Lordy! Comey’s testimony draws almost 20M TV viewers

red line

By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

The June 8th appearance of former FBI James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee drew close to 20 million viewers – 19.5 million, according to Forbes.com — to TV sets across the country, some watching in bars with friends and co-workers.

The time difference did not matter to West Coast viewers, such as this writer. The testimony began at 10 a.m. Eastern time, which is 7 a.m. and a bit too early for Californians, but that did not discourage us. Imagine bars here opening to early morning viewing parties.

All eyes were on Washington, D.C. as the former Federal Bureau Investigation director testified about his interactions with Donald Trump, and the reason for his firing by the president.

He said he was both “concerned” and “confused” about why he was let go when he is supposed to serve a 10-year term to end in 2023. He was appointed by President Obama in 2013.

“I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said in the hearing. “I was fired in some way to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”

Viewers learned there were nine instances where Comey spoke one-on-one with Trump, compared to the occasional conversations he had with previous presidents Obama and Bush. In one such meeting, he said Trump let Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner leave the room so that he could have a private meeting with Comey.

In theory and practice, the FBI, as an independent federal agency, should keep its interactions with the Executive to a minimum.

Comey revealed how he felt “pressured” by the president who “hoped” he would drop a criminal investigation against General Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser, who resigned after it was disclosed he lied about his meetings with Russian officials.

He recounted: “When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the president began by saying, I want to talk about Mike Flynn.”

“I could see a group of people waiting behind Reince Priebus,” he continued. “The president waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed.”

He said he “took Trump’s request about Flynn as a directive,” but wrote down everything they said after each meeting because he didn’t trust Trump to tell the truth.

At one point, when Comey heard the subject of possible tape recordings existing of his conversations with the president, he said to himself, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein asked Comey: “But why didn’t you stop and say, ‘Mr. President this is wrong, I cannot discuss this with you?’”

The senator from California said: “You’re big. You’re strong. I know the Oval Office, and I know what happens to people when they walk in. There is a certain amount of intimidation.”

His response was, “Maybe, if I were stronger, I would have.”

That particular response illustrated how a great truth has surfaced: the head of the FBI, an organization Americans always remember has been held by stoic, foreboding men who spoke in codes, human, and even a little self-deprecating.

Earlier, he walked into the Senate chamber against the myriad sounds of cameras shuttering, looking self-conscious, like an awkward teen who still had fallen short of mastering full motor control of a tall, lanky body. He did not look around him and remained focus looking straight ahead. He took his seat, stone-faced, hands clasped on the table, thumbs slightly moving, as he awaited more questions from the panel.

Trump had branded Comey as a “showboat” and “grandstander” after the latter was dismissed on May 9 serving for only four years as FBI director.

Analysts are calling it a ‘he said-he said,’ but many are left to wonder which of the two is telling the truth. If polls are to be believed, Trump’s approval rating is said to have dipped to the lower 40s following Comey’s testimony. A reality TV celebrity before he became a politician, he disputed Comey’s account of their meetings, and said he would be willing to testify under oath.

Copyright © 2017 The FilAm

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