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Ousted FBI Director, James Comey Testifes in Open Hearing Before Senate. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired June 8, 2017 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


HEINRICH: So there are reports that the incoming Trump administration, either during the transition and/or after the inauguration, attempted to set up a sort of back-door communication channel with the Russian government using their infrastructure, their devices or facilities.

What would be the risks particularly for a transition, someone not actually in the office of the president yet, to setting up unauthorized channels with a hostile foreign government, especially if they were to evade our own American intelligence services?

COMEY: I'm not going to comment on whether that happened in an open setting. But the risk is -- primary risk is obvious: you spare the Russians the cost and effort of having to break into our communications channels by using theirs.

And so you make it a whole lot easier for them to capture all of your conversations, and then to use those to the benefit of Russia against the United States.

HEINRICH: The memos that you wrote -- you wrote, did you write all nine of them in a way that was designed to prevent them from needing classification?

COMEY: No. And -- and, on a few of the occasions, I wrote -- I sent e- mails to my chief of staff or others on some of the brief phone conversations that I recall. The first one was a classified briefing.

Although it wasn't in a SCIF, it was in a conference room at Trump Tower. It was a classified briefing and so I wrote that on a classified device. The one I started typing...

HEINRICH: Got you.

COMEY: ... in the car -- that was a classified laptop that I started working on.

HEINRICH: Any reason, in a classified environment, in a SCIF, that this committee would -- it would not be appropriate to see those communications, from -- at least from your perspective as the author?

COMEY: No. HEINRICH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

BURR: Senator Blunt.

BLUNT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Comey, when you were terminated at the FBI, I said, and still continue to feel, that you have provided years of great service to the country.

I also said that I'd had significant questions, over the last year, about some of the decision you made. If -- if the president hadn't terminated your service, would you still be, in your opinion, the director of the FBI today?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

BLUNT: So you took as a direction from the president something that you thought was serious and troublesome, but continued to show up for work the next day?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

BLUNT: And, six weeks later we're still telling the -- we're telling the president, on March the 30th, that he was not personally the target of any investigation?

COMEY: Correct. On March the 30th, and I think again on -- I think on April 11th as well, I told him we're not investigating him personally. That was true.

BLUNT: Well, the point to me -- the concern to me there is that all these things are going on. You, now, in retrospect -- or at you, now, to this committee -- that these were -- you had serious concerns about what the president had, you believed, directed you to do, and had taken no action -- hadn't even reported up the chain of command, assuming you believe there is an "up the chain of command," that these things had happened.

Do you have a sense of that, looking back, that that was a mistake?

COMEY: No. In fact, I think no action was the most important thing I could do to make sure there was no interference with the investigation.

BLUNT: And on the -- on the Flynn issue specifically, I believe you said earlier that you believed the president was suggesting you drop any investigation of Flynn's account of his conversation with the Russian ambassador, which was essentially misleading the vice president and others?

COMEY: Correct, and -- and I'm not going to go into the details, but whether there were false statements made to government investigators, as well.

BLUNT: The -- any suggestion that the -- that General Flynn had violated the Logan Act, I always find pretty incredible. The Logan Act's been on the books for over 200 years. Nobody's ever been prosecuted for violating the Logan Act. My sense would be that the discussion -- not the problem -- misleading investigators or the vice president might have been.

COMEY: That's fair. Yes, sir.

BLUNT: And -- and you're -- had you previously, on February the 14th, discussed with the president, in the previous meeting, anything your investigators had learned, or their impressions from talking to Flynn?

COMEY: No, sir.

BLUNT: So he said, "He's a good guy." You said, "He's a good guy." And that was -- no further action taken on that?

COMEY: Well, he said more than that. But there was no -- the action was I wrote it up, briefed our senior team, tried to figure out what to do with it and just (ph) made a decision, we're going to hold this and then see what we make of it down the road.

COMEY: Yes, sir.

BLUNT: Was it your view that not briefing up (ph) meant you really had no responsibility to report that to the Justice Department in some way?

COMEY: I think, at some point -- and -- and I don't know what Director Mueller is going to do with it, but at some point I was sure we were going to brief it to the team in charge of the case.

But our judgment was, in the short term, doesn't make sense to -- no fuzz on the fact that I reported it to the attorney general. That's why I stressed he shouldn't be kicked out of the room. But -- didn't make sense to report to him now.

BLUNT: You know, you said the attorney general said (ph), "I don't want to be in the room with him alone again," but you continued to talk to him on the phone. What is the difference in being in the room alone with him and talking to him on the phone alone?

COMEY: Yeah, I think that what I stressed (ph) to the attorney general was a little broader than just the room. I said "You -- I report to you. It's very important you be between me and the White House, between..."

(CROSSTALK)

BLUNT: After that discussion with the attorney general, did you take phone calls from the president?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

BLUNT: So why did you just say you need to talk to -- why didn't you say, "I'm not taking that call. You need to talk to the attorney general"?

COMEY: Well, I -- I did, on the April 11th call, and I reported the calls -- the March 30th call and the April 11th call -- to my superior, who was the acting deputy attorney general.

BLUNT: I -- I don't want to run out of time here. Let me make one other point.

In reading your testimony, January the 3rd, January the 27th and March the 30th -- it appears to me that, on all three of those occasions, you, unsolicited by the president, made the point to him that he was not a target of the -- of an investigation.

COMEY: Correct. Yes, sir.

BLUNT: One, I thought the March 30th very interesting. You said, well, even though you don't want -- you may not want us -- that was the 27th, where he said, "Why don't you look into that dossier thing more?" You said, "Well, you may not want that, because then we couldn't tell you -- couldn't say with -- we couldn't answer the question about you being a target of the investigation."

But you didn't seem to be answering that question anyhow. As Senator Rubio pointed out, the one unanswered, unleaked question seems to have been that, in this whole period of time.

But you said something earlier I don't want to fail to follow up on. You said, after you were dismissed, you gave information to a friend so that friend could get that information into the public media.

COMEY: Correct.

BLUNT: What kind of information was that? Wasn't that (ph) -- what kind of information did you give to a friend?

COMEY: That the -- the -- the Flynn conversation, that the president asked me to let the -- the Flynn -- I'm forgetting my exact own words, but the -- the conversation in the Oval Office.

BLUNT: So you didn't consider your memo or your sense of that conversation to be a government document? You consider it to be somehow your own personal document that you could share with the media as you wanted to?

COMEY: Correct. I...

BLUNT: Through a friend?

COMEY: ... I understood this to be my recollection, recorded, of my conversation with the president. As a private citizen, I felt free to share that. I thought it very important to get it out.

BLUNT: So were all of your memos that you've recorded on classified or other documents memos that might be yours as a private citizen?

COMEY: I'm sorry, I'm not following the question.

BLUNT: Well, I think you said you'd used classified -- a classified...

(CROSSTALK) COMEY: Not the classified documents. Unclassified -- I don't have any of them anymore. I gave them to the special counsel. But, yeah, my view was that the content of those unclassified -- the memorialization of those conversations was my recollection recorded.

BLUNT: So why didn't you give those to somebody yourself, rather than give them through a third party?

COMEY: Because I was worried the media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point, and I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide, and I worried it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach...

(LAUGHTER)

...if -- if it was -- if it was I who gave it to the media. So I asked my friend, "Make sure this gets out."

BLUNT: It does seem to me that what you do there is create a source close to the former director of the FBI, as opposed to just taking responsibility yourself for saying, "Here are these records."

And, like everybody else, I have other things I'd like to get into, but I'm out of time.

COMEY: OK.

BURR: Senator King.

KING: Thank you.

First I'd like to acknowledge Senator Blumenthal and, earlier, Senator Nelson. I think the one principal thing you'll learn today, Senator, is that the chairs there are less comfortable than the chairs here. But I welcome you to the hearing.

Mr. Comey, a broad question. Was the Russian activity in the 2016 election a one-off proposition? Or is this part of a long-term strategy? Will they be back?

COMEY: Oh, it's a long-term practice of theirs. It -- it stepped up a notch in a significant way in '16. They'll be back.

KING: I think that's very important for the American people to understand, that this is -- this is very much a forward-looking investigation in terms of how do we understand what they did and how do we prevent it. Would you agree that that's a big part of our role here?

COMEY: Yes, sir, and it's not a Republican thing or Democratic thing. It really is an American thing. They're going to come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of. And they're -- they're not devoted to either, in my experience. They're just about their own advantage. And they will be back.

KING: That's my observation. I don't think Putin is a Republican or a Democrat. He's an opportunist.

COMEY: I think that's a fair statement.

KING: With regard to the -- several of these conversations, in his interview with Lester Holt on NBC, the president said, "I had dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on." Is this an accurate statement?

COMEY: No, sir.

KING: Did you, in any way, initiate that dinner?

COMEY: No, he -- he called me at my desk at lunchtime, and asked me was I free for dinner that night. I called himself (ph) and said, "Can you come over for dinner tonight?"

And I said, "Yes, sir."

He said, "Will 6 work?" I think he said 6 first. And then he said, "I was going to invite your whole family, but we'll do that next time. I wanted (ph) you to come over. And is -- is that a good time?"

I said, "Sir, whatever works for you."

And he then said, "How about 6:30?"

And I -- I said, "Whatever works for you, sir." And then I hung up and had to call my wife and break a date with her. I was supposed to take her out to dinner that night, and (OFF-MIKE).

KING: That's one of the all-time great excuses for breaking a date.

(LAUGHTER)

COMEY: In retrospect, I would have -- I love spending time my wife. I wish I'd been there that night. (LAUGHTER)

KING: That's one question I'm not going follow up, Mr. Comey.

But, in that same interview, the president said, "In one case, I called him, and in one case, he called me." Is that an accurate statement?

COMEY: No.

KING: Did you ever call the president?

COMEY: No. I -- I might -- the only reason I'm hesitating is I think there was a least one conversation where I was asked to call the White House switchboard to be connected to him, but I -- I never initiated a communication with the president.

KING: And, in his press conference on May 18th, the president was asked whether he had urged you to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn. The president responded, quote, "No, no. Next question." Is that an accurate statement? COMEY: I don't believe it is.

KING: Thank you.

With regard to the question of him being under personal -- personally under investigation, does that mean that the dossier is not being reviewed or investigated or followed up on in any way?

COMEY: I obviously can't -- I can't comment either way. I can't talk in an open setting about the investigation as it was when I was the head of the FBI. And obviously it's -- it's Director Mueller's -- Bob Mueller's responsibility now, so I just -- I don't know.

KING: So clearly your statements to the president back in those -- these various times when you assured him he wasn't under investigation were as of that moment. That -- that correct, is it not?

COMEY: Correct -- correct.

KING: Now, on the Flynn investigation, is it not true that Mr. Flynn was and is a central figure in this entire investigation of the relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russians?

COMEY: I can't answer that in an open setting, sir.

KING: And certainly Mr. Flynn was part of the so-called Russian investigation. Can you answer that question?

COMEY: I have to give you the same answer.

KING: All right. We'll be having a closed session shortly, so we will follow up on that.

In terms of his comments to you about -- I think in response to Mr. Risch -- to Senator Risch, you said he said, "I hope you will hold back on that." But when you get a -- when a president of the United States in the Oval Office says something like "I hope" or "I suggest" or -- or "would you," do you take that as a -- as a -- as a directive?

COMEY: Yes. Yes, it rings in my ear as kind of, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

KING: I was just going to quote that. In 1170, December 29, Henry II said, "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?" and then, the next day, he was killed -- Thomas Becket. That's exactly the same situation. You're -- we're thinking along the same lines.

Several other questions, and these are a little bit more detailed. What do you know about the Russian bank, VEB?

COMEY: Nothing that I can talk about in an open setting. I mean, I know it...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Well, that takes care of my next three questions. COMEY: I know it exists. Yes, sir.

KING: You know it exists. What is the relationship of Ambassador -- the ambassador from Russia to the United States, to the Russian intelligence infrastructure? COMEY: Well, he's a diplomat who is the chief of mission at the Russian embassy, which employs a robust cohort of intelligence officers. And so, surely, he's witting of their very, very aggressive intelligence operations, at least some of it in the United States. I don't -- I don't consider him to be an intelligence officer himself. He's a diplomat.

KING: Did you ever -- did the FBI ever brief the Trump administration about the -- the advisability of interacting directly with Ambassador Kislyak?

COMEY: Look (ph), all I can say sitting here is there were a variety of defensive briefings given to the incoming administration about the counterintelligence risk.

KING: Back to Mr. Flynn, would the -- would closing out the Flynn investigation have impeded the overall Russian investigation?

COMEY: No. Well, unlikely, except to the extent -- there's always a possibility, if you have a criminal case against someone and you bring in and squeeze them, you flip them, and they give you information about something else. But I saw the two as touching each other, but separate.

KING: With regard to your memos, isn't it true that in a -- in a court case, when you're weighing evidence, contemporaneous memos and contemporaneous statements to third parties are considered probative in terms of the -- the -- the validity of -- of testimony?

COMEY: Yes.

KING: Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

BURR: Senator Cotton?

Or -- excuse me, Senator Lankford?

LANKFORD: Well, Director Comey, good to see you again.

COMEY: You, too.

LANKFORD: We've had multiple opportunities to be able to visit, as everyone on this dais has. And I appreciate you and your service and what you have done for the nation for a long time, which you continue to do.

I've told you before in the heat (ph) of last year, when we had an opportunity to visit personally, that I pray for you and for your family, because you do carry a tremendous amount of stress. And that is still true today. COMEY: Thank you.

LANKFORD: Let me -- let me walk through a couple things with you. Your notes were obviously exceptionally important, because they give a very rapid account of what you -- what you wrote down and what you perceived to happen in those different meetings.

Have you had the opportunity to be able to reference those notes when you were preparing the written statement that you put -- for us today?

COMEY: Yes, I -- yes. I think nearly all of my written recordings of my conversations -- had a chance to review them before filing my statement.

LANKFORD: Do you have a copy of any those notes, personally?

COMEY: I don't. I turned them over to Bob Mueller's investigators.

LANKFORD: The individual that you told about your memos, that then sent on to the New York Times -- do they have a copy of those memos, or were they told orally of those memos?

COMEY: Had a copy -- had a copy at the time.

LANKFORD: Do they -- do they still have a copy of those memos?

COMEY: That's a good question. I think so. I guess I can't say for sure, sitting here, but I -- I -- I guess I don't know, but I think so.

LANKFORD: So the question is, could you ask them to hand that copy right back to you, so you could hand them over to this committee?

COMEY: Potentially.

LANKFORD: I would like to move that from "potential" to "see if we can ask that question," so we can have a copy of those. Obviously those notes are exceptionally important to us to be able to go through the process so we can -- we can continue to get to the facts as -- as we see it. As you know, the written documents are exceptionally important.

LANKFORD: Are there other documents that we need to be aware of that you used in your preparation for your written statement that we should also have, that would assist us in helping with this?

COMEY: Not that I'm aware of, no.

LANKFORD: Past the February the 14th meeting which is a very important meeting obviously, as we discuss the conversations here about Michael Flynn. When the president asked you about he hopes that you would let this go, and the conversation back and forth about him being a good guy.

After that time did the president ever bring up anything about Michael Flynn again to you? You had multiple other conversations you have (inaudible) with the president.

COMEY: No, I don't remember him ever bringing it up again.

LANKFORD: Did any member of the White House staff ever come to you and talk to you about letting go of the Michael Flynn case, or dropping it or anything referring to that?

COMEY: No, nope.

LANKFORD: Did the director of national intelligence come to you and talk to you about that?

COMEY: No.

LANKFORD: Did anyone from the Attorney General's office, the Department of Justice ask you about that?

COMEY: No.

LANKFORD: Did the head of NSA talk to you about that?

COMEY: No.

LANKFORD: The -- the key aspect here is, if -- if -- if this seems to be something the president's trying to get you to drop it, this seems like a pretty light touch to drop it, to bring it up at that moment the day after he had just fired Flynn to come back in and say I hope we can let this go.

But then it never reappears again. Did -- did it slow down your investigation or any investigation that may or may not be occurring with Michael Flynn?

COMEY: No, although I don't know there're any manifestations -- our (ph) manifestations of the investigation between February 14th and when I was fired. So I -- I don't know that the president had any way of knowing whether it was effective or not.

LANKFORD: OK. That's fair enough. If -- if the president wanted to stop an investigation, how would he do that? Knowing it's an ongoing criminal investigation or counterintelligence investigation.

Would that be a matter of trying to go to you -- you perceive and to say you make it stop because he doesn't have the authority to stop or how -- how would the president make an ongoing investigation stop?

COMEY: Again, I'm not a legal scholar. So smarter people answer this better, but I think as a legal matter, president is the head of the executive branch and could direct, in theory, we have important norms against this, but direct that anybody be investigated or anybody not be investigated.

I think he has the legal authority because all of us ultimately report in the executive branch up to the president.

LANKFORD: OK. Would that be to you, would that be the attorney general? Would that be to who that would do that?

COMEY: Suppose he could do it to -- if he wanted to issue a direct order, could do it in any way, could do it through the attorney general or issue it directly to me.

LANKFORD: Well -- well, is there any question that the president is not real fond of this investigation? I -- I can think of multiple 140 word -- character expressions that he's done publicly to express he's not fond of the investigation.

So I've heard you share before in this conversation that you're trying to keep the agents that are working on it away from any comment the president might have made. Quite frankly, the president has informed around 6 billion people that he's not real fond of this investigation.

Do you think there's a difference in that?

COMEY: Yes.

LANKFORD: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

COMEY: I think there's a big difference in kicking superior officers out of the Oval Office, looking the FBI director in the eye and saying, "Hope you'll let this go."

I think if our -- if the agents, as good as they are, heard the president of the United States did that...

(CROSSTALK)

COMEY: ... there's a real risk of a chilling effect on their work. That's why we kept it so tight.

LANKFORD: OK. OK. You had mentioned before about some news stories and news accounts, but, without having to go into all the names and the specific times and to be able dip into all that, have there been news accounts about the Russia investigation, about collusion, about this whole event or accusations that, as you read the story, you were stunned about how wrong they got the facts?

COMEY: Yes. There have been many, many stories purportedly based on classified information about -- well, about lots of stuff, but especially about Russia, that are just dead wrong. LANKFORD: I was interested in your comment that you made, as well, that the president said to you, if there were some satellite associates of his that did something wrong, it would be good to find that out.

That -- the president seemed to talk to you specifically on March the 30th and say, I'm frustrated that the word is not getting out that I'm not under investigation, but if there are people that are in my circle that are, let's finish the investigation. Is that how you took it, as well?

COMEY: Yes, sir. Yes. LANKFORD: And then you made a comment earlier about the attorney general -- previous attorney general -- asking you about the investigation on the Clinton e-mails, saying that you'd been asked not to call it an "investigation" anymore, but to call it a "matter."

And you had said that confused you. Can you give us additional details on that?

COMEY: Well, it concerned me, because we were at the point where we had refused to confirm the existence, as we typically do, of an investigation, for months, and it was getting to a place where that looked silly, because the campaigns were talking about interacting with the FBI in the course of our work.

The -- the Clinton campaign, at the time, was using all kind of euphemisms -- security review, matters, things like that, for what was going on. We were getting to a place where the attorney general and I were both going to have to testify and talk publicly about. And I wanted to know, was she going to authorize us to confirm we had an investigation?

And she said, yes, but don't call it that, call it a matter. And I said, why would I do that? And she said, just call it a matter.

And, again, you look back in hindsight, you think should I have resisted harder? I just said, all right, it isn't worth -- this isn't a hill worth dying on and so I just said, OK, the press is going to completely ignore it. And that's what happened.

When I said, we have opened a matter, they all reported the FBI has an investigation open. And so that concerned me because that language tracked the way the campaign was talking about FBI's work and that's concerning.

LANKFORD: It gave the impression that the campaign was somehow using the same language as the FBI, because you were handed the campaign language and told to be able (ph) to use the campaign language...

(CROSSTALK)

COMEY: Yeah -- and -- and again, I don't know whether it was intentional or not, but it gave the impression that the attorney general was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way a political campaign was describing the same activity, which was inaccurate.

We had a criminal investigation open with -- as I said before, the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We had an investigation open at the time, and so that gave me a queasy feeling.

LANKFORD: Thank you.

BURR: Senator Manchin. MANCHIN: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Comey. I appreciate very much your being here.

West Virginia is very interested in this -- in this hearing that we're having today. I've had over 600 requests for questions to ask you...

(LAUGHTER)

... from my fellow West Virginians and most of them have been asked. And there's a quite a few of them that were quite detailed that I'll (ph) ask in our classified hearing.

I want to thank you, first of all, for coming and agreeing to be here, volunteering. But also volunteering to stay into the classified hearing.

I don't know if you had a chance to watch our hearing yesterday.

COMEY: I watched part of it, yes, sir.

MANCHIN: And it was quite troubling. My colleagues here at some very pointed questions they wanted answers to. They weren't classified. They could have answered in this open setting. They refused to do so.

So that even much -- makes us much more appreciative of your cooperation.

Sir, the seriousness of the Russian aggressions in our past elections and knowing that it'll be ongoing as senator King had alluded to, does -- what's your concerns there? I mean, what should American public understand?

MANCHIN: People said, "Well, this is a -- why are we worried about this? Why make such a big deal out of this Russian investigation?" Can you tell me what your thoughts would be?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

MANCHIN: And then the final thing is on this same topic. Did the president ever show any concern or interest or curiosity about what the Russians were doing?

COMEY: Thank you, Senator.

As I said earlier, I don't remember any conversations with the president about the Russia election interference.

MANCHIN: Did he ever ask you any questions concerning this?

COMEY: Well, there was an initial briefing of our findings, and I think there was conversation there -- I don't remember it exactly -- where he asked questions about what we had found and what our sources were and what our confidence level was. But after that, I don't remember anything.

The reason this is such a big deal has -- we have this big, messy, wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time, but nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for, except other Americans, and that's wonderful and often painful.

But we're talking about a foreign government that, using technical intrusion, lots of other methods, tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. That is a big deal. And people need to recognize it.

It's not about Republicans or Democrats. They're coming after America, which I hope we all love equally. They want to undermine our credibility in the face of the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them, and so they're going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible.

That's what this is about. And they will be back, because we remain -- as difficult as we can be with each other, we remain that shining city on the hill, and they don't like it.

(CROSSTALK)

MANCHIN: This is extremely important. It's extremely dangerous, what we're -- what we're dealing with, and it's needed, is what you're saying.

COMEY: Yes, sir.

MANCHIN: Do you believe there were any tapes or recordings of your conversations with the president?

COMEY: It never occurred to me until the president's tweet. I -- I'm not being facetious, I hope there are, and I'll consent to the release of them.

(CROSSTALK)

MANCHIN: So both of you -- both of you are in the same findings here -- you both hope there's tapes and recordings?

COMEY: Well, I mean, all I can do is hope. The president surely knows whether he taped me, and if he did, my feelings aren't hurt. Release the entire -- release all the tapes, I'm good with it.

MANCHIN: Got you. Got you.

Sir, do you believe that Robert Mueller, the -- our new special investigator on Russia, will be thorough and complete, without political intervention? And would you be confident (ph) on these findings and recommendations?

COMEY: Yes. Bob Mueller is one of the finest people and public servants this country's ever produced. He will do it well. He is a dogged, tough person, and you can have high confidence that, when it's done, he's turned over all the rocks.

MANCHIN: You've been asked a wide variety of -- of questions today and we're going to be hearing more, I'm sure, in our classified hearing. Something I'll often (ph) ask folks when they come here -- what details of this saga would be -- should we be focusing on, and what would you recommend us do differently? Or to adjust (ph) our perspective on this?

COMEY: I don't know. I -- and one of the reasons that I'm pleased to be here is I think this committee has shown the American people, although we have two parties and we disagree about important things, we can work together when it involves the core interests of the country.

So I would hope you'll just keep doing what you're doing. It's -- it's good in and of itself, but it's also a model, especially for kids, that we -- we are a functioning, adult democracy.

MANCHIN: And you also mentioned you had -- I think, what, six -- six meetings -- three times in person, six on the phone, nine times (ph) in conversation with the president. Did he ever, at that time, allude that you were not performing adequately -- ever indicate that at all?

COMEY: No. In fact, the contrary, quite often. Yeah, he called me one day. I was about to get on a helicopter, the head of the DEA was waiting in the helicopter for me, and he just called to check in and tell me I was doing an awesome job, and wanted to see how I was doing. And I said, "I'm doing fine, sir." And then I finished the call and got on the helicopter.

MANCHIN: Mr. Comey, do you believe you would have been fired if Hillary Clinton had become president?

COMEY: That's a great question. I don't know. I don't know. MANCHIN: You have any thoughts about it?

COMEY: I might have been. I -- I don't know. Look, I -- I've said before, that was an extraordinarily difficult and painful time. I think I did what I had to do. I knew it was going to be very bad for me personally, and the consequences of that might have been, if Hillary Clinton was elected, I might have been terminated. I don't know. I really don't.

MANCHIN: My final question will be, after the (ph) February 14th meeting in the Oval Office, you mentioned that you asked Attorney General Sessions to ensure that you were never left alone with the president. Did you ever consider why Attorney General Sessions was not asked to stay in the room?

COMEY: Sure, I did, and -- and have. And, in that moment, I...

MANCHIN: You ever talk to him about it?

COMEY: No.

MANCHIN: You never had a discussion with -- with Jeff Sessions on this?

COMEY: No, not at all.

MANCHIN: On any of your meetings?

COMEY: No, I don't...

(CROSSTALK)

MANCHIN: Did he inquire -- did he -- did he show any inquiry whatsoever what was that meeting about?

COMEY: No.