It was high drama on Thursday as former FBI Director James Comey finally delivered his much-anticipated testimony to US senators.
The stage — and the hype — had been set for weeks following Comey’s firing last month and the accusations that followed.
All the major television networks chose to carry the hearing live in the middle of the day, and some bars even opened early so that people could watch the spectacle.
Photographer Stephen Voss was in the nation’s capital to take in the scene.
“I’ve covered hundreds of hearings. This was certainly one of the bigger ones,” said Voss, who was on assignment for CNN. “Some of the photographers who have been here much longer than me kind of compared it to when the (Monica) Lewinsky stuff was happening — sort of that level of press attention. Certainly, in terms of interest and press coverage and just the line outside the door to get in, it’s probably the largest, most-attended hearing I’ve ever been to.”
See more of Voss’ photos from inside and outside the hearing room:
People walk in front of the US Capitol on the morning of Comey’s testimony. The hearing started at 10 a.m. and lasted nearly three hours.
Tourists read newspaper headlines from around the country as they walk in front of the Newseum in Washington.
Cameras are set in place in front of the desk where Comey would give his testimony. “Among my colleagues, everyone was really thinking about how you capture this in a meaningful way,” Voss said. “There was a real sense that this was history being made and that everyone wanted to do their job as well as they could. There was definitely a buzz.”
People line up outside the Hart Senate Office Building before the hearing. “I arrived down at the Hart Senate Office Building around 6:30 a.m., and there were already maybe 40 or 50 people in line at that point,” Voss said. “And that was just one of the entrances. When I walked around the building, there were dozens of people at each of the entrances.”
Comey shakes hands with US Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after arriving to the hearing room. A day before the hearing, Comey released an opening statement saying President Donald Trump had demanded his loyalty and pressed him to drop a probe into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump’s personal attorney has disputed that account.
Comey is sworn in before testifying. He sat alone at a desk, facing lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Patrons pack the Union Pub just a few blocks away from the hearing room. The bar opened early to show the hearing live. “It attracted enormous interest, and people were really taking it seriously,” Voss said. “They were sitting there just watching.” Some people brought Comey hearing bingo cards. Voss said the bar even offered free drinks if Trump tweeted during the hearing. (He didn’t.)
US Sen. Marco Rubio watches fellow Sen. Mark Warner ask a question during the hearing. In between them are Sens. Burr, left, and James Risch.
Comey told the committee that he was confused by the “shifting explanations” from the White House about why Trump fired him.
Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The administration chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader,” Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple.” But Comey confirmed that he told Trump he was not personally under investigation when it came to the probe looking into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
“I think for people watching on TV, they dont really get a sense of what this room looks like and what it’s actually like to be there,” Voss said. “I was really interested in finding those little moments when Mr. Comey was speaking but also trying to show the bigger picture, what this looked like beyond this man sitting at a desk testifying.”
Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, read a statement to the press following Comey’s testimony. He said Comey’s testimony “makes clear that the President never sought to impede the investigation into attempted Russian interference in the 2016 election.”
Stephen Voss is a photographer based in Washington. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
CNN’s Stephen Collinson, Daniella Diaz, Jeremy Diamond, Jeremy Herb, Christina Kline, Tom LoBianco and Manu Raju contributed to this report.
Photo editor: Brett Roegiers