As an ex officio member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Rhode Island’s senior senator got to ask questions of former FBI Director Jim Comey at his highly anticpated hearing before the Committee today concerning his termination and its relationship to Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“The Russian investigation,” Reed said, “is one of the most serious, hostile acts against this country in our history. Undermining the very core of our democracy and our elections is not a discrete event.”
Reed continued, “And yet the President of the United States fires you because, in your own words, some relation to this investigation. And then he shows up in the oval office with the Russian foreign minister … and says ‘I feel great pressure because of Russia, that’s taken off.’ Your conclusion would be that the president, I would think, is downplaying the seriousness of this threat and in fact, took specific steps to stop a thorough investigation of the Russian influence.”
Comey demured, saying, “I don’t know that I can agree to that level of detail. I know I was fired because of some way I was handling the Russian investigation. I can’t go farther than that.”
But as part of his answer to Reed later on, Comey added, “If any Americans were part of helping the Russians do that to us that is a very big deal and I’m confident if that is the case Director Mueler will find that evidence.”
Reed asked Comey if he had any information about other intelligence officials being asked to downplay the Russian investigation, to which Comey said no. He also asked Comey if he took the President’s “hope” that the issue would go away as a directive.
Reed also asked Comey, “Was it your feeling that the direction of the investigation could in fact include the president?”
To which Comey said, “Well, in theory. As I explained the concern one of my senior leader colleagues was if you’re looking at potential coardination between the campaign and Russia … the candidates’ knowledge will logically become part of your inquiry.”