Live blog: James Comey testifies before Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

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Former FBI Director James Comey is testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Click to listen online. Click to read the prepared text of Comey’s opening statement. Stay with 720 WGN for frequent updates and your reaction, and follow along with our live blog below.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20178:34 AM

It’s being described as the “Super Bowl of Congressional Hearings.”  The line to get into the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing started at 4am, and snakes through the halls of TWO senate buildings.  Not much other work is expected today in Washington.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20178:39 AM

Here is the opening statement to be read by former FBI Director James Comey at the beginning of today’s testimony.  It was released Wednesday:

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Here are some excerpts released by Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner, ahead of today’s hearing:

Mr. Comey, let me say at the outset that we haven’t always agreed on every
issue – in fact I’ve occasionally questioned actions you’ve taken – but
I’ve never had any reason to question your integrity, expertise
or intelligence. 
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.

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 now know that this is not true. 
The testimony that Mr. Comey has submitted for today’s hearing is disturbing. For example, on January 27th, after summoning Director Comey to dinner, the President appears to have threatened Director Comey’s job, while telling him “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.

At a later meeting on February 14, the President asked the Attorney General to leave the Oval Office so that he could privately ask Director Comey to “see [his] way clear to…letting Flynn go,” a statement that Director Comey interpreted as a request that we drop the investigation connected to General Flynn’s false statements. I do want to emphasize what is happening here – the President of the United States is asking the FBI Director to drop an ongoing investigation into the President’s former National Security Advisor.
In further violation of clear guidelines put in place after Watergate to prevent any whiff of political interference by the White House into FBI investigations, the President then called the FBI Director on two separate occasions – March 30 and April 11 – and asked him to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation.

At the same time the President was engaged in these efforts with Director Comey, he was also allegedly pressuring senior leaders of the intelligence community to downplay the Russia investigation or intervene with Director Comey. DNI Coats and NSA Director Admiral Rogers had plenty of opportunities to deny those reports yesterday. They did not. This is not how a President of the United States behaves. 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.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20178:47 AM

Inside hearing room: 7 tables for reporters, 8 rows of 11 seats for public (About 90 people will be able to watch from the hearing room).  They are already seated.  There is an overflow room.

There are 8 seats saved for members of Congress: Including for Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-CA
Rep. Al Green / Gene Green D-TX (both are Texas Democrats)
Rep. Mike Quigley, D-IL
Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-USVI
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-CA
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-AZ

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20178:54 AM

Our live coverage of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence begins at 9am/CT on 720 WGN, and will continue throughout the proceedings at

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20178:58 AM

The committee is expected to will go into closed session around 12p/CT.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:02 AM

Bars across Washington, DC are opening early today for those planning to watch the Comey hearing…offering free drinks if/when President Trump Tweets during the testimony.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:03 AM

Comey has just entered the hearing room, facing lawmakers.  Lawmakers too are seated.

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Comey alone at table, suit, red tie.  Hearing gavel calls to order.

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Sen. Richard Burr laying out rules for questions from lawmakers, telling them to keep questions involving classified information for closed session after noon Central.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:06 AM

Sen. Burr: Jim today is your day to set the record straight.

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Sen. Burr: The American people need to hear your side of the story as they need to hear the president’s…

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:09 AM

Sen. Burr laying out some of the question that they plan to tackle including Russian involvement in 2016 elections, his meetings with President Trump, and his decision to speak to the investigation of the Clinton campaign.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:10 AM

Sen. Mark Warner vice chair now speaking…

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:12 AM

Sen. Warner: This investigation is not about re-litigating the election…we’re here because a foreign adversary attacked us here at home…Russian spies engaged in a series of cyber raids…all to sow chaos to undermine leadership…What the Russians did, why they were so successful…and steps we must take to make sure it doesn’t happen again….we cannot let anything or anyone prevent us from getting to the bottom of this…

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:12 AM

Sen. Warner to Comey: I’ve never had any reason to question your expertise…which makes the way you were fired by the president “ultimately shocking.”

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:13 AM

Warner laying out contacts Trump campaign staff has had with Russians.  Naming Kushner, Manafort

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:14 AM

Sen. Warner: The president himself appears to have attempted to influence the director of the FBI…citing “loyalty” statement from Comey’s previously released testimony

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:16 AM

(Aside) Conselor to president Kellyanne Conway has tweeted birthday greeting to former First Lady Barbara Bush as testimony began:

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Sen. Warner: Director Comey’s firing and testimony raise questions…This is not a witch hunt this is not “fake news”…

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:18 AM

Sen Burr swears in James Comey.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:19 AM

Comey opts not to read seven-page statement released yesterday.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:20 AM

Comey: I understood I could be fired by any president for any reason at all…(after) the explanations confused me and concerned me.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:21 AM

Comey: It confused he when he (Trump) said he had fired me over the Russia investigation…

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:22 AM

Comey: “The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying the organization was in chaos and had lost confidence in its leader.” 

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:22 AM

Comey: The FBI is honest, the FBI is strong, and the FBI is and will always be independent.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:24 AM

Comey tells Burr he has no doubt Russia was involved in presidential election

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:24 AM

Sen. Burr: Did President Trump attempt to get you to stop investigation…Comey: No

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:25 AM

Comey on Flynn: Gen. Flynn was in legal jeopardy, there was criminal investigation.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:28 AM

Comey won’t answer Burr question on dossier in public session

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:30 AM

Comey: became aware of cyber intrusion (Russia) in late summer of 2015.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:30 AM

Comey: hundreds of entities targeted by Russia…maybe thousands

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:43 AM

Comey said writing memos durnig meetings with president was something he had to do because “I was honestly concerned he (Trump) might lie about the nature of our meeting, so I found it really important to document it.”

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:50 AM

Comey has once again confirmed while he was FBI Director Trump was NOT under investigation.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:51 AM

(Aside) Donald Trump Junior is tweeting about testimony:

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Sen. Feinstein: Why do you believe you were fired?  Comey: I take him (president) at his word it was over Russia investigation

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20179:56 AM

Sen. Feinstein: Why didn’t you stop the president and say, Mr. President this is wrong. Comey: I was surprised.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201710:16 AM

Sen. Wyden to Comey: I believe the timing of your firing stinks.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201710:18 AM

Comey on Flynn conversations with President Trump:  “My common sense told me what’s going on here is he’s looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay on the job.” “I was so stunned by the conversation that i just took it in. …I remember saying I agree he’s a good guy, as a way of saying I’m not agreeing with what you just asked me to do.”

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ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201710:26 AM

The viral comment from the event thus far: “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201710:31 AM

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) New Mexico asks Comey the President’s reaction to information that Russia had been attempting to infiltrate the election

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201710:32 AM

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201710:34 AM

Referring to Comey saying after Trump’s “tapes” tweet he asked friend to share content of his meeting memos to “prompt the appointment of a special council”

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201710:34 AM

This is what lead to Donald Trump Jr. tweet:

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201710:37 AM

An attorney for President Trump Marc Kasowitz will make an on-camera statement after the Comey hearing concludes.  He is reportedly watching the hearing with POTUS at the White House.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201710:47 AM

Comey on giving memos to friend to give to media: “As a private citizen I felt free to share that. I thought it very important.”

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201710:50 AM

Comey: nobody from WH or administration approached him about Michael Flynn following their encounter when Trump in which he said “I hope you can let this go.”

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201710:57 AM

Comey: I hope there are tapes (as hinted by President Trump on Twitter)…tells president to release them.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201711:07 AM

The president has just left the White House for a Faith/Freedom speech he’ll be delivering today.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201711:12 AM

President Trump’s attorney Marc Kasowitz will speak at 12:30p/CT.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201711:13 AM

President Trump has arrived at the hotel where he’ll be delivering his speech at appx. 11:30a/ET.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201711:17 AM

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ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201711:30 AM

Sen. John McCain now questioning Comey.

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ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201711:42 AM

The committee is wrapping up open session…will go into closed session.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201711:51 AM

President Trump not expected to comment on Comey testimony in address today — spox saying if he does it would be off script.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201711:55 AM

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201712:31 PM

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201712:33 PM

Trump in speech: We know the truth will prevail!

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 201712:47 PM

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20171:07 PM

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ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20171:21 PM

Comey has left Hill following a closed door hearing.  Answers no questions from press.

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20171:31 PM

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20171:37 PM

Trump attorney: Today, Mr. Comey admitted that he leaked to friends his purported memos of these privileged conversations, one of which he testified was classified.
 He also testified that immediately after he was terminated he
authorized his friends to leak the contents of these memos to the press
in order to “prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”

ryanburrowwgn June 8, 20171:37 PM

Trump attorney: In sum, it is now established that there the President was not being investigated for colluding with the or attempting to obstruct that investigation.