Comey: Trump sought to 'lift the cloud' of investigation

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After characterizing some of President Trump's justifications for firing him as "lies, plain and simple", former FBI Director James Comey moved on in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee this morning.

Comey said in his testimony that he understood the President to be requesting that he drop the investigation into Flynn, who had resigned the day before. "A lot would depend on if there were other witnesses who, say, hear Trump said "I'm going to fire him if he doesn't drop the case" or if he was on tape saying "I will fire you if you don't" - that would be clear-cut evidence". However, Comey said of his response to the president, "I did not say I would 'let this go'".

The Washington Post said to date, Democrats are split on the question of impeachment proceedings, with some readily suggesting the possibility but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi impatiently dismissing that as premature.

They also came shortly after two top U.S. spy agency chiefs skirted questions from the Senate panel about whether Trump asked them to intervene in the Flynn probe, as reported by The Washington Post.

Despite landing himself in other political controversies, including his handling of the FBI investigation of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's private email server, Comey is widely seen as cautious and fact-oriented.

House Minority Whip Steny H Hoyer demanded that the Congress should launch an independent, bipartisan commission to get to the bottom of Russia's attempts to undermine our democracy and to what extent they had contact with the Trump campaign as they did so.

Comey also testified that the Trump administration "chose to defame me", told "lies, plain and simple" and that he was "confused" by Trump saying he was sacked due to the Russian Federation probe.

"The pressure brought to bear on Comey could well amount to obstruction of justice depending on the intent and motive", said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from CT.

The White House released a statement that denied this version of events, saying that "While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn".

Trump again said "the cloud" was interfering with his ability to do his job.

Until his firing, Comey oversaw the federal investigation into possible collusion between Trump's associates and Russian Federation.

"Prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI's leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally".

Did Comey's fellow intelligence agency bosses ever ask him to back off the Flynn investigation? While the Federal Bureau of Investigation director is a subordinate of the president, he or she is expected to be nonpartisan and not subject to political pressure.

Trump's deputy press secretary, Sarah Sanders, felt compelled to issue an unusual rebuttal: "I can definitively say the president is not a liar". Comey also informs Trump on the existence of unverified material collected by a former British agent. He is Comey's former Justice Department colleague during the George W. Bush administration and both worked on the government's case in the Enron fraud scandal in the early to mid-2000s.

Comey's early release of his testimony gave Democrats a chance to hone their questions for Thursday, but also flushed out how Republicans will respond.

He is also likely to be asked why he didn't act sooner given his concerns about the president.

"What the President whispered in my ear was, 'I really look forward to working with you'".

Trump is widely expected to use his Twitter account, which lists 31.8 million followers, to counterpunch at Comey on Thursday - perhaps even in real time.

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