Comey to testify in open Senate hearing on alleged Russian interference in 2016 election
Ex-FBI director James Comey has agreed to testify openly to the Senate on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US election. He’s also expected to react to reports that President Donald Trump called him “a real nutjob” in a meeting with Russian diplomats.
Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, announced late Friday that Comey accepted an invitation to testify to the committee in an open setting.
“The Committee looks forward to receiving testimony from the former Director on his role in the development of the Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, and I am hopeful that he will clarify for the American people recent events that have been broadly reported in the media,” Burr said in a statement.
The committee's ranking Democrat, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, said "Director Comey served his country with honor for many years, and he deserves an opportunity to tell his story," in a joint statement with Burr.
President Donald Trump reportedly told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the country’s ambassador to the US Sergei Kislyak that Comey was “crazy, a real nutjob” during a meeting in the Oval Office on May 10, one day after Comey was fired, according to the New York Times.
The Times claims the remarks came from notes taken in the Oval Office, and that an official read quotes from them to the paper, and that they’re backed up by a second official.
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump is reported to have told the top Russian diplomats.
“I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off,” Trump allegedly said. “I’m not under investigation.”
The president's offenses are so brazen that they almost seem normal. They aren't, and he must account for them. https://t.co/JfYBRmsQC0— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) May 19, 2017
Commenting on the allegations Friday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said: “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.”
“The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations,” he added.
“Once again” is seemingly a reference to an allegation made by the Washington Post that Trump also shared classified information with Lavrov at the same meeting.
White House has statements out on both scoops pic.twitter.com/VwORKh23xf— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) May 19, 2017
These claims have been dismissed by the Trump administration as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin, who offered to provide a record of the meeting to prove no classified or secret information was shared.
The Times also claims that a third government official who was briefed on the meeting defended the president and suggested that telling Lavrov about the “pressure” he was under was a negotiating tactic, designed to coax concession out of the foreign minister on Syria, Ukraine and a number of other issues.
“Almost a tidal wave of leaks”
Journalist and author Max Blumenthal told RT that recent leaks to the media constituted "not just a steady drip," but "almost a tidal wave" coming from within the intelligence services and reported as from anonymous former and current US officials.
Many of the leaks, Blumenthal noted, were "related to Trump's conversations about his Russia policy and foreign policy in general," in order to stimulate "opposition" not just to a US-Russia detente, but to ultimately end with "nothing less than [Trump's] impeachment," Blumenthal said.
Describing Trump as an "extremely sloppy operator," Blumenthal called his administration "inept" in "putting out fires" amid reported allegations and mixed messaging following the "terrible" handling of Comey's firing.
Trump was "provoked, goaded into bombing the Syrian government" by the media, a severe shift from campaign promises to work with Russia against the Islamic State in the region, Blumenthal said. Blumenthal believes geo-political as well as domestic political interests are driving an agenda set by former officials from the Obama administration against Trump.
"What we're witnessing is a very undemocratic atmosphere, where anonymous officials from within the intelligence agencies within the deep state are driving media coverage, driving the public into hysteria, aiming at impeachment," Blumenthal said.