This morning James Comey, the former FBI Director fired by President Trump, called the President's statements about the reasons for that firing "lies, plain and simple." He said Trump had been slandered him, fired him over his investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign, and that he had kept notes on his conversations with Trump because he was concerned the president "might lie about the nature of the meeting." And this was all just a few minutes into his hours-long oral testimony.
The political world is glued to their livestreams today as former Directory Comey, an unlikely household name after a string of controversial events that arguably swung the presidential election to Donald Trump, essentially testifies against that man, clearing up the murky circumstances around the President's impetuous termination of his tenure. It's already entered the pantheon of the most blockbuster Senate hearings of all time, right up there with Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, Oliver North and the Iran Contra affair, even the Watergate hearings. This is must-see TV for the political nerds, and you can stream it below.
At stake is, well, everything: Close watchers and impeachment dreamers are listening for the grounds to charge Obstruction Of Justice. (More on that below.) Others are just waiting to see how deep into Trump's erratic mind this will take us.
Overall and so far, the testimony is damning for Trump. The FBI Director is meant to be a position beyond political considerations, both in the job description and the job qualification. Of course, nothing in Washington is truly apolitical, but nothing makes the case more than a President who tells his FBI Director “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,” as Trump did in a private White House dinner conversation in January according to Comey's seven-page written testimony, delivered to the Senate on the eve of today's hearings.
FBI Directors are granted ten-year terms to maintain some buffer from political fealty. But, they serve at the "pleasure of the president," meaning, the President can fire the director at any point.
Comey's testimony that Trump is the only president who inspired him to make memos suggests that he finds Trump to be a liar, and was profoundly uncomfortable with the man's motivations. Comey saying "Lordy, I hope there are tapes," a response to Trump's tweets suggesting that he had made tapes about their private conversations which are at the heart of these hearings, suggests he thinks Trump is a liar. Comey testified that Trump told him he was well liked and doing a great job and hoped Comey would stay at three separate occasions, and then suddenly, in a private conversation, asked if he wanted to stay and that others wanted the job, which made Comey feel Trump was looking for something in exchange for granting my request for staying on my job.
These are intense allegations.
Obstruction of justice is the impeding of an official investigation (“obstructs, influences or impedes any official proceeding," according to the official statute). Both Presidents who have been impeached, Nixon and Clinton, were accused of obstruction of justice.
From an impeachment standpoint, if a majority of the House and 2/3 of the Senate find the alleged obstruction to be grounds for removal, the President can be removed.
This is critical stuff. And it's happening right here, right now.