WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) – Rhode Island U.S. Sen. Jack Reed was among the senators who questioned former FBI director James Comey on Thursday morning in a high-profile nationally televised hearing.
Reed is an ex officio member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, where Comey testified, because he is the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Comey told the committee what his prepared testimony had indicated: that he was unnerved enough by interactions with President Donald Trump that he started keeping written memos of their private discussions.
Among the questions Reed leveled at him were an inquiry about news reports that the president had reportedly asked other senior intelligence officials to take steps that would curtail the investigation of possible coordination between Trump’s campaign for president and Russian officials.
Comey said he didn’t know anything more than the public reporting about those allegations.
Reed also asked about Trump’s push for loyalty from Comey, which Comey has said he responded to by committing to being “honest” and independent.
“I tried ‘honest’ first, and also — you see it in my testimony — I tried to explain to him why it’s in his interests, and every president’s interest, for the FBI to be ‘apart,’ in a way, because its credibility is important to a president and to the country,” Comey said. “And so — I tried to hold the line, hold the line. It got very awkward. And I then said, ‘You’ll always have honesty from me,’ and he said, ‘Honest loyalty.’ And then I acceded to that as a way to end this awkwardness.”
Comey’s public firing followed – “There was an explanation, I just don’t buy it,” Comey told Reed, who replied, “Well, um, yes” – and Reed asked if Comey believed he’d been fired “because you refused to take the president’s direction.”
“I don’t know for sure,” said Comey. But he said he knew he was fired because the way he was conducting the Russia investigation was in some way pressuring or “irritating” Trump.
Reed and the committee also questioned the president’s national security team Wednesday about potential meddling by Russia in the election, but Reed said later he felt some key remarks by Trump may have been left out.