say you need to — why didn’t you say, I’m not taking that call. Talk to the attorney general?

COMEY: I did on the April 11th call. I reported the calls — the March 30th call and the April 11th call to my superior, who was the acting deputy attorney general.

BLUNT: I don’t want to run out of time here. In reading your testimony, January the 3rd, January the 27th and March the 30th, it appears to me on all three of those occasions, you unsolicited by the president, made the point to him he was not a target of an investigation?

COMEY: Correct. Yes, sir.

BLUNT: One, I thought the March 30th, very interesting, you said, well, even though you don’t want — you may not want — that was 27th, where he said, why don’t you look into that more? You said, you may not want that because we couldn’t say with — we couldn’t answer the question about you being a target of the investigation. You didn’t seem to be answering that question anyhow. Senator Rubio pointed out the one unanswered, unleaked question seems to have been that. In this whole period of time. You said something earlier and I don’t want to fail to follow up on, you said after dismissed, you gave information to a friend so that friend could get that information into the public media.

COMEY: Correct.

BLUNT: What kind of information was that? What kind of information did you give to a friend?

COMEY: That the — the Flynn conversation. The president had asked me to let the Flynn — forgetting my exact own words. But the conversation in the Oval Office.

BLUNT: So you didn’t consider your memo or your sense of that conversation to be a government document. You considered it to be, somehow, your own personal document that you could share to the media as you wanted through a friend?

COMEY: Correct. I understood this to be my recollection recorded of my conversation with the president. As a private citizen, I thought it important to get it out.

BLUNT: Were all your memos that you recorded on classified or other memos that might be yours as a private citizen?

COMEY: I’m not following the question.

BLUNT: You said you used classified —

COMEY: Not the classified documents. Unclassified. I don’t have any of them anymore. I gave them to the special counsel. My view was that the content of those unclassified, memorialization of those conversations was my recollection recorded.

BLUNT: So why didn’t you give those to somebody yourself rather than give them through a third party?

COMEY:Because I was weary the media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point. I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide. I worried it would be feeding seagulls at the beach. If it was I who gave it to the media. I asked my friend, make sure this gets out.

BLUNT: It does seem to me what you do there is create a source close to the former director of the FBI as opposed to taking responsibility yourself for saying, here are the records. Like everybody else, I have other things I’d like to get into but I’m out of time.

SEN. ANGUS KING: First, I’d like to acknowledge Senator Blumenthal and Senator Nelson. The principal thing you’ll learn is the chairs there are more uncomfortable than the chairs here. But welcome to the hearing. Mr. Comey, a broad question. Was the Russian activity in the 2016 election a one off proposition, or is this part of a long-term strategy? Will they be back?

COMEY: Oh, it is a long-term practice of theirs. It’s stepped up a notch in a significant way in ’16. They’ll be back.

KING: I think that’s very important for the American people to understand. That this is very much a forward looking investigation in terms of how do we understand what they did and how do we prevent it. Would you agree that is a big part of our role here?

COMEY: Yes, sir. It is not a Republican thing or a democratic thing. It really is an American thing. They’re going to come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of, and they’re not devoted to either, in my experience. They’re just about their own advantage. They will be back.

KING: That’s my observation. I don’t think Putin is a Republican or a Democrat. He’s an opportunist.

COMEY: I think that’s a fair statement.

KING: With regard to the — several of these conversations, in his interview with Lester Holt on NBC, the president said, I had dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on. Is this an accurate statement?

COMEY: No, sir.

KING: Did you in any way initiate that dinner?

COMEY: No. He called me at my desk at lunchtime and asked me, was I free for dinner that night. Called himself. Said, can you come over for dinner tonight? I said, yes, sir. He said, will 6:00 work? I think 6:00 first. Then he said, I was going to invite your whole family but we’ll do it next time. Is that a good time? I said, sir, whatever works for you. He said, how about 6:30? I said, whatever works for you, sir. Then I hung up and had to call my wife and break a date with her. I was supposed to take her to dinner that night.

KING: One of the all-time great excuses for breaking a date.

COMEY: Yeah. In retrospect, I love spending time with my wife and I wish I would have been there that night.

KING: That’s one question I’m not going to follow up on, Mr. Comey. In that same interview, the president said, in one case I called him and in one case, he call me. Is that an accurate statement?

COMEY: No.

KING: Did you ever call the president?

COMEY: No. I might — the only reason I’m hesitating is, I think there was at least one conversation where I was asked to call the White House switchboard to be connected to him. I never initiated a communication with the president.

KING: In his press conference May 18th, the president responded, quote, no, no, when asked about asking you to stop the investigation into general Flynn. Is that a true statement?

COMEY: I don’t believe it is.

KING: In regard to him being personally under investigation, does that mean that the dossier is not being reviewed or investigated or followed up on in any way?

COMEY: I obviously can’t comment either way. I talk in an open setting about the investigation as it was when I was head of the FBI. It is Bob Mueller’s responsibility now. I don’t know.

KING: Clearly, your statements to the president back on the various times when you assured him it wasn’t under investigation, as of that moment, is it correct?

COMEY: Correct.

KING: Now, on the Flynn investigation, is it not true that Mr. Flynn was and is a central figure in this entire investigation of the relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russians?

COMEY: I can’t answer that in an open setting, sir.

KING: Certainly, Mr. Flynn was part of the so-called Russian investigation? Can you answer that question?

COMEY: I have to give you the same answer.

KING: All right. We’ll be having a closed session shortly so we’ll follow up on that. In terms of his comments to you about — I think in response to Senator Risch, he said, I hope you’ll hold back on that, but when you get a — when a president of the United States in the Oval Office says something like, I hope or I suggest or would you, do you take that as a directive?

COMEY: Yes. It rings in my ear as, well, will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest.

KING: I was just going to quote that, in 1179, December 27th, Henry II said, who will rid me of the meddlesome priest, and the next day, he was killed. Exactly the same situation. We’re thinking along the same lines. Several other questions, and these are a little more detailed. What do you know about the Russian bank VEB?

COMEY: Nothing that I can talk about in an open setting. I know —

KING: That takes care of the next three questions.

COMEY: I know it exists.

KING: What is relationship of ambassador — the ambassador from Russia to the United States to the Russian intelligence infrastructure?

COMEY: He’s a diplomat who is the chief of mission at the Russian Embassy, which employs a robust cohort of intelligence officers. So, surely, he is whiting of their aggressive intelligence operations, at least some of it in the United States. I don’t consider him to be an intelligence officer himself. He’s a diplomat.

KING: Did you ever — did the FBI ever brief the Trump administration about the advisability of interacting directly with Ambassador Kislyak?

COMEY: All I can say sits here is there are a variety of defensive briefings given to the incoming administration about the counterintelligence risk.

KING: Back to Mr. Flynn. Would the — would closing out the Flynn investigation have impeded the overall Russian investigation?

COMEY: No. Well, unlikely, except to the extent — there is always a possibility if you have a criminal case against someone and squeeze them, flip them and they give you information about something else. But I saw the two as touching each other but separate.

KING: With regard to your memos, isn’t it true that in a court case when you’re weighing evidence, contemporaneous memos and contemporaneous statements to third parties are considered probative in terms of the validity of testimony?

COMEY: Yes.

KING: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

BURR: Senator Lankford?

LANKFORD: Former Director Comey, good to see you again.

COMEY: You, too.

LANKFORD: Multiple opportunities to visit, as everyone here has. I appreciate you and your service and what you have done for the nation for a long time, what you continue to do. I told you before in the heat of last year, when we had an opportunity to visit personally, that I pray for you and your family because you carry a tremendous amount of stress. That is still true today.

COMEY: Thank you.

LANKFORD: Let me walk through a couple things with you. Your notes are obviously exceptionally important because they give a rapid account of what you wrote down and what you perceived happened in those different meetings. Have you had the opportunity to reference those notes when you were preparing the written statement you put forward today?

COMEY: Yes. I think nearly all of my written recordings of my conversations, I had a chance to review them before filing my statement.

LANKFORD: Do you have a copy of any of the notes personally?

COMEY: I don’t. I turned them over to Bob Mueller’s investigators.

LANKFORD: The individual that you told about your memos, that then were sent on to The New York Times, did you have a copy of the memos or told orally?

COMEY: Had a copy at the time.

LANKFORD: Do they still have a copy of those memos?

COMEY: Good question. I think so. I guess I can’t say for sure sitting here, but — I guess I don’t know. But I think so.

LANKFORD: So the question is, could you ask them to hand that copyright back to you so you can hand them over to this committee?

COMEY: Potentially.

LANKFORD: I would like to move that from potentially to seeing if we can ask that question so we can have a copy of those. Obviously, the notes are really important to us, so we can continue to get to the facts as we see it. The written documents are exceptionally important.

COMEY: Yeah.

LANKFORD: Were there other documents we need to be aware of you used in your preparation for your written statement we should also have that would assist us in helping us with this?

COMEY: Not that I’m aware of, no.

LANKFORD: Past the February 14th meeting, which is an important meeting as we discuss the conversations here about Michael Flynn, when the president asked you about he hopes that you would let this go, and the conversation back and forth about being a good guy, after that time, did the president ever bring up anything about Michael Flynn again to you? Had multiple other conversations you had documents with the president.

COMEY: I don’t remember him bringing it up again.

LANKFORD: Did a member of the white house staff come up to you asking you to drop the Michael Flynn case, anything referring to that?

COMEY: No.

LANKFORD: Did the Director of National Intelligence talk to you about that?

COMEY: No.

LANKFORD: Did anyone from the attorney general’s office, the department of justice ask about that?

COMEY: No.

LANKFORD: Did the head of NSA talk to you about that?

COMEY: No.

LANKFORD: The key aspect here is if this seems to be something the president is trying to get you to drop it, it seems like a light touch to drop it, to bring it up at that point, the day after he had just fired Flynn, to come back here and say, I hope we can let this go, then it never reappears again. Did it slow down your investigation or any investigation that may or may not be occurring with Michael Flynn?

COMEY: No. Although I don’t know there are any manifestations between February 14th and when I was fired. I don’t know that the president had any way of knowing whether it was effective or not.

LANKFORD: Okay. Fair enough. If the president wanted to stop an investigation, how would he do that? Knowing it is an ongoing criminal investigation or counterintelligence investigation, would that be a matter of going to you, you perceive, and say, you make it stop because he doesn’t have the authority to stop it? How would the president make an ongoing investigation stop?

COMEY: I’m not a legal scholar, but as a legal matter, the president is the head of the executive branch and could direct, in theory, we have important norms against this, but could anyone be investigative or not. I think he has the legal authority. All of us ultimately report in the executive branch to the president.

LANKFORD: Would that be to you, or the attorney general or who?

COMEY: I suppose he could if he wanted to issue a direct order could do it anyway. Through the attorney general or issue it directly to me.

LANKFORD: Well, is there any question that the president is not real fond of this investigation? I can think of multiple 140-word character expressions that he’s publicly expressed he’s not fond of the investigation. I heard you refer to before trying to keep the agents away from any comment that the president may have made. Quite frankly, the president has informed around 6 billion people that he’s not real fond of this investigation. Do you think there’s a difference in that?

COMEY: Yes. There’s a big difference in kicking superior officers out of the oval office, looking the FBI director in the eye and saying I hope you let this go. I think if agents as good as they are heard the president of the United States did that, there’s a real risk of a chilling effect on their work. That’s why we kept it so tight.

LANKFORD: OK. You had mentioned before about some news stories and news accounts. Without having to go into all of the names and specific times and to be able to dip into all of that. Have there been news accounts about the Russian investigation or collusion about the whole event or as you read the story you were wrong about how wrong they got the facts?

COMEY: Yes, there have been many, many stories based on — well, lots of stuff but about Russia that are dead wrong.

LANKFORD: I was interested in your comment that you made as well that the president said to you if there were some satellite associates of his that did something wrong, it would be good to find that out. Did the president seem to talk to you specifically on March 30th saying I’m frustrated that the word is not getting out that I’m under investigation. But if there are people in my circle that are, let’s finish the investigation, is that how you took it?

COMEY: Yes, sir. Yes.

LANKFORD: Then you made a comment earlier a the attorney general, the previous attorney general asking you about the investigation on the Clinton e-mails saying you were asked to not call it an investigation anymore. But call it a matter. You said that confused you. You can give us additional details on that?

COMEY: Well, it concerned me because we were at the point where we refused to confirm the existence as we typically do of an investigation for months. And was getting to a place where that looked silly because the campaigns we’re talking about interacting with the FBI in the course of our work. The Clinton campaign at the time was using all kinds of euphemisms, security matters, things like that for what was going on. We were getting to a place where the attorney general and I were both going to testify and talk publicly about it I wanted to know was she going to authorize us to confirm we have an investigation. She said yes, don’t call it that, call it a matter. I said why would I do that? She said, just call it a matter. You look back in hindsight, if I looked back and said this isn’t worth dying on so I just said the press is going to completely ignore it. That’s what happened when I said we opened a matter. They all reported the FBI has an investigation open. So that concerned me because that language tracked the way the campaign was talking about the FBI’s work and that’s concerning.

LANKFORD: You gave impression that the campaign was somehow using the language as the FBI because you were handed the campaign language?

COMEY: I don’t know whether it was intentional or not but it gave the impression that the attorney general was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way it was describing that. It was inaccurate. We had an investigation open for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we had an investigation open at the time. That gave me a queasy feeling.

BURR: Senator Manchin.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Thank you. I appreciate being here. West Virginia is interested in the hear we’re having today. I’ve had over 600 requests for questions to ask you from my fellow West Virginians. Most of them have been asked and there are some to be asked if the classified hearing. I want to thank you first of all for coming to be here and volunteering to stay in the classified hearing. I don’t know if you had a chance to watch our hearing yesterday —

COMEY: I watched part of it, yes.

MANCHIN: And it was quite troubling. My colleagues had very pointed questions they wanted answers to. And they weren’t classified and could have been answered in the open setting and they refused to. So that makes us much more appreciative of your cooperation. Sir, the seriousness of the Russia investigation and knowing that it can be ongoing as Senator Keegan alluded to. What are your concerns there? American public saying why are we making a big deal of this Russian investigation? Can you tell me about your thoughts?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

MANCHIN: Finally, did the president ever show any concern or interest or curiosity about what the Russians were doing?

COMEY: Thank you, senator. As I said earlier, I don’t remember any conversations with the president about the Russia election interference.

MANCHIN: Did he ever ask you any questions concerning this?

COMEY: Well, there was an initial briefing of our findings. And I think there was conversation there I don’t remember exactly where he asked what I found and what our sources were and what our confidence level was. The reason this is such a big deal. We have this big messy wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time. But nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for except other Americans. And that’s wonderful and often painful. But we’re talking about a foreign government that using technical intrusion, lots of other methods tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. That is a big deal. And people need to recognize it. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. They’re coming after America, which I hope we all love equally. They want to undermine our credibility in the face the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them. So they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible. That’s what this is about and they will be back. Because we remain — as difficult as we can be with each other, we remain that shining city on the hill. And they don’t like it.

MANCHIN: It’s extremely important, extremely dangerous what we’re dealing with and it’s needed is what you’re saying.

COMEY: Yes, sir.

MANCHIN: Do you believe there were any tapes or recordings of your conversations with the president?

COMEY: It never occurred to me until the president’s tweet. I’m not being facetious. I hope there are.

MANCHIN: Both of you are in the same here, you both hope there are taping and recordings?

COMEY: Well all I can do is hope. The president surely knows if he taped me. If he did, my feelings aren’t hurt. Release all of the tapes I’m good with you.

MANCHIN: Sir, do you believe that Robert Mueller, our new special versus, on Russia, will be thorough and complete without intervention and would you about confident on his recommendations?

COMEY: Yes, Bob Mueller is one of the finest people and public servants this country has ever produced. He will do it well. He’s a dogged-tough person and you can have high confidence when he’s done, he’s turned over all of the rocks.

MANCHIN: You’ve been asked a wide variety of questions and we’re going to have more in our classified hearing. Something else I like to ask folks when they come here, what details of the saga should we be focused on and recommend that we do differently? To adjust our perspective on this.

COMEY: I don’t know. One of the reasons I’m pleased to be here I think this committee has shown the American people although we have two parties and we disagree on things we can work together when it comes to the country. So I would hope that you would just keep doing what you’re doing. And it’s a good example for kids. That it’s good in and of itself but we are an adult democracy.

MANCHIN: You mentioned six times on the phone with president did you ever allude that you were performing inadequately? —

COMEY: No, quite the contrary. I was about to get on a helicopter one time. The head of the DEA was in the helicopter waiting for me. He called in to check in and tell me I was doing an awesome job. And wanted to see how I was doing. I said I’m doing fine, sir. Then I finished the call and got on the helicopter.

MANCHIN: Mr. Comey, do you believe you would have been fired if Hillary Clinton became president?

COMEY: That’s a great question. I don’t know. I don’t know.

MANCHIN: Have you had any thoughts about it?

COMEY: I might have been. I don’t know. Look, I’ve said before, that was an extraordinarily difficult and painful time. I think I did what I had to do. I knew it was going to be very bad for me personally. And the consequences might have been if Hillary Clinton was elected I might have been terminated. I don’t know. I really don’t.

MANCHIN: My final question, after the February 14th meeting in the oval office you mentioned to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Did you ever consider why Attorney General Sessions was not asked to stay in the room?

COMEY: Oh, sure. I did. And have. And in that moment, I knew —

MANCHIN: Did you ever talk to him about it?

COMEY: No.

MANCHIN: You never had a discussion with Jeff sessions on this?

COMEY: No, not at all.

MANCHIN: On any of your meetings?

COMEY: No.

MANCHIN: Did he inquire? Did he show any inquiry whatsoever what was that meeting about?

COMEY: No — you’re right. I did say to him. I’d forgotten this, I talked to him and said you have to be between me and the president and that’s incredibly important. I forgot my exact words I passed along my the president’s message about the leaks. I passed that along to the attorney general I think it was the next morning in the meeting. But I did not tell him about the Flynn part.

MANCHIN: Do you believe this rises to obstruction of justice?

COMEY: I don’t know, that’s Bob Mueller’s job to sort that out. .

MANCHIN: Thank you, sir.

SEN. TOM COTTON: Mr. Chairman.

BURR: Senator Cotton.

COTTON: Mr. Comey, you’re encouraged.president will release the tapes will you encourage Mr. Mueller to release your memos?

COMEY: Sure.

COTTON: You said you did not record your conversations with President Obama or President Bush in memos. Did you do so with Attorney General Jeff Sessions or any other senior member of the trump Department of Justice?

COMEY: No. I think — I am sorry.

COTTON: Did you record conversations or memos with the attorney general or any other senior member of the Obama administration?

COMEY: No.

COTTON: Two phone calls, four phone calls are not discussed in your statement, for the record. What happens in those phone calls?

COMEY: The president called me I believe shortly before he was inaugurated as a follow-up to our conversation, private conversation on January the 6th. He just wanted to reiterate his rejection of that allegation and talk about—- he’d thought about it more. And why he thought it wasn’t true. The verified — unverified parts. And during that call, he asked me again, hope you’re going to say. You’re doing a great job. I told him that I intended to. There was another phone call that I mentioned could have the date wrong, March 1st, where he called just to check in with me as I was about to get on the hospital. It was a secure call we had about an operational matter that is not related to any of this. Something that the FBI is working on. He wanted to make sure I understood how important he thought it was. A totally appropriate call. And then the fourth call, probably forgetting — may have been — I may have met the call when he called to invite me to dinner. I’ll think about it as I’m answering other questions but I think I got that right.

COTTON: Let’s turn our attention to the underlying activity at issue here. Russia’s hacking of those e-mails and the allegation of collusion. Do you think Donald Trump colluded with Russia?

COMEY: That’s a question I don’t think I should answer in an opening setting. As I said, 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.

COTTON: Let me turn to a couple statements by one of my colleagues, Senator Feinstein. She was the ranking member on this committee until January, which means that she had access to information that only she and Chairman Burr did. She’s now the senior Democrat on the FBI Committee, which means she had access to information that many of us don’t. On May 3rd on the Wolf Blitzer show she was asked “Do you believe you have evidence that in fact that there was collusion between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign? She answered not at this time. On May 18th, on the same show, Mr. Blitzer said, “The last time you came on this show I I asked if you had seen any evidence that Russia had colluded with the Trump campaign.” You said not at this time. Has anything changed since we last spoke? Senator Feinstein said no, it hasn’t. Do you have any reason to doubt those statements?

COMEY: I don’t doubt that the Senator Feinstein understood what she said. I just don’t want to go down that route anymore because I’m — I want to be fair to President Trump.I am not trying to suggest something nefarious but I don’t want to get into the business of not to this person, not to that person.

COTTON: On February 14th the New York Times published the story, the headline of which was “Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence.” You were asked if that as an inaccurate story. Would it be fair to characterize that story as almost entirely wrong?

COMEY: Yes.

COTON: Do you have — at the time the story was published, any indication of any contact between Trump people and Russians, intelligence officers, other government officials or close associates of the Russian government?

COMEY: That’s one I can’t answer sitting here.

COTTON: We can discuss that in the classified setting then. I want to turn your attention now to Mr. Flynn. The allegations of his underlying conduct to be specific. His alleged interactions with the Russian ambassador on the telephone and then what he said to senior Trump administration officials and Department of Justice officials. I understand there are other issues with Mr. Flynn related to his receipt of foreign monies or disclosure ever official advocacy, those are serious allegations that I’m sure will be pursued but I want to speak specifically about his interactions with the Russian ambassador. There’s a story on January 23rd in The Washington Post that says, entitled “FBI reviewed calls with Russian ambassador but found nothing illicit.” Is this story accurate?

COMEY: I don’t want to comment ton that senator. I’m pretty sure the bureau has not confirmed any interception of communications. So, I don’t want to talk about that in an opening setting.

COTTON: Would it be improper for an incoming national security advisor to have a conversation with a foreign ambassador?

COMEY: In my experience, no.

COTTON: But you can’t confirm or deny that the conversation happened and we would need to know the contents of that conversation to know if it in fact was proper.

COMEY: I don’t think I can talk about that opening setting. Again, I’ve been out of government a month. So, I also don’t want to talk about things when it’s now somebody else’s responsibility. But maybe in the classified setting we can talk more about that.

COTTON: You stated earlier that there was an open investigation of Mr. Flynn and the FBI. Did you or any FBI agent ever sense that Mr. Flynn attempted to deceive you or make false states to an FBI agent?

COMEY: I don’t want to go too far. That was the subject of the criminal inquiry.

COTTON: Did you ever come close to closing the investigation on Mr. Flynn?

COMEY: I don’t think I can talk about that in open setting either.

COTTON: We can discuss these more in the closed setting then. Mr. Comey, in 2004, you were a part of a well-publicized event about an intelligence program that had been recertified several times. And you were acting attorney general when Attorney General John Ashcroft was incapacitated due to illness. There was a dramatic showdown at the hospital here. The next day you said you that wrote the letter of resignation, signed it, went to meet with President Bush and explained why you produced to certify it is that accurate?

COMEY: Yes.

COTTON: At anytime during FBI director did you ever write and sign a letter of resignation?

COMEY: Letter of resignation? No, sir.

COTTON: Despite all of off that testified to today you didn’t feel this rose to a level of honest difference of opinion between accomplished and skilled lawyers in that 2004 episode.

COMEY: I wouldn’t characterize the events in 2004 that way but to answer, no, I didn’t find, encounter any circumstance that led me intend to resign, consider to resign. No, sir.

COTTON: Thank you.

BURR: Senator Harris.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Director Comey, I want to thank you you are now a private citizen and you’re enduring a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. Each of us gets seven minutes instead of five to ask you questions, thank you.

COMEY: I’m between opportunities now so —

HARRIS: You are — I’m sure you’ll have future opportunities. You and I are both former prosecutors. I’m not going to require to you answer. I just want to make a statement that in my experience of prosecuting cases when a robber held a gun to somebody’s head and said I hope you will give me your wallet, the word hope was not the operative word at that moment. But you don’t have to respond to that point. I have a series of questions to ask you. And they’re going to start with: Are you aware of any meetings between the trump administration officials and Russia officials during the campaign that have not been acknowledged by those officials in the White House?

COMEY: That’s not — even if I remembered clearly, that’s not a question I can answer in open setting.

HARRIS: Are you aware of any questions by Trump campaign officials or associates of the campaign to hide their communications with Russia officials through encrypted means?

COMEY: I have to give you the same answer.

HARRIS: In the course of the FBI’s investigation did you ever come across anything that suggested that communication, records, documents or other evidence had been destroyed?

COMEY: I think a got to give you the aim answer is because it would touch on investigative matters.

HARRIS: And are you a wear of any potential efforts to conceal between campaign officials and Russian officials?

COMEY: I have to give you the aim answer is.

HARRIS: Thank you. As a former attorney general, I have a series of questions in connection with your connection with the attorney general while you were FBI director. What is your understanding of the parameters of Attorney General Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation?

COMEY: I think it’s described in a written release from DOJ which I don’t remember sitting here but the gist is he will be recused from all matters relating to Russia or the campaign. Or the activities of Russia and the ’16 election or something like that.

HARRIS: So, is your knowledge of the extent of the recusal based on the public statements he’s made?

COMEY: Correct.

HARRIS: Is there any kind of memorandum issued from the attorney general to the FBI outlining the parameters of his recusal?

COMEY: Not that I’m aware of.

HARRIS: Do you know if he reviewed any DOJ documents before he was recused?

COMEY: I don’t know.

HARRIS: And after he was recused. I’m assuming same answer?

COMEY: Same answer.

HARRIS: And aside from any notice or memorandum that was not sent or was what process would be to make sure that the attorney general would not have any connection to the investigation torsion your knowledge?

COMEY: I don’t know for sure. I know he had consulted with career ethics officials that know how to run a recusal at DOJ. But I don’t know what mechanism they set up.

HARRIS: And the attorney general recused himself from the investigation, do you believe it was appropriate for him to be involved in the firing of the chief investigator of that case that had Russia interference?

COMEY: It’s something that I can’t answer sitting here. It’s a reasonable question. It would depend on a lot of things I don’t know, like did he know, what was he told, did he realize the investigation, things like that. I just don’t know the answer.

HARRIS: You mentioned in your testimony that the president essentially asked you for a loyalty pledge. Are you aware of him making the same request of any other member the cabinet?

COMEY: I don’t know one way or another. I’ve never heard anything about it.

HARRIS: You mentioned you had the conversation where he hoped that you would let the Flynn matter go on February 14. Or thereabouts. It’s my understanding that Mr. Sessions was recused from any involvement in the investigation, about a full two weeks later. To your knowledge, was the attorney general, did he have access to information about the investigation in those two weeks?

COMEY: In theory, sure. Because he’s the attorney general. I don’t know whether he had any contact with materials related to that.

HARRIS: To your knowledge was there any directive that he should not have any contact with any information about the Russian investigation between the February 14th date and the day he was ultimately recused himself on March 2nd.

COMEY: Not to my knowledge. I don’t know one way or another.

HARRIS: And did you speak to the attorney general about the Russia investigation about his recusal?

COMEY: I don’t think so, no.

HARRIS: Do you know if anyone in the department, in the FBI, forwarded any documents or information on memos of any sort, to the attention of the attorney general before his recusal?

COMEY: I don’t know of any or remember any signaturing here. It’s possible.

HARRIS: Do you know if the attorney general was involved, in fact, involved in any aspect of the Russia investigation after the 2nd of March?

COMEY: I don’t. I would assume not. Let me say this way, I don’t know of any information that would lead me to believe he did something to touch the Russia investigation after recusal.

HARRIS: In your written testimony, you indicate that after you were left alone with the president, you mentioned that it was inappropriate and should never happen again to the attorney general. And apparently, he did not reply. And you wrote that he did not reply. What did he do, if anything? Did he just look at you? Was there a pause for a moment, what happened?

COMEY: I don’t remember real clearly. I have a recollection of him just kind of looking at me. It was a danger I’m projecting on to him so this might be a faulty memory. But I kind of got — his body language gave me a sense like what am I going to do.

HARRIS: Did he shrug?

COMEY: I don’t remember clearly. I think the reason I have that impression is I have some recollection of almost imperceptible like what am I going to do. But I don’t have a clear recollection of that of that. He didn’t say anything.

HARRIS: On that same February 14th meeting you said you understood the president to be requesting that you drop the investigation. After that meeting, however, you received two calls from the president March 30th and April 11th, where the president talked about cloud over his presidency. Has anything you’ve learned in the months since your February 14 meeting changed your understanding of the president’s request — ¶I guess that would be what he said in public documents or public interviews?

COMEY: Correct.

HARRIS: And is there anything about this investigation that you believe is in any way biased or, or is not being informed by a process of seeking the truth?

COMEY: No. The appointment of a special counsel should offer great — especially given who that person is, great comfort to Americans. No matter what your political affiliation is, that this will be done independently, confidently and honestly.

HARRIS: And do you believe he should have full authority, Mr. Mueller, to be able to pursue that investigation?

COMEY: Yes. And knowing him well, over the years, if there’s something that he thinks he needs, he will speak up about it.

HARRIS: Do you believe he should have full independence?

COMEY: Oh, yeah. And he wouldn’t be part of if he wasn’t going to get full Independence.

HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CORNYN: Mr. Comey I’ll repeat what I said in previous hearings that I believe you’re a good and decent man who has been dealt with a difficult hand starting back with the Clinton e-mail investigation. I appreciate you being here voluntarily to cooperation with the investigation. As a general matter, if an FBI agent has reason to believe that a crime has been committed, do they have a duty to report it?

COMEY: That’s a good question. I don’t know that there’s a legal duty to report it. They certainly have a cultural, ethical duty to report it.

CORNYN: You’re unsure whether they would have a legal duty?

COMEY: That’s a good question. I have not thought about that before. There’s a statute that prohibits the felony, knowing a felony and taking steps to conceal it but that’s a different question. Let me be clear, I would expect any FBI agent who has information about a crime to report it.

CORNYN: Me, too.

COMEY: But where you rest that obligation, I don’t know. It exists.

CORNYN: And let me suggest as a general proposition, if you’re trying to make an investigation go away, is firing an FBI director a good way to make that happen? By that, I mean —

COMEY: It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but I obviously am hopelessly biased given I was the one fired.

CORNYN: I understand it’s personal.

COMEY: Given the nature of the FBI, I meant what I said. For all the indispensable people in the world, including the FBI, there’s lots of bad things for me not being at the FBI, most of them for me, but the work is going to go on.

CORNYN: Nothing that you testified to as to today, has impeded the investigation of the FBI or director Mueller’s ability to get to the bottom of this?

COMEY: Correct. Especially, Director Mueller is a critical part of that equation.

CORNYN: Let me take you back to the Clinton e-mail investigation. I think you’ve been tanked agency a hero or a villain, depending on whose political ox is being gored at many different times during the court of the Clinton e-mail investigation, and even now perhaps.

But you clearly were troubled by the conduct of the sitting Attorney General Loretta Lynch when it came to the Clinton e-mail investigation. You mentioned the characterization that you’d been asked to accept. That this was a matter. And not a criminal investigation. Which you said it was. There was the matter of President Clinton’s meeting on the tarmac. With the sitting attorney general at the time when his wife was a subject to a criminal investigation. And you suggested that perhaps there are other matters that you may be able to share with us later on in a classified setting. But it seems to me that you clearly believe that Loretta Lynch, the attorney general, had an appearance of a conflict of interest on the Clinton e-mail investigation. Is that correct?

COMEY: That’s fair. I didn’t believe she could credibly decline that investigation. At least not without grievous damage to the Department of Justice and to the FBI.

CORNYN: And under Department of Justice and FBI norms, wouldn’t it have been appropriate for the attorney general, or if she had recused herself which she did not do for the deputy attorney general to appoint a special counsel. That’s essentially what’s happened with director Mueller. Would that have been an appropriate step?

COMEY: Certainly, yes, sir.

CORNYN: And were you aware Ms. Lynch had been requested numerous times to appoint a special counsel and had refused.

COMEY: Yes. From, I think, Congress had — members of congress had repeatedly asked, yes, sir.

CORNYN: Yours truly did on multiple occasions. And that heightened your concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest with the Department of Justice which caused you to make what you have described as an incorrectly painful decision to basically take the matter up yourself and led to that July press conference?

COMEY: Yes, sir. I ask — after President Clinton, former President Clinton met on the plane with the attorney general, I considered whether I should call for the appointment of a special counsel. And decided that would be an unfair thing to do because I knew there was no case there. We investigated it very, very thoroughly. I know this is a subject of passionate disagreement but I knew there was no case there. And calling for the appointment of special counsel would be brutally unfair because it would send the message, uh-huh, there’s something here. That’s my judgment. Lots of people have different views about it but that’s what I thought about it.

CORNYN: Well if a special counsel had been appointed they could have made that determination there was nothing there and declined to pursue it, right?

COMEY: Sure. But it would have been many months later or a year later.

CORNYN: Let me just you ask to — given the experience of the Clinton e-mail investigation and what happened there. Do you think it’s unreasonable for anyone, any president, who has been assured on multiple occasions that he’s not the subject of an FBI investigation, do you think it’s unreasonable for them to want the FBI director to publicly announce that, so that this cloud over his administration would be removed?

COMEY: I think that’s a reasonable point of view. The concern would be, obviously, because as that boomerang comes back it’s going to be a very big deal because there will be a duty to correct.

CORNYN: Well, we saw that in the Clinton e-mail investigation.

COMEY: Yes, I recall that.

CORNYN: I know you do. So, let me ask you, finally, in the minute we have left. There was this conversation back and forth about loyalty. And I think we all appreciate the fact that an FBI director is an unique public official in the sense he’s not — he’s a political appointee in one sense. But he has a duty of independence to pursue the law pursuant to the Constitution and laws of the United States. And so when the president asked you about loyalty, you got in this back and forth about, well, I’ll pledge you my honesty. Then it looks like from what I’ve read you agreed upon honest loyalty. Is that the characterization?

COMEY: Yes.

CORNYN: Thank you very much.

COMEY: Yes, sir.

Political Musings January 18, 2014: Obama defends NSA programs in speech offering reforms

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama defends NSA programs in speech offering reforms

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In a speech that Americans have been waiting more than six months for President Barack Obama announced changes to the National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance programs on Friday, Jan. 17, 2013. President Obama delivered his 45-minute speech at…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 17, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on National Security Agency’s NSA Surveillance Programs Reforms

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Discusses U.S. Intelligence Programs at the Department of Justice

Remarks by the President on Review of Signals Intelligence

Source: WH, 1-17-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on U.S. Intelligence Programs
January 17, 2014 3:28 PM

President Obama Speaks on U.S. Intelligence Programs

President Barack Obama delivers remarks presenting the outcome of the Administration's review of the NSA and U.S. signals intelligence programsPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks presenting the outcome of the Administration’s review of the NSA and U.S. signals intelligence programs, at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., Jan. 17, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Department of Justice
Washington, D.C.

11:15 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee borne out of the “The Sons of Liberty” was established in Boston.  And the group’s members included Paul Revere.  At night, they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early Patriots.

Throughout American history, intelligence has helped secure our country and our freedoms.  In the Civil War, Union balloon reconnaissance tracked the size of Confederate armies by counting the number of campfires.  In World War II, code-breakers gave us insights into Japanese war plans, and when Patton marched across Europe, intercepted communications helped save the lives of his troops.  After the war, the rise of the Iron Curtain and nuclear weapons only increased the need for sustained intelligence gathering.  And so, in the early days of the Cold War, President Truman created the National Security Agency, or NSA, to give us insights into the Soviet bloc, and provide our leaders with information they needed to confront aggression and avert catastrophe.

Throughout this evolution, we benefited from both our Constitution and our traditions of limited government.  U.S. intelligence agencies were anchored in a system of checks and balances — with oversight from elected leaders, and protections for ordinary citizens.  Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a cautionary tale of what could happen when vast, unchecked surveillance turned citizens into informers, and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their own homes.

In fact, even the United States proved not to be immune to the abuse of surveillance.  And in the 1960s, government spied on civil rights leaders and critics of the Vietnam War.  And partly in response to these revelations, additional laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens.  In the long, twilight struggle against Communism, we had been reminded that the very liberties that we sought to preserve could not be sacrificed at the altar of national security.

If the fall of the Soviet Union left America without a competing superpower, emerging threats from terrorist groups, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction placed new and in some ways more complicated demands on our intelligence agencies.  Globalization and the Internet made these threats more acute, as technology erased borders and empowered individuals to project great violence, as well as great good.  Moreover, these new threats raised new legal and new policy questions.  For while few doubted the legitimacy of spying on hostile states, our framework of laws was not fully adapted to prevent terrorist attacks by individuals acting on their own, or acting in small, ideologically driven groups on behalf of a foreign power.

The horror of September 11th brought all these issues to the fore.  Across the political spectrum, Americans recognized that we had to adapt to a world in which a bomb could be built in a basement, and our electric grid could be shut down by operators an ocean away.  We were shaken by the signs we had missed leading up to the attacks — how the hijackers had made phone calls to known extremists and traveled to suspicious places.  So we demanded that our intelligence community improve its capabilities, and that law enforcement change practices to focus more on preventing attacks before they happen than prosecuting terrorists after an attack.

It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to go through after 9/11.  Our agencies suddenly needed to do far more than the traditional mission of monitoring hostile powers and gathering information for policymakers.  Instead, they were now asked to identify and target plotters in some of the most remote parts of the world, and to anticipate the actions of networks that, by their very nature, cannot be easily penetrated with spies or informants.

And it is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of our intelligence community that over the past decade we’ve made enormous strides in fulfilling this mission.  Today, new capabilities allow intelligence agencies to track who a terrorist is in contact with, and follow the trail of his travel or his funding.  New laws allow information to be collected and shared more quickly and effectively between federal agencies, and state and local law enforcement.  Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded, and our capacity to repel cyber-attacks have been strengthened.  And taken together, these efforts have prevented multiple attacks and saved innocent lives — not just here in the United States, but around the globe.

And yet, in our rush to respond to a very real and novel set of threats, the risk of government overreach — the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security — also became more pronounced.  We saw, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, our government engaged in enhanced interrogation techniques that contradicted our values.  As a Senator, I was critical of several practices, such as warrantless wiretaps.  And all too often new authorities were instituted without adequate public debate.

Through a combination of action by the courts, increased congressional oversight, and adjustments by the previous administration, some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were curbed by the time I took office.  But a variety of factors have continued to complicate America’s efforts to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties.

First, the same technological advances that allow U.S. intelligence agencies to pinpoint an al Qaeda cell in Yemen or an email between two terrorists in the Sahel also mean that many routine communications around the world are within our reach.  And at a time when more and more of our lives are digital, that prospect is disquieting for all of us.

Second, the combination of increased digital information and powerful supercomputers offers intelligence agencies the possibility of sifting through massive amounts of bulk data to identify patterns or pursue leads that may thwart impending threats.  It’s a powerful tool.  But the government collection and storage of such bulk data also creates a potential for abuse.

Third, the legal safeguards that restrict surveillance against U.S. persons without a warrant do not apply to foreign persons overseas.  This is not unique to America; few, if any, spy agencies around the world constrain their activities beyond their own borders.  And the whole point of intelligence is to obtain information that is not publicly available.  But America’s capabilities are unique, and the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do.  That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do.

And finally, intelligence agencies cannot function without secrecy, which makes their work less subject to public debate.  Yet there is an inevitable bias not only within the intelligence community, but among all of us who are responsible for national security, to collect more information about the world, not less.  So in the absence of institutional requirements for regular debate — and oversight that is public, as well as private or classified — the danger of government overreach becomes more acute.  And this is particularly true when surveillance technology and our reliance on digital information is evolving much faster than our laws.

For all these reasons, I maintained a healthy skepticism toward our surveillance programs after I became President.  I ordered that our programs be reviewed by my national security team and our lawyers, and in some cases I ordered changes in how we did business.  We increased oversight and auditing, including new structures aimed at compliance.  Improved rules were proposed by the government and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  And we sought to keep Congress continually updated on these activities.

What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale — not only because I felt that they made us more secure, but also because nothing in that initial review, and nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.

To the contrary, in an extraordinarily difficult job — one in which actions are second-guessed, success is unreported, and failure can be catastrophic — the men and women of the intelligence community, including the NSA, consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people.  They’re not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls or read your emails.  When mistakes are made — which is inevitable in any large and complicated human enterprise — they correct those mistakes.  Laboring in obscurity, often unable to discuss their work even with family and friends, the men and women at the NSA know that if another 9/11 or massive cyber-attack occurs, they will be asked, by Congress and the media, why they failed to connect the dots.  What sustains those who work at NSA and our other intelligence agencies through all these pressures is the knowledge that their professionalism and dedication play a central role in the defense of our nation.

Now, to say that our intelligence community follows the law, and is staffed by patriots, is not to suggest that I or others in my administration felt complacent about the potential impact of these programs.  Those of us who hold office in America have a responsibility to our Constitution, and while I was confident in the integrity of those who lead our intelligence community, it was clear to me in observing our intelligence operations on a regular basis that changes in our technological capabilities were raising new questions about the privacy safeguards currently in place.

Moreover, after an extended review of our use of drones in the fight against terrorist networks, I believed a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our effort to get off the open-ended war footing that we’ve maintained since 9/11.  And for these reasons, I indicated in a speech at the National Defense University last May that we needed a more robust public discussion about the balance between security and liberty.  Of course, what I did not know at the time is that within weeks of my speech, an avalanche of unauthorized disclosures would spark controversies at home and abroad that have continued to this day.

And given the fact of an open investigation, I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations; I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets.  If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy.  Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come.

Regardless of how we got here, though, the task before us now is greater than simply repairing the damage done to our operations or preventing more disclosures from taking place in the future.  Instead, we have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world, while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections that our ideals and our Constitution require.  We need to do so not only because it is right, but because the challenges posed by threats like terrorism and proliferation and cyber-attacks are not going away any time soon.  They are going to continue to be a major problem.  And for our intelligence community to be effective over the long haul, we must maintain the trust of the American people, and people around the world.

This effort will not be completed overnight, and given the pace of technological change, we shouldn’t expect this to be the last time America has this debate.  But I want the American people to know that the work has begun.  Over the last six months, I created an outside Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies to make recommendations for reform.  I consulted with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by Congress.  I’ve listened to foreign partners, privacy advocates, and industry leaders.  My administration has spent countless hours considering how to approach intelligence in this era of diffuse threats and technological revolution.  So before outlining specific changes that I’ve ordered, let me make a few broad observations that have emerged from this process.

First, everyone who has looked at these problems, including skeptics of existing programs, recognizes that we have real enemies and threats, and that intelligence serves a vital role in confronting them.  We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyber threats without some capability to penetrate digital communications — whether it’s to unravel a terrorist plot; to intercept malware that targets a stock exchange; to make sure air traffic control systems are not compromised; or to ensure that hackers do not empty your bank accounts.  We are expected to protect the American people; that requires us to have capabilities in this field.

Moreover, we cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies.  There is a reason why BlackBerrys and iPhones are not allowed in the White House Situation Room.  We know that the intelligence services of other countries — including some who feign surprise over the Snowden disclosures — are constantly probing our government and private sector networks, and accelerating programs to listen to our conversations, and intercept our emails, and compromise our systems.  We know that.

Meanwhile, a number of countries, including some who have loudly criticized the NSA, privately acknowledge that America has special responsibilities as the world’s only superpower; that our intelligence capabilities are critical to meeting these responsibilities, and that they themselves have relied on the information we obtain to protect their own people.

Second, just as ardent civil libertarians recognize the need for robust intelligence capabilities, those with responsibilities for our national security readily acknowledge the potential for abuse as intelligence capabilities advance and more and more private information is digitized.  After all, the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies are our neighbors.  They’re our friends and family.  They’ve got electronic bank and medical records like everybody else.  They have kids on Facebook and Instagram, and they know, more than most of us, the vulnerabilities to privacy that exist in a world where transactions are recorded, and emails and text and messages are stored, and even our movements can increasingly be tracked through the GPS on our phones.

Third, there was a recognition by all who participated in these reviews that the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone.  Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes; that’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically.  But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher.  Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say:  Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect.  For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached.  Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.

I make these observations to underscore that the basic values of most Americans when it comes to questions of surveillance and privacy converge a lot more than the crude characterizations that have emerged over the last several months.  Those who are troubled by our existing programs are not interested in repeating the tragedy of 9/11, and those who defend these programs are not dismissive of civil liberties.

The challenge is getting the details right, and that is not simple.  In fact, during the course of our review, I have often reminded myself I would not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents like Dr. King, who were spied upon by their own government.  And as President, a President who looks at intelligence every morning, I also can’t help but be reminded that America must be vigilant in the face of threats.

Fortunately, by focusing on facts and specifics rather than speculation and hypotheticals, this review process has given me — and hopefully the American people — some clear direction for change.  And today, I can announce a series of concrete and substantial reforms that my administration intends to adopt administratively or will seek to codify with Congress.

First, I have approved a new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities both at home and abroad.  This guidance will strengthen executive branch oversight of our intelligence activities.  It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances; our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of American companies; and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties.  And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by my senior national security team.

Second, we will reform programs and procedures in place to provide greater transparency to our surveillance activities, and fortify the safeguards that protect the privacy of U.S. persons.  Since we began this review, including information being released today, we have declassified over 40 opinions and orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which provides judicial review of some of our most sensitive intelligence activities — including the Section 702 program targeting foreign individuals overseas, and the Section 215 telephone metadata program.

And going forward, I’m directing the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Attorney General, to annually review for the purposes of declassification any future opinions of the court with broad privacy implications, and to report to me and to Congress on these efforts.  To ensure that the court hears a broader range of privacy perspectives, I am also calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from outside government to provide an independent voice in significant cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Third, we will provide additional protections for activities conducted under Section 702, which allows the government to intercept the communications of foreign targets overseas who have information that’s important for our national security.  Specifically, I am asking the Attorney General and DNI to institute reforms that place additional restrictions on government’s ability to retain, search, and use in criminal cases communications between Americans and foreign citizens incidentally collected under Section 702.

Fourth, in investigating threats, the FBI also relies on what’s called national security letters, which can require companies to provide specific and limited information to the government without disclosing the orders to the subject of the investigation.  These are cases in which it’s important that the subject of the investigation, such as a possible terrorist or spy, isn’t tipped off.  But we can and should be more transparent in how government uses this authority.

I have therefore directed the Attorney General to amend how we use national security letters so that this secrecy will not be indefinite, so that it will terminate within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy.  We will also enable communications providers to make public more information than ever before about the orders that they have received to provide data to the government.

This brings me to the program that has generated the most controversy these past few months — the bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215.  Let me repeat what I said when this story first broke:  This program does not involve the content of phone calls, or the names of people making calls.  Instead, it provides a record of phone numbers and the times and lengths of calls — metadata that can be queried if and when we have a reasonable suspicion that a particular number is linked to a terrorist organization.

Why is this necessary?  The program grew out of a desire to address a gap identified after 9/11.  One of the 9/11 hijackers — Khalid al-Mihdhar — made a phone call from San Diego to a known al Qaeda safe-house in Yemen.  NSA saw that call, but it could not see that the call was coming from an individual already in the United States.  The telephone metadata program under Section 215 was designed to map the communications of terrorists so we can see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible.  And this capability could also prove valuable in a crisis.  For example, if a bomb goes off in one of our cities and law enforcement is racing to determine whether a network is poised to conduct additional attacks, time is of the essence.  Being able to quickly review phone connections to assess whether a network exists is critical to that effort.

In sum, the program does not involve the NSA examining the phone records of ordinary Americans.  Rather, it consolidates these records into a database that the government can query if it has a specific lead — a consolidation of phone records that the companies already retained for business purposes.  The review group turned up no indication that this database has been intentionally abused.  And I believe it is important that the capability that this program is designed to meet is preserved.

Having said that, I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives, and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs in the future.  They’re also right to point out that although the telephone bulk collection program was subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and has been reauthorized repeatedly by Congress, it has never been subject to vigorous public debate.

For all these reasons, I believe we need a new approach.  I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists, and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.

This will not be simple.  The review group recommended that our current approach be replaced by one in which the providers or a third party retain the bulk records, with government accessing information as needed.  Both of these options pose difficult problems.  Relying solely on the records of multiple providers, for example, could require companies to alter their procedures in ways that raise new privacy concerns.  On the other hand, any third party maintaining a single, consolidated database would be carrying out what is essentially a government function but with more expense, more legal ambiguity, potentially less accountability — all of which would have a doubtful impact on increasing public confidence that their privacy is being protected.

During the review process, some suggested that we may also be able to preserve the capabilities we need through a combination of existing authorities, better information sharing, and recent technological advances.  But more work needs to be done to determine exactly how this system might work.

Because of the challenges involved, I’ve ordered that the transition away from the existing program will proceed in two steps.  Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of the current three.  And I have directed the Attorney General to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court so that during this transition period, the database can be queried only after a judicial finding or in the case of a true emergency.

Next, step two, I have instructed the intelligence community and the Attorney General to use this transition period to develop options for a new approach that can match the capabilities and fill the gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address without the government holding this metadata itself.  They will report back to me with options for alternative approaches before the program comes up for reauthorization on March 28th.  And during this period, I will consult with the relevant committees in Congress to seek their views, and then seek congressional authorization for the new program as needed.

Now, the reforms I’m proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe.  And I recognize that there are additional issues that require further debate.  For example, some who participated in our review, as well as some members of Congress, would like to see more sweeping reforms to the use of national security letters so that we have to go to a judge each time before issuing these requests.  Here, I have concerns that we should not set a standard for terrorism investigations that is higher than those involved in investigating an ordinary crime.  But I agree that greater oversight on the use of these letters may be appropriate, and I’m prepared to work with Congress on this issue.

There are also those who would like to see different changes to the FISA Court than the ones I’ve proposed.  On all these issues, I am open to working with Congress to ensure that we build a broad consensus for how to move forward, and I’m confident that we can shape an approach that meets our security needs while upholding the civil liberties of every American.

Let me now turn to the separate set of concerns that have been raised overseas, and focus on America’s approach to intelligence collection abroad.  As I’ve indicated, the United States has unique responsibilities when it comes to intelligence collection.  Our capabilities help protect not only our nation, but our friends and our allies, as well.  But our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy, too.  And the leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to know what they think about an issue, I’ll pick up the phone and call them, rather than turning to surveillance.  In other words, just as we balance security and privacy at home, our global leadership demands that we balance our security requirements against our need to maintain the trust and cooperation among people and leaders around the world.

For that reason, the new presidential directive that I’ve issued today will clearly prescribe what we do, and do not do, when it comes to our overseas surveillance.  To begin with, the directive makes clear that the United States only uses signals intelligence for legitimate national security purposes, and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the emails or phone calls of ordinary folks.  I’ve also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity, or race, or gender, or sexual orientation, or religious beliefs.  We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies or U.S. commercial sectors.

And in terms of our bulk collection of signals intelligence, U.S. intelligence agencies will only use such data to meet specific security requirements:  counterintelligence, counterterrorism, counter-proliferation, cybersecurity, force protection for our troops and our allies, and combating transnational crime, including sanctions evasion.

In this directive, I have taken the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people to people overseas.  I’ve directed the DNI, in consultation with the Attorney General, to develop these safeguards, which will limit the duration that we can hold personal information, while also restricting the use of this information.

The bottom line is that people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security, and that we take their privacy concerns into account in our policies and procedures.  This applies to foreign leaders as well.  Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, I have made clear to the intelligence community that unless there is a compelling national security purpose, we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.  And I’ve instructed my national security team, as well as the intelligence community, to work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation in ways that rebuild trust going forward.

Now let me be clear:  Our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments — as opposed to ordinary citizens — around the world, in the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation does.  We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective.  But heads of state and government with whom we work closely, and on whose cooperation we depend, should feel confident that we are treating them as real partners.  And the changes I’ve ordered do just that.

Finally, to make sure that we follow through on all these reforms, I am making some important changes to how our government is organized.  The State Department will designate a senior officer to coordinate our diplomacy on issues related to technology and signals intelligence.  We will appoint a senior official at the White House to implement the new privacy safeguards that I have announced today.  I will devote the resources to centralize and improve the process we use to handle foreign requests for legal assistance, keeping our high standards for privacy while helping foreign partners fight crime and terrorism.

I have also asked my counselor, John Podesta, to lead a comprehensive review of big data and privacy.  And this group will consist of government officials who, along with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, will reach out to privacy experts, technologists and business leaders, and look how the challenges inherent in big data are being confronted by both the public and private sectors; whether we can forge international norms on how to manage this data; and how we can continue to promote the free flow of information in ways that are consistent with both privacy and security.

For ultimately, what’s at stake in this debate goes far beyond a few months of headlines, or passing tensions in our foreign policy.  When you cut through the noise, what’s really at stake is how we remain true to who we are in a world that is remaking itself at dizzying speed.  Whether it’s the ability of individuals to communicate ideas; to access information that would have once filled every great library in every country in the world; or to forge bonds with people on other sides of the globe, technology is remaking what is possible for individuals, and for institutions, and for the international order.  So while the reforms that I have announced will point us in a new direction, I am mindful that more work will be needed in the future.

One thing I’m certain of:  This debate will make us stronger.  And I also know that in this time of change, the United States of America will have to lead.  It may seem sometimes that America is being held to a different standard.  And I’ll admit the readiness of some to assume the worst motives by our government can be frustrating.  No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs, or Russia to take privacy concerns of citizens in other places into account.  But let’s remember:  We are held to a different standard precisely because we have been at the forefront of defending personal privacy and human dignity.

As the nation that developed the Internet, the world expects us to ensure that the digital revolution works as a tool for individual empowerment, not government control.  Having faced down the dangers of totalitarianism and fascism and communism, the world expects us to stand up for the principle that every person has the right to think and write and form relationships freely — because individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress.

Those values make us who we are.  And because of the strength of our own democracy, we should not shy away from high expectations.  For more than two centuries, our Constitution has weathered every type of change because we have been willing to defend it, and because we have been willing to question the actions that have been taken in its defense.  Today is no different.  I believe we can meet high expectations.  Together, let us chart a way forward that secures the life of our nation while preserving the liberties that make our nation worth fighting for.

Thank you.  God bless you.  May God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:57 A.M. EST

Political Headlines August 9, 2013: Live Blog: President Barack Obama’s Pre-Vacation Press Conference on NSA Surveillance & Patriot Act Reforms

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Live Blog: President Barack Obama’s Pre-Vacation Press Conference

Play video

LIVE VIDEO  President Obama holds a news conference.

President Obama plans to announce efforts to “restore public trust” in surveillance programs that have sparked deep concern after leaks by Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor, a senior official said Friday….READ MORE

Live Updates: Obama Addresses Surveillance in News Conference

Source: NYT, 8-9-13

Highlights and analysis as President Obama takes questions from the news media on Friday afternoon….READ MORE

Political Transcripts August 9, 2013: Obama Administration White Paper Legal Rationale for NSA Data Surveillance

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

The Legal Rationale for Surveillance

Source: NYT, 8-9-13

The Obama administration on Friday released documents related to the legal basis for surveillance efforts. The document, the first of two expected, below is the Justice Department’s legal memorandum explaining why the government believes it is lawful under a provision of the Patriot Act known as Section 215 for the National Security Agency Justice Department to collect and store logs of every phone call dialed or received in the United States….Related Article »

Political Headlines July 24, 2013: House of Representatives Defeats Effort to Limit NSA Data Gathering in a Vote of 217-205

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

House Defeats Effort to Rein In N.S.A. Data Gathering

Source: NYT, 7-24-13

The 217-205 vote was far closer than expected and displayed the shifting allegiances and fierce lobbying on both sides of the issue….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency July 17, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Confirmation of Richard Cordray as Director for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Confirmation of Richard Cordray as Director for CFPB

Source:  WH, 7-17-13

State Dining Room

11:04 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, for decades, the middle class in this country was the engine that powered the economy, and that allowed us to all grow together.  Hard work paid off.  Responsibility was rewarded.  It was that basic bargain that made this country great — that no matter who you are or where you came from, you could make it if you put in enough blood, sweat and tears.

But over time, a winner-take-all philosophy began to take hold and it delivered huge rewards to those at the very top, but left everybody else working harder and harder just to stay afloat.  A lot of families took on more debt just to keep up.  Mortgages were sold that people really didn’t understand and, in some cases, couldn’t afford.  The financial sector was able to make huge bets with other people’s money.  And that strain of irresponsibility eventually came crashing down on all of us.

Now, I ran for President to restore that basic bargain.  I ran because I believed that our economy works best not from the top down, but from the middle out and from the bottom up, where you’ve got a rising, thriving middle class and ladders of opportunity for everybody.

So four years ago, even as we were working on restoring the economy and dealing with the immediate crisis, we also wanted to figure out how do we set new rules for the road to make sure that a few bad apples in the financial sector couldn’t break the law, or cheat consumers, or put the entire economy at risk.

And I was fortunate even when I was running for President to have some friends like Elizabeth Warren, who had already done a lot of academic work on this and had a whole series of ideas about how we might start making sure that consumers were treated better, and as a consequence, take some of the risk out of the system.  And because of those conversations and that work, and because of some terrific efforts by other members in Congress, we were able, for the time in history, to get a consumer watchdog on the job — to look out for the interests of everyday Americans.  And I am very proud to say that last night, Rich Cordray was finally confirmed — (laughter) — by the United States Senate to keep serving as America’s consumer watchdog and as the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  So we’re very pleased about that.  (Applause.)

I first nominated Rich for this position two years ago this week.  (Laughter.)  He was eminently qualified.  He had the support of Democrats and Republicans from across the country.  A majority of state attorneys general from both parties — Rich’s former colleagues — called on him to be confirmed.  And for two years, Republicans in the Senate refused to give Rich a simple yes-or-no vote — not because they didn’t think he was the right person for the job, but because they didn’t like the law that set up the consumer watchdog in the first place.

But without a director in place, the CFPB would have been severely hampered.  And the CFPB wasn’t able to give consumers the information they needed to make good, informed decisions.  Folks in the financial system who were doing the right thing didn’t have much certainty or clear rules of the road.  And the CFPB didn’t have all the tools it needed to protect consumers against mortgage brokers, or credit reporting agencies, or debt collectors who were taking advantage of ordinary Americans.

As a consequence, last year, I took steps on my own to temporarily appoint Richard so he could get to work on their behalf.  And Americans everywhere are better off because he did. And thanks to not only Rich, but his terrific team — I know many are represented here — we’ve made real strides, even despite the fact that the agency was hampered by the confirmation process.

And I would argue that part of the reason we were able to finally get Rich confirmed today is because he’s shown through his leadership and because of the very hard work that everybody at the CFPB has already done that this is making a difference in the lives of the American people — a positive difference day in, day out.  It’s hard to argue with success.

So, yesterday, Richard was officially confirmed.  I want to thank Senators from both parties, including Senator Reid, Senator McConnell, Senator McCain, for coming together to help get Rich confirmed.  And obviously, Elizabeth, who wasn’t a senator when she thought this up, but is now a senator — she was poking and prodding people for a long time — (laughter) — to help make it happen.

Senator Reid’s leadership, in particular, was obviously instrumental in getting this done, and I couldn’t be more grateful to him.

And together, we’re giving Americans a guarantee that the protections they enjoy today will still be around next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and for years to come.

While we’re on the topic of nominations, I also want to thank the Senate for agreeing to give my other nominees who’ve waited far too long the votes that they deserve.  These are all highly qualified men and women who are just ready to go to work for the American people — for students and for seniors, for veterans, for middle-class families.  Special interests, they’ll always have their lobbyists.  They’ll always have the capacity to tilt the system in their favor.  But middle-class folks deserve leaders who are going to stand up for them as well on a day-to-day basis, in the trenches.

So let me use this opportunity to remind people of what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Rich’s leadership can do and has done already, even in some difficult circumstances.

Today, if you want to take out a mortgage or a student loan or a payday loan, or you’ve got a credit reporting agency or debt collector who’s causing you problems — maybe they’re not playing by the rules, maybe they’re taking advantage of you — you have somewhere to go.  The CFPB has already addressed more than 175,000 complaints from all across the nation, giving people an advocate who is working with them when they’re dealing with these financial institutions that may not always be thinking about consumers first.

Today, as part of the CFPB’s “Know Before You Owe” efforts, students and their parents can get a simple report with the information they need before taking out student loans.  And more than 700 colleges have joined to make this information clear and transparent.   It’s making a difference.

And by the way, if you’ve noticed that some credit card forms are becoming easier to understand than they used to be, that’s because of the work of Rich’s team and other folks across this administration have done to make sure that people understand the kinds of debts that they’re taking on through their credit cards.

Today, veterans have access to tools that they need to defend against dishonest lenders and mortgage brokers who try to prey on them when they come home from serving their country.  Today seniors are better protected from someone who sees their homes or their retirement savings as an easy target for get-rich-quick schemes.

And thanks to the hard work of folks at the CFPB, so far    6 million Americans have gotten more than $400 million in refunds from companies that engaged in unscrupulous practices.

So this is not just some abstract, theoretical exercise.  Families, many of them hard-pressed, have money in their pockets, maybe, in some cases, saved a home or were able to send their kids to college, because of the work that Rich and his team is doing right now.  And that’s money that oftentimes families didn’t have the power to recover before.

So Americans are better off because of what Rich has done as our consumer watchdog and his outstanding team is doing each and every day.  And, by the way, that’s just the tangible benefits that we know of, that $400 million in refunds.  But part of what happens is when you’ve got a watchdog, people don’t try as many things.  And everybody starts tightening up their practices because they know somebody is watching.  And so that has ripple effects throughout our economy.

So Americans everywhere are better off because of the work that these folks have done.  And now that Rich has gotten the yes-or-no vote he deserved, businesses and consumers have more certainty than they did before that this will continue.

So we’ve come a long way over the last four and a half years.  Our economy is growing.  Our businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs over the past 40 months.  We’ve locked in new safeguards to protect against another crisis, and we are making sure that we are doing everything we can to change the incentives inside the financial system and try to end tax-funded — taxpayer-funded bailouts for good.  And even though more work remains, our system is fairer and it’s more sound than it was when the crisis hit.

Of course, we’ve still got a long way to go to restore that basic bargain, to restore that sense of security that too many middle-class families still are fighting to rebuild.  But if we just keep letting people like Rich do their jobs, if we let all these incredible young people know that you’re going to keep on going for a long time, you’re building something that will last beyond our government’s service and we’ll be providing protections for generations to come — and if we keep focused on that North Star — a rising, thriving middle class, an economy where prosperity is broad-based — then I’m confident that we’re ultimately going to get to where we need to go.

So I want to thank everybody.  And I just want to give Rich a quick chance to say something.  (Applause.)

MR. CORDRAY:  Thank you.  I want to thank the President — this President, in particular, who has believed in us from the beginning.  I want to thank the Senate and the senators for the chance to persevere and be confirmed as the director of this Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  All I ever asked for, all I ever worked for was to have a chance to have an up-or-down vote on the merits, and I thank them for that.

For nearly two years, as the President indicated, we have been focused on making consumer finance markets work better for the American people.  Today’s action — the action — I was sworn in by the Vice President this morning, and the Senate confirmation — means that there will be certainty for those markets and for the industries we oversee.

For me, it also reaffirms that our central responsibility is to stand on the side of consumers and see that they’re treated fairly, just as the President described it.  It’s something that people deserve.  It’s something that they want and need.  And we’re there to try to provide it.

We will continue that essential work and each one of us — those of us here and those of us in Washington and around the country who work for this new Consumer Bureau, including most especially myself — we’re grateful for the opportunity that you’ve given us to serve our country in this important way.

Thank you.  Thank you, sir.  (Applause.)

END
11:16 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines June 19, 2013: FBI Director Robert Mueller Reveals US Drone Program During NSA Testimony

FBI Chief Reveals US Drone Program

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-19-13

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The FBI does fly spy drones over the U.S. FBI Director Robert Mueller made that admission before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday during his testimony about the National Security Agency surveillance programs.

According to Mueller, the FBI deploys these unmanned planes in “a very minimal way and very seldom” and his bureau is working to develop guidelines for their future use so as to relieve concerns of privacy advocates and civil liberties groups….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 18, 2013: NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander: ‘Over 50’ Terror Plots Foiled by Data Dragnets

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

‘Over 50’ Terror Plots Foiled by Data Dragnets, NSA Director Says

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-18-13

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The director of the National Security Administration on Tuesday told Congress “In recent years, these programs, together with other intelligence, have protected the U.S. and our allies from terrorist threats across the globe to include helping prevent the potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11.”

The attacks on would-be targets such as the New York Stock Exchange were prevented by caching telephone metadata and Internet information, including from millions of Americans since Sept. 11, 2001, Gen. Keith Alexander said during a hearing at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence….READ MORE

Legal Buzz June 18, 2013: Google challenges US gag order, citing First Amendment

LEGAL BUZZ

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS

Google challenges US gag order, citing First Amendment

Source: Washington Post, 6-18-13

Google asked the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Tuesday to ease long-standing gag orders over data requests it makes, arguing that the company has a constitutional right to speak about information it’s forced to give the government….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 18, 2013: President Barack Obama: Says NSA Spying Programs ‘Transparent’ in Charlie Rose Interview

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama: NSA Spying Programs ‘Transparent’

Source: ABC News Radio,6-18-13

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Video of the Interview on Charlie Rose

President Obama said in an interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose on Sunday:

“It is transparent,” Obama said in the interview, broadcast Monday night. “What I’ve asked the intelligence community to do is see how much of this we can declassify without further compromising the program, No. 1,” Obama said. “And they are in that process of doing so now so that everything that I’m describing to you today, people, the public, newspapers, etc., can look at – because, frankly, if people are making judgments just based on these slides that have been leaked, they’re not getting the complete story.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines June 12, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry Defends NSA Program, ‘Welcomes’ Dept. Scrutiny

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Secretary Kerry Defends NSA Program, ‘Welcomes’ Dept. Scrutiny

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-12-13

State Department photo/ Public Domain

At a joint press conference Wednesday with United Kingdom Foreign Secretary William Hague, Secretary of State John Kerry defended the National Security Agency, saying that Congress understands the program, passed it and voted for it several times. He also said the judiciary branch has also reviewed it and the program and has been actively engaged.

“This is a three-branch-of-government effort to keep America safe. And in fact, it has not read emails or looked at or listened to conversations, and — the exception of where a court may have made some decision, which was predicated on appropriate evidence,” said Kerry….READ MORE

Political Musings June 12, 2013: National Security Agency’s dragnet classified data collection: National security necessity or Orwellian proportion privacy invasion?

POLITICAL MUSINGS

Pol_Musings

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

National Security Agency’s dragnet classified data collection: National security necessity or Orwellian proportion privacy invasion?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program.

The Obama Administration can add a fourth burgeoning scandal to their second term woes. Last Wednesday June 5, 2013, the Washington Post and the London, UK paper the Guardian revealed the National Security Agency (NSA) along with FBI had been the monitoring all phone and internet records in the United States. The story took an added twist on Sunday, June 9 when Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor responsible for leaking documents from the surveillance program to the press came forward. Now the focus is on two fronts, the violations of rights to privacy in exchange for national security, and the legal fate of the whistleblower.

When the story broke, news headlines first focused on Verizon releasing information relating to all their customers landline and mobile phone calls because of a special and secretive court order.  The data collection focuses on the metadata; telephone numbers, call lengths, locations, and call frequency for all calls within the country and calls abroad dialed within the United States. There have been repeated assurances that the phone calls themselves were not recorded. However, the public was soon informed that the government’s collection was far broader and included internet and social media sites including Yahoo, Google and Facebook.

The administration has justified the data surveillance by stating it is important to national security and has thwarted terrorist attacks in the past. A White House official speaking to ABC News stated the program was “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States,” but complies “with the Constitution and laws of the United States and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties.”

The government position is that this revelation to the general public would hinder their ability to protect the public from terrorism.  Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper released a statement which an excerpt read “The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.”

President Barack Obama speaking in California on Friday, June 7 attempted to reassure the public that their phone calls were not being recorded, “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls. They are not looking at people’s names, and they’re not looking at content.  But by sifting through this so-called metadata, they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism,” Obama said.

The phone and internet surveillance program known as PRISM has popular support in Congress and there seems there might not be grand scale opposition in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Chair of the Intelligence Committee Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA stated that the records collection was a part of the 2001 Patriot Act and said “It’s called protecting America…. I understand privacy…. we want to protect people’s private rights and that is why this is carefully done.”

President Obamas also made it clear on Friday that although the program was a secret to the public, but there was bipartisan support and knowledge of the data collection program from Congress. “The programs that have been discussed over the last couple days in the press are secret in the sense that they’re classified, but they’re not secret in the sense that when it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program,” Obama stated.  The President continued “The relevant intelligence committees are fully briefed on these programs.  These are programs that have been authorized by broad, bipartisan majorities repeatedly since 2006.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner, a Republican agreed with Obama in an interview on Tuesday morning, June 11with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “He’s a traitor,” Boehner declared about Snowden’s press leak. Boehner continued; “The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk.  It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are.  And it’s a giant violation of the law.”

Americans and human rights activists are left pondering can the widespread invasion of privacy sacrificed by the government be justified even for national security, even to prevent a widespread and catastrophic terror attack? The answer was no to Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked the documents on the PRISM program on the widespread data collection and privacy intrusion.

Snowden first contacted the media in January getting the wheels in motions for the big reveal. Living and working in Hawaii, Snowden took sick leave from his job and then left for Hong Kong, where he was staying at the time the leaks about the NSA was made public last week up until the disclosure Sunday, June 9 that he was the whistleblower.

In his interview with the Guardian Snowden claimed; “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”

As the US government looks into charging Snowden, he has been fired from his contracting job at Booz Allen, and the conversation has veered to countries that would give him asylum. Snowden supporters have created a petition on the White House’s We the People web site stating that “Edward Snowden is a national hero”  and are asking that there be a “full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed.” As of late Tuesday night, June 11 there are 58,299 signatures, with 41,701 needed for the 100,000 required for a review.

Human rights groups are standing firmly against the data collection, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the data collection program Orwellian. On Tuesday the ACLU filed a suit in federal court against the Obama Administration challenging the constitutionality of the data collection program.

If there is partisan support for the program there is also bipartisan opposition, former Vice President Al Gore a Democrat, wrote on Twitter “In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?” While a Republican and Libertarian in Congress such as Senator Rand Paul said it “represents an outrageous abuse of power.”  “It is an extraordinary invasion of privacy…. I also believe that trolling through millions of phone records hampers the legitimate protection of our security,” Paul said on Fox News.

Despite the so-called broad bipartisan support, two bills have been introduced to curb data collection since details of the NSA programs appeared in the media. On Friday June 7, Senator Paul introduced a bill; the Fourth Amendment Restoration Act, which would make it necessary to obtain a warrant prior to a data search. On Tuesday June 11, eight senators in a bipartisan effort introduced a bill to end and declassify secretive data collection laws. The heavily democratic supported bill has among its ranks Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Republicans Mike Lee, Utah and Dean Heller, Nev.

At this time the public opinions seems more unclear, two conflicting polls released on Monday, June 10 from the Washington Post-Pew Research Center and Tuesday, June 11 from CBS News.

The Washington Post-Pew Research Center seems to find Americans looking favorably on the data collection. According to the poll 56 percent find it “acceptable,” and 41 percent find it “unacceptable” for the government to monitor phone data. When it came to expanding government monitoring internet activity the results differed; 52 percent did not believe it should be expanded versus 45 percent who support collection expansion.

According the CBS News poll 6 in 10 disapproved of the phone data collection program, however Americans strongly approve by three-quarters that terrorist suspects should be monitored and the internet data of foreigners. Still 53 to 40 percent believe this program helps discover terrorists.

Whatever the political fallout will be for the Obama administration and the legal outcome for Snowden there is no doubt that Snowden will be put down among the ranks of the major whistleblowers in American history.

Full Text Political Transcripts June 11, 2013: House Speaker John Boehner’s Interview with George Stephanopoulos on NSA Leak, Immigration Reform And More on ABC News’ Good Morning America — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Transcript: Exclusive Interview With House Speaker John Boehner on NSA Leak, Immigration Reform And More

Source: ABC News, 6-11-13

RELATED: John Boehner Talks NSA Leaks, IRS Scandal and Immigration With George Stephanopoulos

PHOTO: George Stephanopoulos interviews House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in New York, June 10, 2013.

George Stephanopoulos interviews House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in New York, June 10, 2013. (ABC News)

House Speaker John Boehner sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” to discuss the NSA leak, immigration reform, the IRS scandal and much more.

Here is the full transcript of the interview:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Speaker, thank you for doin’ this. Let’s talk first about these– revelations about the National Security Agency. Edward Snowden has come forward, said he brought the documents into the public eye. His supporters say he’s– a whistle-blowing patriot. His critics say he’s betrayed the country, broken the law. Where do you stand?

JOHN BOEHNER: He’s a traitor. The president outlined last week that these were important national security programs to help keep Americans safe, and give us tools– to fight the terrorist threat th– that we face. The president also outlined that there are appropriate safeguards in place– to make sure that– there’s– there’s no– snooping, if you will– on Americans– here at home. But– the disclosure of this information– puts Americans at risk. It shows– our adversaries what our capabilities are. And– it’s a giant violation of the law….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 10, 2013: NSA Leaker Edward Snowden a ‘National Hero’ on White House Petition

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

NSA Leaker a ‘National Hero’ on White House Petition

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-10-13

petitions.whitehouse.gov

Within hours of Edward Snowden’s revealing that he was the source of the National Security Agency surveillance leak last week, thousands of people had signed a petition on the White House website asking for a “full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed.”….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 10, 2013: Edward Snowden Claims to Be Source of Leaked NSA Documents

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Edward Snowden Claims to Be Source of Leaked NSA Documents

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-10-13

The Guardian via Getty Images

The source of a series of top secret leaks from the National Security Agency has stepped out of the shadows and identified himself as ex-CIA technical assistant Edward Snowden, saying he was standing up against the U.S. government’s “horrifying” surveillance capabilities.

“I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded,” the 29-year-old told the British newspaper The Guardian, which broke the news in a series of headline-grabbing articles on NSA surveillance late last week.  “That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines June 7, 2013: Senator Rand Paul Bill Would Curb NSA on Phone Records Surveillance

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Rand Paul Bill Would Curb NSA on Phone Records

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-7-13

United States Senate

Responding to the recent disclosure that the federal government has secretly obtained the phone records of millions of Americans, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced legislation Friday to require agencies to obtain a warrant before searching such data.

The “Fourth Amendment Restoration Act,” which can be read in full here, is designed “to stop the National Security Agency from spying on citizens of the United States and for other purposes” and would require a warrant with probable cause before government investigators could proceed with a search.

In a statement the senator said the revelation “represents an outrageous abuse of power.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines June 7, 2013: President Barack Obama Calls Surveillance Programs Legal and Limited — ‘Nobody Is Listening to Your Telephone Calls’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama: ‘Nobody Is Listening to Your Telephone Calls’

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-7-13

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” the president told reporters in his first public comments since the programs were disclosed.

“They are not looking at people’s names, and they’re not looking at content.  But by sifting through this so-called metadata, they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism,” he said….READ MORE

Obama Calls Surveillance Programs Legal and Limited

Source: NYT, 6-7-13

President Obama on Friday defended government efforts to gather telephone and Internet data, and sought to reassure Americans that his administration was not listening in on their calls….READ MORE

 

 

Political Headlines June 29, 2012: Justice Department Won’t Prosecute Attorney General Eric Holder for Contempt

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Justice Department Won’t Prosecute Holder for Contempt

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

After Congress found the nation’s top law enforcement officer in contempt Thursday, the Department of Justice quickly wrote a letter to House Speaker John Boehner informing him that it will not prosecute U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for withholding documents in a congressional investigation of the Fast and Furious gun walking operation.

“The longstanding position of the Department of Justice has been and remains that we will not prosecute an Executive Branch official under the contempt of Congress statute for withholding subpoenaed documents pursuant to a presidential assertion of executive privilege,” James M. Cole, the deputy attorney general, wrote in a letter dated June 28 and addressed to the Speaker.

The House voted Thursday to pass a resolution which, for the first time in U.S. history, found a sitting U.S. attorney general in criminal contempt of Congress….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 7, 2012: House Passes Homeland Security Budget Bill 234-182 Under President Obama’s Veto Threat

POLITICAL HEADLINES

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

House passes homeland security budget bill

The bill passed on partisan lines, unusual for homeland security questions.

Source: CS Monitor, 6-7-12

The GOP-controlled House passed a $46 billion measure Thursday funding the Homeland Security Department, including more than $5 billion in disaster relief spending that complies with a budget agreement last summer opposed by tea party conservatives.

The 234-182 vote was unusually partisan. Homeland security programs traditionally have enjoyed widespread support, but the Obama administration issued a veto threat against the bill in a protest over unrelated budget cuts proposed by Republicans in excess of last summer’s budget and debt deal….READ MORE

Full Text January 10, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the EPA — Environmental Protection Agency — In First Visit Presidential Visit

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Obama Visits the EPA

Source: WH, 1-10-12

President Barack Obama thanks the EPA staff
President Barack Obama delivers remarks to employees of the Environmental Protection Agency at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, Washington, D.C., Jan. 10, 2012. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stands at right. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (113MB) | mp3 (11MB)

President Obama earlier today stopped by the Environmental Protection Agency for his first ever visit. He made the trip to express his appreciation for the vital work done by the staff.

In a meeting with the staff, he said:

I want to say thank you to each and every one of you, because the EPA touches on the lives of every single American every single day. You help make sure that the air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we eat are safe. You protect the environment not just for our children but their children. And you keep us moving towards energy independence.

And it is a vital mission. Over the past three years, because of your hard work, we’ve made historic progress on all these fronts.

The President pledged to stand by the EPA in its work:

Our environment is safer because of you. Our country is stronger because of you.  Our future is brighter because of you. And I want you to know that you’ve got a President who is grateful for your work and will stand with you every inch of the way as you carry out your mission to make sure that we’ve got a cleaner world.

Read the full remarks here.

Remarks by the President to EPA staff

Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium
Washington, D.C.

2:51 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  Thank you, EPA!  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you so much.  It is wonderful to see you.  It is great to see you.  Thank you, thank you.

Now, everybody can have a seat.  I know Lisa is making you guys all stand up.  (Laughter.)  But you can all relax.

It is wonderful to be here with all of you.  Thank you so much for all the great work you do.  I want to first acknowledge your outstanding Administrator, Lisa Jackson.  (Applause.)  She has done an extraordinary job leading this agency.  But here’s what I want all of you to know:  Not only is she good on policy, not only is she tough and able to present the EPA’s mission so effectively to the public, but she also has your back.  (Applause.)  She is an advocate on behalf of all the people who work so hard here at the EPA.  And so you should know that your boss loves you, even if she doesn’t always show it, I don’t know.  (Laughter.)

The main reason I’m here is simple:  I just want to say thank you.  I want to say thank you to each and every one of you, because the EPA touches on the lives of every single American every single day.  You help make sure that the air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we eat are safe.  You protect the environment not just for our children but their children.  And you keep us moving towards energy independence.

And it is a vital mission.  Over the past three years, because of your hard work, we’ve made historic progress on all these fronts.  Just a few weeks ago, thanks to the hard work of so many of you, Lisa and I was able to announce new common-sense standards to better protect the air we breathe from mercury and other harmful air pollution.  And that was a big deal.  (Applause.)  And part of the reason it was a big deal was because, for over 20 years, special interest groups had successfully delayed implementing these standards when it came to our nation’s power plants.  And what we said was:  “Enough.”  It’s time to get this done.

And because we acted, we’re going to prevent thousands of premature deaths, thousands of heart attacks and cases of childhood asthma.

There are families that are going to be directly impacted in a positive way because of the work that you do.  Because you kept fighting — and some of you have been fighting this fight for a long time, long before I was here and long before Lisa was here.  And so your tenacity and stick-to-itness is making a difference.

Because of you, across the board, we’re cutting down on acid rain and air pollution.  We’re making our drinking water cleaner and safer.  We’re creating healthier communities.  But that’s not all.  Safeguarding our environment is also about strengthening our economy.  I do not buy the notion that we have to make a choice between having clean air and clean water and growing this economy in a robust way.  I think that is a false debate.  (Applause.)

Think about it:  We established new fuel economy standards, a historic accomplishment that is going to slash oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels, dramatically reduces pollution that contributes to climate change, and saves consumers thousands of dollars at the pump, which they can then go spend on something else.

As part of the Recovery Act, you cleaned up contaminated sites across the country, which helped to rid neighborhoods of environmental blight while putting Americans back to work.

We don’t have to choose between dirty air and dirty water or a growing economy.  We can make sure that we are doing right by our environment and, in fact, putting people back to work all across America.  That’s part of our mission.

When we put in place new common-sense rules to reduce air pollution, we create new jobs building and installing all sorts of pollution-control technology.  When we put in place new emissions standards for our vehicles, we make sure that the cars of tomorrow are going to be built right here in the United States of America, that we’re going to win that race.

When we clean up our nation’s waterways, we generate more tourists for our local communities.  So what’s good for the environment can also be good for our economy.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be some tensions.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be legitimate debates that take place.  That doesn’t mean that it’s not important for every single one of us to think about how can we make sure that we are achieving our goals in the smartest way possible, in the most efficient ways possible, in the least bureaucratic ways possible, in the clearest ways possible.  That’s also part of our mission.

There’s not a federal agency that can’t get better and be smarter in accomplishing our mission, and we have an obligation every single day to think about how can we do our business a little bit better.  How can we make sure the taxpayers are getting every dime’s worth that they’re paying in order to achieve these important common goals that we have?

But I believe we can do it, and you’ve shown me that we can do it over these last three years.  So I could not be prouder of the work that you all do every single day as federal employees.  I know the hours can be long.  I know that sometimes spending time getting these policies right means less time at home than you’d like, and you’re missing birthday parties, or you’re missing a soccer game, and the spouse is not happy with you.  I know a little bit about that sometimes.  (Laughter.)  I know these jobs are demanding.

But I also know what compelled you to enter public service in the first place — and that’s the idea that you could make a difference; that you could leave behind a planet that is a little cleaner, a little safer than the one we inherited.

And I have to tell you that part of why I get excited when I see some of the work that you’re doing is because our next generation is so much more attuned to these issues than I was when I was growing up.  I can tell you when I sit down and I talk to my kids, probably the area where they have the most sophisticated understanding of policy is when it comes to the environment.  They understand that the decisions we make now are going to have an impact on their lives for many years to come.  And their instincts are right.  So your mission is vital.

And just think of what this agency has been able to do over the last four decades.  There’s so many things we now take for granted.  When I hear folks grumbling about environmental policy, you almost want to do a Back to the Future — (laughter) — kind of reminder of folks of what happens when we didn’t have a strong EPA.  The year before President Nixon created the EPA, the Cuyahoga River was so dirty from industrial pollution and oil slicks that it literally caught on fire.  In my hometown, the Chicago River — you probably could not find anything alive in there — (laughter) — four decades ago.  Now it’s thriving — to the benefit of the city.  Today, because of your work, 92 percent of Americans have access to clean water that meets our national health standards.

Before the EPA was created, our cars were spewing harmful lead pollution into the air, with all sorts of impacts, especially on children.  Today, because of your work, air pollution is down by more than half, and lead pollution is down more than 90 percent from a generation ago.

So all of you, and all of those who served before you, have made a difference.  Our environment is safer because of you.  Our country is stronger because of you.  Our future is brighter because of you.  And I want you to know that you’ve got a President who is grateful for your work and will stand with you every inch of the way as you carry out your mission to make sure that we’ve got a cleaner world.  (Applause.)

So, thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
3:02 P.M. EST

White House Recap November 12-18, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Embarks on 9 Day Asia Pacific Tour to Hawaii, Australia & Indonesia

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: NOVEMBER 12-18, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: Strengthening Relationships Abroad

Source: WH, 11-18-11
President Barack Obama Delivers Remarks

President Barack Obama delivers remarks honoring 60 years of the U.S. and Australian Alliance to a crowd of some 2000 soldiers and guests at the Royal Army Air Force Base in Darwin, Australia, Nov.17, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President in the Pacific: President Obama embarked on a nine day Asia Pacific tour  focused on strengthening economic ties and renewing strategic relationships in the region. From November 11th  through November 19th, the President visited Hawaii, Australia, and Indonesia. While on the road, he spoke at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperationmet with Australian Prime Minister, addressed Australian Parliament, spoke with Australian troops and U.S. Marines, and attended the East Asia Summit.

Cleaner Air: The Obama Administration announced a joint proposal to save American families money at the pump, reduce our country’s dependence on oil, and boost domestic manufacturing. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the next steps toward setting stronger fuel economy and greenhouse gas pollution standards for model year 2017-2025 passenger cars and light-duty trucks.

Cancer Awareness: President Obama congratulated those who participated in American Cancer Society’s 36th annual  Great American Smokeout, a challenge to smokers to kick their tobacco habit.  An estimated 443,000 people in the United States die each year due to cigarettes and tobacco use is still considered one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.  President Obama–a former smoker himself–and his Administration continue to make progress in reducing the number of Americans who smoke.

Carrier Classic: Over Veterans Day weekend, President Obama and the First Lady attended the first-ever Carrier Classic aboard the USS Carl Vinson where they watched University of North Carolina men’s basketball team defeat Michigan State. The game had more than 8,000 people in the stands – most of whom were servicemembers.

White House Recap November 5-11, 2011: The Obama Presidency’s Weekly Recap — President Obama Honors America’s Military Veterans on Veterans Day & Introduces Initiatives Creating Jobs for Veterans

WHITE HOUSE RECAP

WHITE HOUSE RECAP: NOVEMBER 5-11, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: Fighting for Our Veterans

This week, the President attends the G-20 Summit in France, announces actions to put veterans back to work, orders reforms of Head Start Programs, and signs an executive order that continues cuts in government waste.

West Wing Week

Source: WH, 11-11-11

Jobs for Veterans: President Obama on Monday announced the launch of a suite of new tools designed to help our veterans transition more easily into the workforce. The Veterans Job Bank, which will help put veterans in contact with companies that appreciate their skills and are eager to hire them, has more than 550,000 job postings from military-friendly employers and is continuing to grow. On Thursday, the First Lady joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to announce new private sector commitments to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014. Later that day the Senate approved the Wounded Warrior and Returning Heroes tax credits, provisions of the American Jobs Act which will offer businesses a $9,600 tax credit for hiring disabled veterans and create additional incentives for employers who hire veterans who have spent four weeks or more out of work.

Honoring our Veterans: Friday morning President Obama honored the millions of Americans who have served in our nation’s military by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. In his speech, the President highlighted the end to the war in Iraq and called for all Americans to support our veterans. “So on this Veterans Day, let us commit ourselves to keep making sure that our veterans receive the care and benefits that they have earned; the opportunity they defend and deserve; and above all, let us welcome them home as what they are — an integral, essential part of our American family.”

Head Start: President Obama announced historic reforms to the Head Start program that will require all Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous quality benchmarks to compete for continued federal funding. These changes are designed to ensure that all children in Head Start are attending top-notch programs that will help them reach their full potential.

Saving You Money: President Obama signed an Executive Order telling Federal agencies to cut their spending on travel, printing, and IT by 20 percent, which will save billions of dollars. This initiative is only one part of the administration-wide Campaign to Cut Waste, headed by Vice President Joe Biden that promises to eliminate government waste, save taxpayer dollars and make government work more efficiently.

Political Headlines August 4, 2011: Congress Reaches Bipartisan Deal Ending Impasse & Partial Shutdown of the FAA – Federal Aviation Administration

POLITICAL HEADLINES

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

The US Senate today approved legislation that will temporarily extend funding for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Deal is reached to end FAA shutdown, Sen. Harry Reid says: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday there is a bipartisan compromise to end the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration that has left 74,000 transportation and construction workers idled. In a statement, the majority leader did not specify details. But other officials say they expect the Senate to accept a House-passed bill as early as Friday.

“This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain. But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that.” — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

“I’m pleased that leaders in Congress are working together to break the impasse involving the FAA so that tens of thousands of construction workers and others can go back to work. We can’t afford to let politics in Washington hamper our recovery, so this is an important step forward.” — President Barack Obama

  • Deal in Senate restores FAA funding. Is bipartisanship taking off?: Obama hails the extension of FAA funding through mid-September, which restores tens of thousands of jobs and resumes the collection of $30 million a day in revenue for the Treasury…. – CS Monitor, 8-4-11
  • Reid: Congress reaches deal to end FAA shutdown: Congress has reached a bipartisan compromise to end a two-week partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration that has idled tens of thousands of workers and cost the government about $30 million a day in uncollected airline ticket taxes, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Thursday.
    The deal would allow the Senate to approve a House bill extending the FAA’s operating authority through mid-September, including a provision that eliminates $16.5 million in air service subsidies to 13 rural communities. Passage of the bill is expected Friday.
    Senators have scattered for their August recess, but the measure can be approved if leaders from both parties agree to adopt it by “unanimous consent.”
    Republicans had insisted on the subsidy cuts as their price for restoring the FAA to full operation. But the cuts may become moot…. — AP, 8-4-11
  • Obama praises deal to halt aviation shutdown: President Barack Obama is praising a bipartisan deal that will end the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration and get thousands of workers back on the job.
    Obama says the nation “can’t afford to let politics in Washington hamper our recovery.” He says he’s pleased to see leaders in Congress working together to settle the issue.
    The FAA flap has become another embarrassment for the federal government…. – AP, 8-4-11
  • Senate poised to approve legislation ending partial FAA shutdown and returning workers to jobs: The Senate is poised to pass legislation ending a two-week partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration that has cost the government about $400 million in uncollected airline ticket taxes and idled thousands of workers.
    A bipartisan compromise reached Thursday cleared the way for the Senate to approve a House bill extending the FAA’s operating authority through mid-September, including a provision that eliminates $16.5 million in air service subsidies to 13 rural communities. Senators have scattered for their August recess, but the measure can be approved Friday if leaders from both parties agree to adopt it by “unanimous consent.”
    FAA employees could return to work and payments for airport construction projects could resume as soon as Monday if President Barack Obama signs the bill over the weekend, transportation officials said…. – WaPo, 8-4-11
  • Congress reaches deal to end FAA shutdown: Congressional leaders struck a deal on Thursday to resolve a partisan dispute and end a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration that has halted airport projects and threatened thousands of jobs.
    The standoff, which began on July 22, centered on partisan differences over full funding of the agency through the middle of next month.
    In addition to idled construction projects, the gridlock allowed airlines to stop collecting more than $30 million per day in ticket taxes, leaving a hole in government revenue for aviation priorities but giving carriers a big windfall…. – Reuters, 8-4-11
  • Congress agrees on stopgap funding for FAA workers: Congressional leaders reached agreement Thursday on temporary funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, ending a stalemate that cost 4,000 furloughed federal workers almost two weeks of pay and shortchanged the Treasury of more than $300 million.
    “This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday afternoon. “But I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences, and this agreement will do exactly that.”
    It was uncertain whether Congress would act to restore back pay to the furloughed FAA employees. Tens of thousands of construction workers who have been laid off since July 23 seemed unlikely to recoup their lost wages.
    Mike MacDonald, regional vice president of an FAA union, said he was not focused on whether furloughed workers would receive back pay. “We’re just really glad we’re getting back to work,” he said…. – WaPo, 8-4-11
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