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Comey SJC Testimony, Liveblog Two

comey.jpgClick here for the SJC webcast.

My GOD! Arlen Specter is complaining about the timing. He says no one has exceeded the 5 minute rule by this much time.  And now he's complaining that the other Republicans aren't here. He's flipping out because he knows the Democrats are about to cream Gonzales and DOJ.

AS: I appreciate what you did. [Tries to say that it's being taken care of] When you finally got to the President, the President told you to do what you thought was right. President backed you up, when it was necessary? 

JC Meuller is the one who told me that POTUS said to do what was right. This was fixed in PART because Bush allowed me and Mueller to meet with him alone. And I hesitate that if I say too much the next President wouldn't let us to meet with him in person. [Anyone thinking of the subtext: "Meeting without Dick Cheney"?]

AS You won't say whether President told you to do what DOJ said was right.

JC You're a good examiner, the President and I–I don't think the conversation was finished. I urged him to talk to Mueller about it. President didn't give me that direction at the end of our conversation. Meuller came to me and said President told me to do what was right.

AS I thought you testified that in response to Schumer's question, Bush told you to do what was right.

[No, Specter, Bush wasn't convinced by Comey alone, you fool.]

JC If I did, I misspoke, bc that direction came to me by Mueller.

AS What did Card say to try to convince you?

JC As to deliberative discussions…

AS What did he say that you took as pressure.

JC I don't know that I thought he pressured me or not–he tried to engage me on the substance. I had communicated it on that Tuesday, it didn't change in that conversation with Mr. Card.

AS He didnt' threaten to fire you.

JC No he didn't. He was very civil to me in our face to face meetings.

AS AG Gonzales could be fired in a civil way.

Ha! 

10:56 

AS Did Gonzales try to pressure you?

AS Did you have other discussions?

JC Yessir: the Vice President, Mr. Addington, disagreed with the conclusion. I don't remember any other WH officials telling me they disagreed.

AS Did VP, ADD threaten you.

JC Nossir.

AS So all these people disagreed with you. Why would you consider resigning? You were acting AG. They could fire you if they wanted. Why consider resigning. 

JC Not because of the way I was treated. I didn't think I could stay when they went ahead and did something that I did not believe could be certified. A key fact is that they went ahead and did it without my signature and without the DOJ's approval.

AS Was the program recertified without the approval of Acting AG?  So it went forward illegally?

JC Question of interpretation. 

AS It was going forward illegally.

JC I'm not presidential scholar. If a determination was found that said it was lawful, then I was bound by it. I believed I couldn't stay if it went ahead without our approval.

AS If the program went forward without your certification, it's illegal, how could you contest that?

JC It's my understanding the DOJ approval was not necessary, but it was customary. It wasn't going forward in violation of any statutory requirement, as far as I knew.

AS Didn't you feel it necessary to find out if there was a statute that required your signature.

JC I'm quite certain that there was no statutory requirement. I didn't know and still don't know the requirement for the DOJ approval.

[Note, Specter at one point said he wasn't going to do what Schumer did, but he's going on 10 minutes now.]

AS It's not illegal. It's not illegal violating custom. What the Administration did was not illegal.

JC I couldn't find a basis for the requirement. 

AS So why won't you say it's legal now?

JC Our position was we couldn't find adequate legal basis for the program to go foward as it did.

AS Let me move on, "I only have 35 minutes left." How long did you serve as DAG?  During that period, you got along with Card and Addington and all those fellows.

JC I think so.

AS They weren't out to get you because they stood up to them. They weren't out to make your life difficult as DAG.

JC No.

AS There was some speculation that… did you have any sense that you were not permenent DAG as a result of your standing up to Gonzales on this manner.

JC No, I have no reason to believe that I was considered for replacement because of this.

AS Bush overruled Cheney, Addington, Card, and Gonzales. He did the right thing. Mr Comey it's my hope that we'll have a closed session with you to understand this manner. I think you could even tell us what the legalisms were.

[hey, me, too! I'm actually agreeing with Scottish law] 

AS Now onto the subject of the hearing.

11:09 

AS asks about the fired USAs. 

Bogden: career guy who became USA. Very good.

McKay: Very positive sense of John McKay. 

Paul Charlton: I don't want to make it sound like I love everybody.Very strong.

David Iglesias: A very good job. 

AS: Anyone you thought should be replaced?[they get distracted]

AS What did you make of Sampson's call for resignation of PatFit?

JC Only know about what I read in the newspaper, I was surprised by it.

JC Kyle was very smart, worked hard.

AS What did you think of his smarts after he called for resignation of PatFitz?

AS Can you give us exercise of good judgment by AG?

[JC says nothing.]

JC It's hard, I'm sure there are examples, I'll think of one. 

JC He was smart and engaged, I had no reason to question his judgment. I did not have reason to question his judgment of the AG. 

AS Are you sufficiently knowledgable of USA purge to give statement about his claim that AGAG was not involved?

JC I am probably more versed than most people. I gather he has corrected that statement.

AS No, I don't think he has corrected that.  I've said that if he would tell us why these USAs were fired, it would help. That can all be … "he can recant what he has said"

CS You went about a minute more than I did.

Pat Leahy: I'm not going to use a great deal of time, so that others here can. [I'm guessing he means Whitehouse–hoping anyway]

PL You wouldn't say legal or illegal, did it comply with FISA law.

JC In open, I can't confirm.

PL We will have a closed door hearing on this. I'm very troubled by what DOJ is doing today, not on your watch. Mr. Comey I have a lot of respect for you, but less and less respect for how the DOJ is being run today. [Now talking about RFK saying there were things his brother couldn't do] I hope the next President will make a solemn vow Never Never Never to do this to DOJ. This AG is doing an abysmal job.

11:19 

DiFi

DiFi I'd like to go to hospital conversation. The President used his Article 2 powers, he said, authorization to use military force. He asked that the program be authorized every 45 days. What did you have to sign. What were you confronted with. What piece of paper did you have to sign.

[DiFi has gotten around the secrecy issue, godblessher]

JC It was a signature line on a Presidential order.

DiFi It went ahead without your certification. What was the period time until DOJ said it could go forward.

JC It was the next day that we received the direction from the President. Over the next few weeks, we set about making changes so we thought it was legal.

DiFi For approx 2 weeks?

JC 2-3 weeks.

DiFi And then who signed for DOJ?

JC I may have signed that first one after the hospital.

DiFi You then became satisfied that it complied.

JC We were in a position, given OLC's position, we were in a position to certify its legality.

DiFi it would be very interesting if we can obtain those opinions. I'd be interested in what the legal advice on that program was.

CS We can make the request part of the record.

DiFi was there any other time when this many USAs were fired.

JC Change from Bush 1 to Clinton.

DiFi at the changeover. BUt has there been any other time in history when a large number of USAs were fired without cause.  We have the EARs reports. We've been told they're very perfunctory.

JC They're not perfunctory. A big team of people basically live with you for a few weeks. It's very much like an audit by an accounting firm.

DiFi How then could they be fired for performance reasons if at least 6 of the 7 had excellent EARs reports. [so that would include CHiara, who is often forgotten on this issue]

JC I was not aware of performance related issues with these USAs. 

DiFi can you ever remember when a USA's loyalty was questioned.

JC I don't remember.

DiFi Everyone we've asked said they did not put the names on the list. Battle, Elston, have denied they put a name on that list.  Where would you surmise the list would have come form.

JC I wouldn't know. It came from somewhere.

DiFi You had two meetings with Lam, Project Safe Neighborhoods, You were satisfied with her answers. 

JC On Project Safe Neighborhood, she said she got it.

DiFi Were any of the other 10 people you communicated on PSN who were fired?

JC Not to my knowledge. 

DiFi IF there are no apparent performance issues, then it was dissatisfaction?

JC I suppose so, if there are no performance issues. 

Herb Kohl:  Your opinion matters more than others. Would our country be served if we could start fresh tomorrow if we could start fresh tomorrow.

JC I would very much like not to. I would hope you wouldn't care what my opinion is.

HK It's a very important question–your opinion matters much more than most. I'm sure, I presume you have an opinion.

JC I do have an opinion, I'd prefer not to share it.

HK I think it's a clear inference that you believe we would be better without AGAG.

HK You were asked about Steve Biskupic. You said, an absolutely straight guy. When you were asked if you knew he was on a list to be fired. Do you know why he was put on a list of weak performers? Did it have anything to do with the prosecution of vote fraud or Thompson?

JC I don't know from firsthand knowledge he was on a list. I think very highly of him, I think he's what you want in a USA, and I'm not saying that because he's tall and skinny.  He's honest and cares deeply about DOJ. His case was reversed, it's not a reflection on the USA or the jury. It doesn't tell you that the prosecutor is a bad guy, and I know this is a good one.

HK Voter fraud the reason behind many of the dismissals. Were you aware that WH thought USAs were not active enough on voter fraud?

JC I'm not aware of any issue regarding voter fraud, complaints or otherwise.

HK Were you aware of pressure to bring voter fraud cases?

JC NOssir.

11:34 

Russ Feingold: I want to praise you (CS), some of the most invaluable questioning I've heard from a Senator. 

RF I want to thank you for your description of Ashcroft. It has been my experience as well, in spite of our many disagreements. It's important to make these distinctions.  You said: The DOJ approval was only an internal control. I think that means we need to pursue this. Are you aware of any papers from WH Counsel office?

JC I don't remember it?

RF OVP? Any documents?

JC No, I don't remember any.

RF Did Card or Gonzales indicate President sent them. 

JC I don't recall.

RF Did something occur in March?

JC We had a new AAG, the pace of work in OLC. THere were a number of issues he was looking at.

RF You made a moving address to your colleagues when you left. You stated some of them did pay a price for their commitment. What were you referring to?

JC One particular senior staffer who had been in the hospital, someone who had been blocked for promotion.

RF So you were referring to this.

JC That was Mr Philben.

Specter: We're not going to have a second round: I conclude my thanking your for your service.

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