Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., delivered a scathing rebuke of President Trump on Thursday morning after reading former FBI Director James Comey’s written testimony about their interactions.
In his opening statement, Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told Comey that he has not agreed with him on every issue and has questioned his actions occasionally but has never had any reason to question his integrity, intelligence and expertise.
“You have been a straight shooter with this committee and have been willing to speak truth to power, even at the risk of your career, which makes the way in which you were fired by the president utterly shocking,” Warner said.
“Recall, we began this entire process with the president and his staff first denying that the Russians were ever involved, and then falsely claiming that no one from his team was ever in touch with any Russians. We know that’s just not the truth.”
Warner expressed disapproval of the various times Trump allegedly pressured Comey. According to Comey’s testimony, Trump demanded loyalty and threatened to fire him on Jan. 27, beseeched him to drop a federal investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, on Feb. 14 and asked him to “lift the cloud” of the Russian investigation on two separate occasions: March 30 and April 11. Trump fired Comey on May 9.
“The initial explanation for the firing didn’t pass any smell test,” he said.
For Warner, these requests clearly violated guidelines that had been established “to prevent any whiff of political interference by the White House into FBI investigations,” following the Watergate scandal that led to former President Richard Nixon’s resignation.
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“The testimony that Mr. Comey has submitted for today’s hearing is disturbing,” he said.
Warner noted that Trump allegedly pressured other senior officials in the intelligence community to downplay the importance of the investigation into the Kremlin’s influence peddling, or to intervene with Comey themselves.
Warren said that the investigation is not about relitigating the election but protecting American democracy from foreign adversaries: “We must determine the necessary steps to protect our democracy and ensure that they can’t do it again.”
The Virginia lawmaker noted that NSA Director Mike Rogers and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats refused to deny these reports while testifying before the Senate intelligence committee on Wednesday — though they were given plenty of opportunities to do just that.
“My belief, that’s not how a president of the United States should behave. Regardless of the outcome of our investigation into those Russia links, Director Comey’s firing and his testimony raise separate and troubling questions that we must get to the bottom of.”
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