tv Eyewitness News at 12PM CBS June 8, 2017 12:00pm-12:31pm EDT
>> no. >> you never had a discussion with jeff sessions on this? >> no. >> on any of your meetings? >> no. >> did he inquire, did he show any inquiry what was that meeting about? >> no. >> did he inquire? did he show any i choiry whatsoever of what that meeting was about? >> no. i did say to him -- i had forgotten this -- when i talked to him and said you have to be between me and the president and that's incredibly important, i forget my exact words. i passed along the president's message of importance of aggressively pursuing leaks of classified information which is a goal i share and passed that along to the attorney general, i think it was the next morning in a meeting, but i did not tell him about the flynn part. >> does this give rise to the obstruction of justice? >> i don't know, that's bob miewrl's job to sort that out. >> thank you, sir. mr. chairman.
senator cotton. mr. comey you encouraged the president to release the tapes, did you encourage the department of justice of your friend at columbia or mr. mueller to release. >> sure. you said you did not record your conversations with president obama or president bush in memos. did you do so with attorney general sessions or any other member of d.o.j. or mr. trump? >> no. did you report with any uh other obama department of justice. >> not that i recall. in your statement for the record you cite nine private conversations with the president, three meetings and two phone calls, four phone calls that are not discussed in your statement for the record. what happened in those phone calls? >> the president called me, i believe, shortly before he was inaugurated as a followup to our conversation, private conversation on january 6.
he just wanted the to reiterate his rejection of the allegation and talk about he'd thought about it more, and why he thought it wasn't true, the verified -- unverified and salacious parts and, during that call, he asked me, again, i hope you're going to stay, you're doing a great job, and i told him that i intended to. there was another phone call i mentioned, i think -- could have the date wrong -- march 1 where he called just to check in with my as i was about to get on the helicopter. there was a secure call we had about an operational matter that was not related to any of this about something the f.b.i. was working on, he wanted to make sure that i understood how important he thought it was, totally appropriate call. and then the fourth call -- i'm forgetting -- i may have meant 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. >> let's turn our attention to
the underlying activity here russia's hacking into the e-mails, releasing them and allegations of collusion. do you believe donald trump colluded with russia? >> that's a question i don't think i should answer in an open 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. >> let me turn to a couple of statements by one of my colleagues senator feinstein, she was the ranking member on this committee till january which meant she had access to information. on may 3, on cnn's wolf blitzer show, she was asked do you have evidence that there was collusion between the trump campaign and russia, she said not at this time. next interview she was asked
again, and you said not at this time. has anything changed since we last spoke? senator feinstein said, well, no, no, it hasn't. do you have any reason to doubt those statements? >> i don't doubt senator feinstein was saying what she understood. i don't want to go down that path first of all because i'm not in the government anymore and answering in the negative i worry leads me deeper and deeper into talking about the investigation in an open setting. i don't want to be unfair to president trump. i'm not trying to suggest by my answer something nefarious but i don't want to get into the business of saying not as to this person or that person. >> february 14, "new york times" published a sort "trump campaign aides competed contacts with russian intelligence." you consider asked if that was accurate, would it be fair to characterize that story as almost entirely wrong?
>> yes. did you have at the time the story was accomplished any indication or contact between trump people, russians, intelligence officers, other officials or close associates with the russian government? >> that's one i can't answer sitting here. >> in classified setting then. i want to turn attention now to mr. flynn and the allegations of his underlying conduct, to be specific, his alleged interactions with the russian ambassador on the telephone and what he said to seen your trump officials and department of justice officials. i understand there is issues with mr. fin and activity on behalf of foreign governments, those are allegations that will be pursued, but i want to speak specifically about his interactions with the russian ambassador. there was a story on january 23 in "the washington post" that says "f.b.i. reviewed flynn's calls with russian ambassador but found nothing elicit." is this story accurate? >> i don't want to comment on
that, senator, because i'm pretty sure the bureau has not confirmed any interception of communications and, so, i don't want to talk about that in an open setting. >> would bit improper for an incoming national security advisor to have a conversation with a foreign ambassador? >> in my experience, no. but you can't confirm or p deny that the conversation happened and we would need to know the contents of that information to know if it was improper. >> i don't think i can talk about that in an open setting. i have been out of the government a month so i also don't want to talk about things when it's now somebody else's responsibility, but maybe in a classified setting we can talk more about that. >> you stated earlier there wasn't an open investigation of mr. flynn in the f.b.i. did you or any f.b.i. agent ever sense that mr. flynn attempted to deceive you or made false statements to an f.b.i. agent?
>> i don't want to go too far. that was the subject of the inquiry. >> did you ever come close to closing the investigation on mr. flynn? >> i don't think i can talk about that in an open setting either. >> we can discuss these more in a 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 the illness. there was a dramatic showdown at the hospital here. the next day, you said that you wrote a letter of resignation and signed it before you went to meet with president bush to explain why you refused to certify it. is that accurate? >> yes, i think so. at anytime in the three and a half months you were the f.b.i. director during the trump administration did you ever write and sign a letter of
resignation and leave it on your desk. >> letter of resignation, no, sir. >> letter of resignation. no, sir. so despite all the things you testified to here today you didn't feel this rose to the level of an honest but serious difference of legal opinion between accomplished and skilled lawyers in that 2004 episode? >> i wouldn't characterize the circumstances in 2004 that way, but to answer, no, i didn't find -- encounter any circumstance that led me to intend to resign or consider to resign, no, sir. >> thank you. senator harris. director comey, i want to thank you. you are now a private citizen and you are enduring a senate intelligence committee hearing, and each of us get seven minutes instead of five as yesterday they asked you questions. so thank you. >> i'm between opportunities now, so -- >> well, you are -- ( laughter ) i'm sure you will have future opportunities. you and i are both former prosecutors. not going to require you to answer. i just want to make a stawment
that, in my -- make a statement that, in my experience of prosecuting cases, when a robber meld a gun to smeebs head and said i hope you will give me your wallet, the word "hope" was not the most 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 russian officials during the campaign that have not been acknowledged by those officials in the white house? >> that's not -- even if i remember clearly, that's not a question i can answer in an open setting. >> are you aware of any efforts by trump campaign officials or associates of the campaign to hide their communications with russian officials through encrypted communication or other means? >> i have to give the same answer, senator. >> sure. and in the course of the f.b.i.'s investigation, did you ever come across anything that suggested that communications, records, documents or other
evidence had been destroyed? >> i think i've got to give you the same answer because it would touch on investigative matters. >> and are you aware of any efforts or potential efforts to conceal communications between tubings officials and russian officials? >> i think i will give you the same answer, senator. >> thank you. as former attorney general, i have a series of questions about your connection with the attorney general during the course of your tenure as director. what is your understanding of the parameters of general sessions recusal from the russian investigation? >> i think it's described in a written release or statement from d.o.j. which i don't remember sitting here, but the gist was he would be recused from all matters relating to russia and the campaign or activities of russia and the '16 election, something like that. >> so is your knowledge of the extent of his recusal based on the public statements he's made? >> correct. okay. so ther is there any kind of
memorandum issued from the attorney general or the department of justice from the f.b.i. outlining the parameters of his recalls? >> not that i'm aware of. do you know if h he recruit f.b.i. or d.o.j. documents pertaining to the investigation before he was recused? >> i don't. i don't know. >> and after he was recused, i'm assuming it's the same answer. >> same answer. and aside from any notice or memorandum that was not sent or was, what mechanism or processes to ensure that the attorney general would not have any connection with the investigation, attorne to your knowledge? >> i don't know for sure. i know he consulted with career officials to run recalls at d.o.j. but don't know what mechanism they set up. >> the attorney general recused himself but do you believe it was appropriate for him to be involved in the firing of the chief investigator of that case, of the russia interference? >> that's something i can't answer signature here. it's a reasonable question but that would depend on a lot of things i don't know, like what
did he know, what was he told, did he realize the president was doing it because to have the russia investigation, things like that i don't know. >> you've mentioned in your written testimony the president essentially asked you for a loyalty pledge. are you aware of him making the same request of any other members of the cabinet. >> i am not. do you know one way or the other? >> i don't. i've never heard anything about it. >> 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 interim two weeks? >> in theory, sure, because he's the attorney general. i don't know whether he had any contact with any materials related to that. >> 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 or recused himself on march 2? >> not to my knowledge. i don't know one way or another. >> and dud you speak to the attorney general about the russia investigation before his recusal? >> i don't think so, no. do you know if anyone in the department in the f.b.i. forwarded any documents or information or memos of any sort to the attention of the attorney general before his recusal? >> i don't know of any or remember of any sitting here. it's possible, but i don't remember any. >> do you know if the attorney general was, in fact, involved in any aspect of the russia investigation after his recusal on the 2nd of march? >> i don't. i could assume not. let me say it this way, i don't know of any information that would lead me to believe he did something to touch the russia investigation after the recusal. >> in your rine testimony, you
indicate that you -- 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 write 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? >> i don't remember real clearly. i have a recollection of him just kind of looking at me, and there's a danger here i'm project on to him, so this may be a faulty memory, but his body language gave me the sense of what am i going to do. >> did he shrug? i don't remember clearly. i think the reason i have that impression is i have some recollection, almost imperceptible, like, what am i going to do? but i don't have a clear recollection of that. he didn't say anything. >> on that same february 14 meeting, you said you understood the president to be requesting that you drop the vsmghts after
that meetings, however, you received two calls from the president march 30 and april 11 where the president talked about a cloud over his presidency. has anything you've learned in the months since your february 14 meeting change your understanding of the president's request? i guess it would be what eh has said in public documents or interviews? >> correct. okay. and is there anything about this investigation that you believe is in any way biased or is not being informed by a process of seeking the truth? >> no. the appointment of a special counsel, especially given who that person is, offer great comfort to americans no matter what your political fulliation is this will be done independently, competently and honestly. >> and do you believe he should have full authority, mr. mueller, to be able to pursue that investigation? >> yes, and knowing him well over the years, if there's something he thinks he needs, he
will speak up about it. >> do you believe he should have full independence? >> oh, yeah, and he would been part of it if he wasn't going to get full independence. >> thank you. senator cornyn. thank you, mr. chairman. mr. comby, i'll repeat what i've said at previous hearings that i believe you're a good and decent man who's been dealt a very difficult hand, starting back with the clinton email investigation, and i appreciate your willingness to appear here today voluntarily and answer our questions and cooperate with our investigation. as a general matter, if an f.b.i. agent has reason to believe that a crime has been committed, do they have a duty to report it? >> 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. >> you're unsure whether they would have a legal duty? >> yeah, it's a good question. i've not thought about it
before. there's a statute that prohibits knowing of a felony and taking steps to conceal it, but this is a different question. so, look, let me be clear, i would expect any f.b.i. agent who has any information about a crime to report it. >> me, too. but where you rest that obligation, i don't know. it exists. >> and let me ask you as a general proposition, if you're trying to make an investigation go away, is firing an f.b.i. director a good way to make that happen? by that, i mean -- >> yeah, doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but i'm hopelessly biased, given that i was the one fired. >> i understand it's personal. no, given the nature of the f.b.i. i meant what i said, there's no dispensable people in the world including the f.b.i. there's lots of bad things about me not being at the f.b.i., most for me, but work will go on
before. >> so nothing you testified to today has impeded the investigation of the f.b.i. or mr. mueller's ability to get to the bottom of this? >> correct, especially former director mueller is the critical part of that investigation. >> let me take you back to the dlinten email investigation. i think you have been cast as a hero or a villain, depending on whose political ox is being gored, at many different times in the clinton email 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 email investigation. you mentioned the characterization that you'd been asked to accept that this is 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 a 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 email investigation. is that correct? >> i think 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 f.b.i. >> and under department of justice and f.b.i. 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 council? that's essentially what's happened with director mueller. would that have been an appropriate step in the clinton email investigation, in your opinion? >> certainly a possible step, yes, sir. >> and were you aware ms. lynch had been requested numerous times to appoint a special
counsel and had refused? >> yes, from, i think, congress -- members of doing had repeatedly asked, yes, sir. >> 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 incredibly painful decision to basically take the matter up yourself and led to that july press conference? >> yes, sir. after 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 that would be an unfair thing to do because i knew there was no case there. we had investigated 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, ah-ha, there's something here. that's my judgment. >> if the special counsel had been appointed, they could have made that determination at the there was nothing there and declined to pursue it, right? >> sure, but it would have been many months later or a year later. >> let me just ask you to -- given the experience of the clinton email 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 f.b.i. investigation, do you think it's unreasonable for them to want the f.b.i. director to publicly announce that so that this cloud over his administration would be removed? >> i think that's a reasonable point of view.
the concern would be, obviously, because if that boomerang comes back, it will be a very big deal because it will be a duty to correct. >> we saw that in the clinton email investigation, of course. >> yes, i recall that. i know you do. so let me ask you, finally, in the minute that we have left, there was this conversation back and forth about loyalty, and i think we all appreciate the fact an f.b.i. director is a unique public official in the sense that he's a political appointee in one sense, but he has a duty of independence to pursue the law pursuant to the constitutional laws of the united states, and, so, when the president asked you about loyalty, you got into this back and forth about, well, i'll pledge you my honesty, and then, it looks like, from what i've read, you agreed upon honest loyalty or something like that. is that the characterization? >> yes. thank you very much. , sir.
senator. thank you. there have been press reports that the president in addition to asking you to drop the flynn investigation and has asked other senior intelligence officials to take steps which would tend to undermine the investigation into russia, there are reports he asked coats and rogers to make statements exonerating him or taking pressure off him and reports of rogers and director pom pawo to intervene and reach out to the f.b.i. and ask them -- do you have any information with respect to any of these allegations? >> i don't. i'm aware of the public reporting, but i had no contact, no conversation with any of those leaders about that subject. >> thank you.
you have testified that you interpret the discussion with the president about flynn as a direction to stop the investigation, is that correct? >> yes. ou have testified that the president asked you to lift the cloud by essentially making public statements exonerating him and perhaps others. you refused, correct? >> i didn't -- i didn't do it. i didn't refuse the president. i told him we would see what we could do, and then the second time he called, i told him, in substance, that's something your lawyer will have to take up with the justice department. >> part of the underlying logic we discussed many times throughout this morning is the duty to correct. that is a theoretical issue but also for a practical issue. was there -- your feeling that the direction of the investigation could, in fact, include the president?
>> well, in theory. i mean, as i explained, the concern of one of my senior leader colleagues was, if you're looking at potential coordination between the campaign an russia, the person at the head of the campaign is the candidate, so logically, this person argued, this candidate's knowledge, understanding will logically become a part of your inquiry if it proceeds. so i understood that argument. my view was that, what i sawed to the president was accurate and fair and fair to him. i resisted the idea of publicly saying it, though if the justice department had wanted to, i would have done it because to have the duty to correct and the slippery slope problem. >> and again, you've also testified that the president asked you repeatedly to be loyal to him and you responded you would be honestly loyal, which is your way of saying i will be honest and the head of the f.b.i. and independent.
is that fair? >> correct. i tried honest first. also, you see it in my testimony, i also tried to explain to him why it's in his interest and every president's interest for the f.b.i. to be a part, in -- apart, in a way, because its credibility is important to a presidentened the country, and, so, tried to hold the line. it got very awkward. and i then said, you will always have honesty from me. he said honest loyalty, and i accepted that as a way to end the awkwardness. >> the culmination is you were summarily fired or an explanation or anything else. >> well, there is an explanation, i just don't buy it. >> well, yes. so you were fired. do you believe you were fired because you refused to take the president's direction? is that the ultimate reason? >> i don't know for sure. i know i was fired. again, i take the president's words. i know i was fired because of something about the way i was
conducting the russia investigation was somehow putting pressure on him and iritating him and he decided to fire me because of that. i can't go farther than that. >> the russian investigation as you've pointed out and my colleagues have reflected is one of the most serious, hostile acts against this country in our history, undermining the very core of our democracy and our electionings is not a discreet event. it will likely occur. it's probably for '18, '20 and beyond, 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 first after classifying you as crazy and a real nut job which i think you've effectively disproved this morning, he said i face 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, in fact, took specific steps to stop a thorough investigation of the russian influence and, also, from what you've said or what was mentioned this morning, doesn't seem to particularly interested in these hostile threats by the russians. is that fair? >> i don't know that i can agree to that level of detail. there is no doubt it's a fair judgment, my judgment that i was fired because to have the russia investigation. i was fired in some way to change -- or the endeavor was to change the way the russian investigation was being conducted. that is a very big deal and not just because it involves me. the nature of the f.b.i. and the nature of its work requires that it not be the subject of political consideration and, on top of that, you have the russia
investigation itself is vital because of the threat, and i know i should have said this earlier, but it's obvious, if any americans were part of helping the russians do that to us, that is a very big deal, and i'm confident that, if that is the case, director mueller will find that evidence. >> finally, the president tweeted that james cokie better hope that there are no hopes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press. was that rather unsubtle attempt to attempt to intimidate you from testifying and anyone else who seriously crosses his path of not doing it? >> i'm not going to sit here and try to interpret the presidentas tweets. to me its major impact as occurred to me in the middle of the night, holy cow, there are tapes, and if there are tapes, it's not just my word against his on the direction to get rid of the flynn investigation. >> thank you very much. senator mccain.
in the case of hillary clinton, you made the statement that there wasn't sufficient evidence to bring a suit against her, although it had been very careless in their behavior, but you did reach a conclusion in that case that it was not necessary to further pursue her. yet, the at the same time, in the case of mr. comey, you said that there was not enough information to make a conclusion. tell me the difference between your conclusion as far as former secretary clinton is concerned and mr.mp