If you read through the transcript of the ousted FBI Director James Comey’s Senate hearing Thursday, one of the most remarkable patterns is Comey reiterating a fear that the president would lie about the details of their interactions.
He says those concerns are what led him to write the now-famous, very detailed memos. (Memo writing was not something he did with President Barack Obama.)
Trump’s shaky relationship with the truth has been documented extensively — from his days as a business executive until now. And Thursday’s proceedings show how Trump’s lying will continue to cause self-inflicted wounds.
We found at least five moments in the testimony in which Comey tactfully, without a hint of smugness, either directly or indirectly said that Trump did lie, might have lied, or feared that he would have lied.
1) The circumstances of Comey’s dismissal
Right in Comey’s opening remarks, shortly after Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) gives him the floor, Comey explains that he believes the White House lied about the circumstances of his dismissal:
So it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation, and learned again from the media that he was telling privately other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation. I was also confused by the initial explanation that was offered publicly that I was fired because of the decisions I had made during the election year. That didn't make sense to me for a whole bunch of reasons, including the time and all the water that had gone under the bridge since those hard decisions that had to be made. That didn't make any sense to me.
2) Comey’s leadership and reputation at the FBI
Also in his opening remarks, Comey says Trump and his administration “defamed” the FBI with “lies, plain and simple.”
And although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple. And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I'm so sorry that the American people were told them.
3) The nature of Comey and Trump’s meetings
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) asked Comey why he started writing memos about his meetings with Donald Trump. Here’s Comey:
A combination of things. I think the circumstances, the subject matter, and the person I was interacting with. Circumstances, first — I was alone with the president of the United States, or the president-elect, soon to be president.
The subject matter I was talking about, matters that touch on the FBI’s core responsibility, and that relate to the president — the president-elect personally — and then the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting, so I thought it important to document. That combination of things I had never experienced before, but had led me to believe I got to write it down and write it down in a very detailed way.
3) Again, the meetings
Here, too, Comey restates the reason why he felt he had to memorialize his meetings with the president:
Warner: And so in all your experience, this was the only president that you felt like in every meeting you needed to document because at some point, using your words, he might put out a non-truthful representation of that meeting.
Comey: That's right, senator. As I said, as FBI director I interacted with President Obama, I spoke only twice in three years, and didn't document it. When I was deputy attorney general I had a one on one with President Bush, I sent an email to my staff but I didn't feel with President Bush the need to document it in that I way.
4) The conversation about stopping the Flynn investigation
In an exchange with Sen. Angus King (I-ME), Comey says he doesn’t buy Trump’s claim that he did not ask Comey to stop the investigation into Michael Flynn, the national security adviser who resigned after misleading administration officials about his links with Russia:
King: In his press conference May 18th, the president responded, quote, “No, no,” when asked about asking you to stop the investigation into general Flynn. Is that an accurate statement?
Comey: I don't believe it is.
5) Trump calling Comey on the phone
King: That’s one question I’m not going to follow up on, Mr. Comey. 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?
In response to James Comey’s testimony, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Thursday, “The president is not a liar.”
It was a remarkable thing. That one, a press secretary actually had to assert this. But also because if you believe Comey’s testimony, Huckabee Sander’s statement is, itself, not true.