The hearings before the US Senate Intelligence Committee with former FBI director James Comey have ended. The Republicans on the committee tended to try to find ways to minimize the damage to Donald Trump. What was surprising to me was that Comey flatly said that Trump was lying when he described the conditions at the FBI as deplorable and morale low as the justification for his firing.
His evidence did not deliver a knock-out blow to the Trump presidency, but it nevertheless cast the billionaire Republican’s integrity in a withering light.
Comey said of his own dismissal: “The administration chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying that the organisation 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’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry the American people were told them.”
He even went on to say that he decided to keep detailed notes of his conversations with Trump because of the possibility of Trump lying about them.
In his testimony, Comey explained that he documented each meeting because he thought Trump might be dishonest about what had taken place – a practice he never felt obliged to undertake with former presidents George W Bush or Barack Obama.
“I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document,” he said of their first conversation at Trump Tower in New York in January.
That politicians lie is hardly news. That Trump is a shameless pathological liar is indisputable. But still, it was astounding to hear a seasoned bureaucrat like Comey openly use that word to describe the US president, instead of the many equivocal weasel words and phrases at his disposal.
Let’s see how Trump reacts. If history is any indication, he will launch a blistering and intemperate counter-attack. I am surprised that he has not already done so via Twitter.
Meanwhile Charles Pierce gives us some of the highlights of today’s testimony and reminds us that there is a closed session being held this afternoon. There may be leaks later.