During one of the most anticipated moments in Washington in years, former FBI Director James Comey had a lot to say. He acknowledged that he orchestrated the leak of his own memo after President Donald Trump fired him. He indicated that the special counsel appointed partly because of that leak will look at whether Trump obstructed justice. He revealed that he felt pressured by President Barack Obama’s attorney general to downplay the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.
Those were the highlights. But there are many questions still unanswered after Comey left the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing room. Here are three of them.
What does Comey know about Jeff Sessions that he can’t say?
Senators asked many questions that Comey said he couldn’t answer in a public setting because of the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump associates colluded in that meddling. But one non-answer stood out more than most.
Asked why he didn’t report his concerns about Trump’s interactions with him to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Comey said: “Our judgment as I recall was that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting, that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic and so we were — we were convinced and in fact, I think we had already heard that the career people were recommending that he recuse himself, that he was not going to be in contact with Russia related matters much longer. That turned out to be the case.”
Sessions recused himself because of his own undisclosed contacts with a Russian official. That recusal, which eventually led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia probe, has reportedly infuriated Trump, so much so that Sessions reportedly offered to resign. The White House said Thursday that Trump has confidence in Sessions. But it remains unclear what Comey couldn’t testify about Sessions publicly.
Does Trump have a secret taping system?
It’s been a question ever since Trump tweeted in May that “Comey better hope there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.”
On Thursday, Comey made clear that he hopes there actually are such tapes. Meantime, at a White House briefing that took place while Comey was still testifying, Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked if there’s a White House taping system. “I have no idea,” she said.
Asked if she could find out, she responded: “Sure, I’ll try to look under the couches.”
Did Trump obstruct justice or not?
That’s the million-dollar question. Comey publicly made clear for the first that he feels he was fired because of the Russia investigation that has so bedeviled Trump and his young presidency. But does that, or Trump’s alleged urging that Comey drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, amount to obstruction of justice?
If Comey thinks so, he’s not saying, leaving it instead for Mueller to determine.
“I don’t know,” Comey said. “That’s Bob Mueller’s job to sort that out.”