RI leaders react strongly to Comey testimony

James Comey
Former FBI director James Comey speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island politicians and other local leaders reacted strongly to former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony Thursday.

During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Comey said he had kept written memos describing private interactions with President Trump. He also said Trump fired him because of the investigation into Russia following the 2016 presidential election.

“I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted,” said Comey. “That is a very big deal, and not just because it involves me.”

Comey’s revelations drew swift reactions from many Rhode Island leaders. Rep. David Cicilline said outright that he trusted Comey’s side of the story more than President Trump’s. Former state Rep. Joe Trillo, however, thought Comey’s comments may not have been fully truthful.

Below are a number of statements from local leaders:

Sen. Jack Reed

“Former FBI Director Comey’s testimony was a jarring and persuasive indictment of President Trump’s actions. He clearly stated that he was fired because President Trump thought that would somehow derail the investigation into Russia’s meddling in our democracy. But Mr. Comey made the point that the FBI as an agency will not be deterred. They’re going to keep investigating. That is appropriate. What the President did was highly inappropriate.

“This is not and must not be viewed as a partisan issue. During the presidential election, Russia attacked our democracy, and now the President’s campaign is under active investigation, including the possibility of criminal matters, by a Special Counsel. The American people deserve the truth.

“Mr. Comey’s testimony under oath directly refuted the President, characterizing the Administration’s account of his firing as purposefully misleading. There is no serious question as to Mr. Comey’s integrity, and it is increasingly clear that the President is not happy with the direction of the Russia investigation.

“The threat of interference in our elections goes to the heart of our democracy, and we must not become accustomed to it. The President must stop treating this investigation as a mere annoyance, and act in the interest of the American people to safeguard future elections.

“My colleagues and I will continue to work on a bipartisan basis to follow the evidence wherever it may lead. I also expect no less from Special Counsel Mueller, whom I believe will carry out his investigation with the same thoroughness and care that characterized his years of service in law enforcement.”

Rep. David Cicilline:

“I’ll take James Comey’s word over Donald Trump’s any day. Today’s testimony raised new, significant questions about whether President Trump committed obstruction of justice earlier this year. It also underscored the importance of thoroughly investigating all the facts about President Trump’s ties to Vladimir Putin, and of ensuring that Russia does not interfere in any future American elections. I will continue working with my colleagues to demand answers and hold the Trump White House accountable.”

Rep. Jim Langevin:

“I appreciate Former Director Comey’s candor in the testimony he provided to the committee, which painted an eye-opening and distressing picture of the President’s actions. Comey’s testimony confirmed earlier reporting that the President, during a one-on-one meeting with the Director, inappropriately discussed an ongoing investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.  Even more disturbing, Mr. Comey made it clear that he felt the President was trying to influence the outcome of that investigation. Special Counsel Robert Mueller must consider the totality of the circumstances described by Mr. Comey today – circumstances that could well constitute obstruction of justice – as he conducts his independent probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

“Today we learned that Mr. Comey, a long-time prosecutor, concluded that the President of the United States intended to obstruct an FBI investigation.  That alone is remarkable testimony.  Mr. Comey painted a picture of a President so obsessed with getting out from under the ‘cloud’ of the Russia investigation that he asked the FBI Director to ‘let go’ one investigation and to prematurely vindicate Trump in another.

“Comey also raised new and troubling questions about White House officials’ complicity in the President’s improper and obstructive conduct, Attorney General Sessions’s contacts with the Russians, and Sessions’s role in Comey’s firing—after he had recused himself from the Russia investigation.

“Today’s hearing shows how important Senate hearings can be.  The Judiciary Committee in particular needs to ask of Attorney General Sessions why he walked out of a room leaving his FBI Director alone with a President whose campaign links to Russia were the subject of investigation.  I will work with Judiciary Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein and Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee Chairman Graham to continue to pursue the truth wherever it may lead.”

Former U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island Peter Neronha

“He made these contemporaneous memos because he thought the president might lie about the content of the meetings. That sets up a real sharp dispute between who’s telling the truth.”

Former state Rep. and Trump RI chairman Joe Trillo

“This president chose to fire him, he loved his job, but he’s upset. So you have to take some of his testimony — I give a lot of credibility to it — but I think some of his testimony may have been slightly tweaked to make the president look worse than he is.

“If you feel like what’s being said about you — or an organization that you love — is unfair, and you wait a month to push back, or a year to push back, the narrative is gone. So my sense is that he felt the need push back quickly.

“It was said today, over and over, that Comey told the president on three occasions that he wasn’t under investigation. They’re not going to talk about that. And that’s basically what the president wanted Comey to come out publicly and say.”