Former FBI director James Comey testifes on Russia probe and his firing before Senate Intelligence Committee

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WASHINGTON - The latest on developments involving fired FBI Director James Comey's testimony Thursday before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee (all times EDT):

1:25 p.m.

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee says there's more work ahead in the committee's investigation after hearing testimony from former FBI Director James Comey.

Sen. Richard Burr says the committee plans to get together next week with the special counsel who's leading an investigation into Russian activities during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Burr says the aim is to work on ways to avoid logistical conflicts with upcoming witnesses and testimony.

1:05 p.m.

Former FBI Director James Comey says at the end of his testimony to a Senate committee that he believes he was fired by President Donald Trump in an effort to affect the Russia investigation.

Comey says it's a "very big deal and not just because it involves me."

He says political considerations shouldn't influence the FBI's work. Comey say that if any American helped Russia in trying to influence the 2016 election, "that is a very big deal."

Comey says he's confident an investigation led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller will be conducted thoroughly.

12:55 p.m.

James Comey has gone back in history to find an appropriate description for one of his interactions with President Donald Trump.

The reference to medieval times has arisen during the former FBI director's appearance before the Senate Intelligence committee.

Comey is telling senators about one of his private meetings with Trump. Comey says the president said he hoped that Comey would back off investigating Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Comey says that reminded him of the phrase, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

It's a reference to Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, who was killed in 1170. King Henry II was said to have said those words or something similar, which was taken by his men as an order to have Becket killed.

12:50 p.m.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders is calling it just a "regular Thursday" at the White House - even with the dramatic testimony by former FBI Director James Comey on Capitol Hill.

Here's what Sanders is telling reporters: "In terms of the mood in the White House, I would say that it's a regular Thursday at the White House. We're carrying on."

She says staffers have their TVs turned to the news - as they do normally. Sanders says, "We're carrying on, focused on the things that the president was elected to do."

Sanders says Trump spent his morning mostly in meetings with officials - including the secretaries of state and defense, discussing North Korea, the Persian Gulf region and other matters.

She's not sure whether the president saw most of Comey's testimony.

12:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he and his supporters "are under siege" but "will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever."

That's what he's said at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's annual conference at the same time as former FBI Director James Comey's was testifying before Congress.

The president did not make specific reference to Comey, who says Trump tried to get him to pledge loyalty and drop an investigation into potential collusion with Russia by his campaign aides.

But in the first moments of Trump's his speech he said "as you know, we're under siege" and then vowed to survive and thrive.

12:40 p.m.

A White House spokeswoman says she doesn't know if President Donald Trump is taping his Oval Office conversations, but will "try to look under the couch."

Trump tweeted last month that fired FBI Director James Comey better hope there are no "tapes" of their conversations. Comey, testifying on Capitol Hill Thursday, said he indeed hoped tapes existed and called on the president to release them if they do.

The White House has refused to answer what the president was referring to in his tweet. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that she had "no idea" about Oval Office taping.

12:30 p.m.

A White House spokeswoman says President Donald Trump has confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions - after days of refusing to answer the questions.

Sarah Sanders tells reporters the president "absolutely" has confidence in Sessions and the rest of his Cabinet.

Press secretary Sean Spicer had said earlier this week that he wasn't sure about the president's opinion on Sessions because he hadn't discussed the topic with him.

Trump has been angry with Sessions ever since he recused himself from the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and possible connections with the Trump campaign.

12:28 p.m.

A Columbia University law professor and close friend of former FBI director James Comey has confirmed he leaked contents of one of Comey's memos to The New York Times.

Comey testified before the Senate intelligence committee on Thursday that he hoped the story about his interactions with President Donald Trump would prompt the appointment of a special counsel.

Daniel Richman confirmed to The Associated Press in an email that he was the friend who Comey mentioned in his testimony. He declined further comment.

Richman served with Comey in the Southern District of New York and at the FBI.

12:20 p.m.

A White House spokeswoman says President Donald Trump is "not a liar."

Former FBI Director James Comey opened his Senate testimony by saying the administration had spread "lies, plain and simple" and "defamed" him and the agency.

The White House had claimed after Comey's May 9 dismissal that he had lost the confidence of rank-and-file FBI agents.

Trump claimed separately in a television interview that the FBI was "in turmoil" and hadn't recovered.

Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders disputed Comey's testimony when asked about it during an off-camera briefing at the White House, saying "I can definitely say the president's not a liar."

12:15 p.m.

Former FBI Director James Comey is steering clear of giving his opinion about whether President Donald Trump attempted to obstruct justice when he asked him to back off investigating ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Asked if the request rises to obstruction of justice, Comey told the Senate intelligence committee that he didn't know and that it would be special counsel Robert Mueller's job to sort that out.

Earlier in his testimony, Comey said he doesn't think it would be fair for him to say whether the conversation he had with the president was an effort to obstruct the FBI probe into Russian activities during the election.

Comey said he found the president's request "very disturbing."

12:05 p.m.

Ousted FBI Director James Comey says if President Donald Trump recorded their conversations, he hopes the president will "release all the tapes."

Comey is being asked about the possibility that Trump may have recorded their conversations. The president alluded to that possibility in a tweet after he fired Comey in May.

Comey says in his Senate Intelligence Committee testimony that he hopes there are tapes, adding the president should "release all the tapes." He says he's "good with it."

12:00 p.m.

Former FBI Director James Comey says if FBI agents knew the president had asked him to drop an investigation into the former national security adviser, it would have a "real chilling effect" on their work.

Comey says he decided not to tell agents working on the Russia investigation about what he perceived to be a request from the president to drop the probe into Michael Flynn.

Comey says even as good as the agents are, hearing that the president asked for this could be detrimental. He says, "that's why we kept it so tight."

11:59 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says President Donald Trump is "learning as he goes" about government and probably did not fully understand the protocols that keep the FBI separate from the president.

Ryan was asked about ousted FBI Director James Comey's account that Trump pushed him to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Comey is testifying in the Senate that the request made him uncomfortable and spurred him to write detailed memos of his conversations with Trump.

Ryan said he had not been watching the hearings. But he said Ryan said the FBI needs to independent and "the president is new at this."

He later added, "He's learning as he goes."

Ryan said Trump is probably frustrated that speculation has swirled around him even after being told by Comey three times that he was not directly under investigation.

11:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump's personal attorney Marc Kasowitz plans to make a statement following the congressional testimony of former FBI Director James Comey.

Kasowitz's remarks are expected Thursday afternoon in downtown Washington.

Trump tasked Kasowitz late last month with responding to matters arising from various probes of Russian interference in the election.

This would be the first public appearance by Kasowitz.

11:40 a.m.

Former FBI Director James Comey says he asked a friend to leak the contents of his memo about meetings with President Donald Trump.

Comey says in his hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he felt that releasing the details of his private conversations with the president might prompt the appointment of a special counsel in the case.

The ousted FBI head says he made the decision after Trump tweeted that Comey should hope there aren't any tapes.

Comey says the contents of the memo were released to a reporter by a close friend of his who is a professor at Columbia law school.

11:24 a.m.

Ousted FBI Director James Comey says he knew of a "variety of reasons" why Attorney General Jeff Sessions' involvement in the Russia investigation would be problematic before Sessions recused himself in March.

But Comey said during his Senate testimony the reasons are such "that I can't discuss in an open setting."

He said career officials in the Justice Department had been urging Sessions to step aside from the probe. Sessions did so in March, after it was revealed that he twice spoke with the Russian ambassador during the campaign. Sessions failed to disclose those contacts when pressed by Congress during his confirmation hearing.

Comey said he doesn't know if Comey thought Sessions had adhered to that recusal. He added that that depends on the real reason for Comey's firing, which Sessions had recommended.

11:15 a.m.

Former FBI Director James Comey says he didn't announce that President Donald Trump was not personally under investigation because "it creates a duty to correct, which I've lived before."

That's a reference to the investigation into Hillary Clinton emails when Comey said late in the 2016 presidential campaign that the FBI was further investigating the case.

Comey is explaining in his Senate Intelligence Committee testimony why he was reluctant to announce that Trump was not under investigation.

He says he wrestled with the decision but said he didn't want to say it publicly because it would create a "duty to correct, which I've lived before and you have to be really careful doing that."

11:12 a.m.

Fired FBI Director James Comey says, "Lordy, I hope there are tapes," of his conversations with President Donald Trump.

Three days after Trump fired Comey, the president tweeted that Comey should hope there are "no tapes" of their conversations.

Comey documented his conversations with Trump in memos after the encounters. During his first public appearance since he was fired, senators asked Comey about his responses to Trump.

Comey says he chose his words carefully when responding to Trump because he was "so stunned" by the conversation. Comey was recalling a February conversation in which, Comey says, Trump said he hoped Comey could let go the FBI's investigation into Trump's first national security adviser Michael Flynn's calls with the Russians.

11:06 a.m.

President Donald Trump has so far stayed off Twitter during former FBI Director James Comey's testimony. But his eldest son hasn't.

Donald Trump Jr. is posting repeatedly during the closely watched testimony Thursday.

He repeatedly defended his father and attacked Comey.

Trump Jr. in particular seized on Comey's assertion that he interpreted the president's statement that he "hoped" the FBI would drop its probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump Jr. tweeted "you would think a guy like Comey" would know the difference between "hoping and telling."

He also cast doubt on all of Comey's testimony and said he should "have actually followed procedure."

Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric are now at the helm of their father's New York-based business.

11:00 a.m.

Former FBI director James Comey says he took "as a direction" President Donald Trump's remark that he hoped Comey would drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Republican Sen. James Risch of Idaho asked if Comey was aware of anyone being charged with obstruction of justice because they expressed hope for a certain outcome. Comey says he wasn't.

But Comey added at his Senate hearing: "I took it as a direction," and noted that the remark came during a one-on-one meeting with the president of the United States.

10:50 a.m.

Former FBI director James Comey says he thought during a January dinner with President Donald Trump that the president was "looking to get something" in exchange for allowing him to stay on as FBI director.

Comey is describing his views that the president was trying to create a type of "patronage relationship" at the start of the Trump administration.

The ousted FBI head is testifying that the president told him before the dinner he hoped he would stay as director.

Comey says law enforcement leaders aren't "supposed to be peeking out to see whether your patron is pleased or not with what you're doing."

10:40 a.m.

Former FBI Director James Comey says he was concerned Donald Trump would "lie" about the nature of his first conversation with him.

Comey says Trump's behavior was new to him and led him to think, "I gotta write it down and I gotta write it down in a very detailed way."

During the meeting, Trump asked if he personally was under investigation. Comey says he told him he was not at that time.

Trump fired Comey in May. At the time, Comey was leading an investigation into Russia's election meddling and ties with the Trump campaign.

10:35 a.m.

Former FBI Director James Comey says that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch urged him to refer to the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails a "matter" instead of an "investigation."

Comey says in his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that he was confused by the request and it was one of the reasons he felt the need to publicly announce his findings in the Clinton email case.

Comey says the other major factor was Lynch's meeting with former President Bill Clinton on the tarmac of an Arizona airport. Comey says he had to announce his findings to protect the credibility of the FBI and the Justice Department.

10:25 a.m.

James Comey says President Donald Trump's administration spread "lies, plain and simple" and "defamed" him and the FBI.

The former FBI director opened his Senate testimony Thursday by stating that the administration's explanations for his firing confused and concerned him.

The ousted FBI director says at the start of his high-profile Senate hearing that President Donald Trump had repeatedly told him he was doing a great job. Comey says he told the president he planned to serve out his full 10-year term.

Comey is testifying before the Senate intelligence committee. His remarks are his first public statements since his firing on May 9, which came as he was leading an FBI investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

10:20 a.m.

Former FBI director James Comey says that shifting explanations of his firing confused and concerned him.

The ousted FBI director says at the start of his high-profile Senate hearing that President Donald Trump had repeatedly told him he was doing a great job. Comey says he told the president he planned to serve out his full 10-year term.

Comey says he was "confused" by the explanation that his decisions during the 2016 election was the reason he was fired by Trump.

10:18 a.m.

Former FBI Director James Comey has begun his much-anticipated congressional testimony under oath.

Comey is expected to recount a series of interactions with President Donald Trump in the weeks before his firing that he will say made him uncomfortable.

Those include a January dinner in which he says Trump asked him for his loyalty, and a White House conversation weeks later in which he says Trump asked him to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Comey is testifying before the Senate intelligence committee. His remarks are his first public statements since his firing on May 9, which came as he was leading an FBI investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

10:15 a.m.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner says President Donald Trump's pressuring of former FBI Director James Comey and other government officials to downplay the Russia investigation is inappropriate.

Warner says it's not "how a president of the United States behaves."

Warner, of Virginia, is the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee. The panel is hosting Comey for his first public account of his interactions with the president before he was dramatically fired.

In his prepared opening remarks, Comey describes a series of uncomfortable interactions with the president.

10:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump will dispute key parts of former FBI Director James Comey's testimony.

That's according to a person close to the president's legal team.

The person says the president disputes Comey's claim that he asked him for loyalty. Trump also disputes Comey's account of a conversation about the investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.

The person demanded anonymity because the person is not authorized to be named in a discussion about legal strategy.

10:00 a.m.

Former FBI Director James Comey has arrived in a Senate hearing room where he will deliver long-awaited testimony about his dramatic firing.

Senators will ask Comey about his interactions with President Donald Trump before he was fired in May.

Comey says he had a series of uncomfortable conversations with Trump. He says Trump asked him for a pledge of loyalty and pushed him to "lift the cloud" of the Russia investigation by declaring publicly the president was not the target of the probe into his campaign's ties with Moscow.

Comey's remarks are his first since he was fired.

9:52 a.m.

President Donald Trump's outside counsel Marc Kasowitz will be at the White House Thursday to monitor fired FBI Director James Comey's testimony to Congress.

The president is expected to watch some of Comey's remarks to lawmakers. His public schedule is largely clear until the afternoon.

Kasowitz is a longtime Trump lawyer. He was recently tapped to handle all inquiries related to the investigations into possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia - a move intended to distance the White House from the FBI and congressional probes.

7:30 a.m.

The ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee says former FBI director James Comey's account of his conversations with the president about the Russia investigation are "disturbing."

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia will emphasize at Thursday's committee hearing that the American people need to realize that what happened was that a president asked an FBI director to drop an ongoing investigation into a former national security adviser.

Warner released excerpts of his opening remarks to the committee early Thursday ahead of the hearing.

Warner says that in violation of clear guidelines put in place after Watergate to prevent any whiff of political interference by the White House in FBI investigations, President Donald Trump also called Comey twice to ask him to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation over his White House.

6:45 a.m.

A Senate Democrat is cautioning members of Congress against asserting too hastily that President Donald Trump has engaged in acts that could constitute obstruction of justice in the investigation of Russian meddling in last year's election.

Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware says, "I think we have to be careful about making legal conclusions" and argues that lawmakers should not be "getting in the way" of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller (MUHL'-ur).

But Coons also tells MSNBC in an interview, hours before fired FBI Director James Comey's Capitol Hill appearance, that he believes Trump's words and deeds go "right up to the line" of legality. The senator adds that statements about the Russia probe attributed to Trump by Comey raise the question of whether the president's actions "meet the legal standard for obstruction of justice."

6:05 a.m.

The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee says former FBI Director James Comey's testimony on President Donald Trump's conduct "is certainly evidence of interference or obstruction."

Comey is testifying Thursday that Trump urged him to back off from his investigation into Michael Flynn's contacts with Russians. Comey's written statement released ahead of his testimony said Trump had described the Russia investigation as a "cloud" that was interfering with his job. Comey is testifying that he gave Trump no such assurance. Trump fired him last month.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, made his assessment Wednesday in an interview with The Washington Post. Schiff added that even if Trump's actions met the legal test for obstruction, in practical terms it was less likely that the Republican-controlled Congress would move to remove him.

3:45 a.m.

In a hugely anticipated hearing, fired FBI director James Comey will recount a series of conversations with President Donald Trump that he says made him deeply uneasy and concerned about the blurring of boundaries between the White House and a law enforcement agency that prides itself on independence.

The testimony, Comey's first public statements since his May 9 dismissal, is likely to bring hours of uncomfortable attention to an administration shadowed for months by an investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

His account of demands for loyalty from the president, and of requests to end an investigation into an embattled adviser, are likely to sharpen allegations that Trump improperly sought to influence the FBI-led probe.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)



 
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