Thursday, June 8, 2017

Five Questions Raised By James Comey’s Testimony

Prepared remarks released ahead of Thursday’s hearing sparked more questions.

By Naftali Bendavid
The Wall Street Journal
June 8, 2017

Former FBI Director James Comey’s appearance Thursday is one of the most-anticipated congressional hearings in years. Mr. Comey released his prepared remarks ahead of the hearing, which answered questions for some observers—but they also raised some more. Here are five key questions:

Did the president’s actions amount to obstruction of justice?

Mr. Comey said he thought Mr. Trump was trying to create “some sort of patronage relationship” with him, suggesting some discussions made him feel Mr. Trump may have been seeking to exert improper influence. He described their conversation regarding former national security adviser Michael Flynn as “very concerning.” But Mr. Comey didn’t say he believed obstruction of justice occurred.

Why did Mr. Comey take notes after his meetings with President Trump, but not President Barack Obama ?

Mr. Comey made it clear in his testimony that he didn’t have a practice of memorializing his private meetings with Mr. Obama as he did with Mr. Trump. He said he had so few one-on-one meetings with the former president and felt no need to write memos about them.

Why did Mr. Comey have so few private meetings with President Obama, and so many with President Trump?

In Mr. Comey’s account, he met twice with Mr. Obama one-on-one, including a brief farewell meeting in late 2016. In contrast, he had nine one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump in four months, three in person and six on the phone. Mr. Comey describes Mr. Trump as going out of his way to speak to Mr. Comey without others present, ensuring that people like Attorney General Jeff Sessions leave the room.

If Mr. Trump’s actions were objectionable to Mr. Comey, why didn’t he resign?

Mr. Comey didn’t address that issue in his testimony, but he did talk about how much he loved his job. He also said he appealed to Mr. Sessions to ensure that Mr. Comey never be left alone with the president, apparently to create a safeguard and ensure that no improper interactions would take place.

Why did top Justice Department officials not respond to Mr. Comey’s contacts?

Mr. Comey reported that he asked Mr. Sessions to prevent any further direct contact between the president and himself, but “he did not reply.” He also said he contacted then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente for guidance after Mr. Trump asked what could be done to lift the “cloud” of the Russia investigation, but that he didn’t hear back from Mr. Boente.

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