The Latest: RNC says Trump knew firing Comey was risky

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Posted: Jun 08, 2017 1:25 AM
The Latest: RNC says Trump knew firing Comey was risky

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on fired FBI Director James Comey's prepared testimony for his scheduled appearance Thursday before the Senate Intelligence committee (all times local):

9 p.m.

The Republican National Committee says President Donald Trump knew that firing FBI Director James Comey would be "detrimental to his presidency" but believed it was the right thing to do for the country.

That's among the talking points the RNC is providing to Trump backers ahead of Comey's testimony on Capitol Hill Thursday.

A pair of former White House officials — Katie Walsh, who left her post as deputy chief of staff in March, and Mike Dubke, who stepped down as communications director last week — are helping the RNC effort to combat Comey's testimony.

The RNC is encouraging supporters to focus on Comey's acknowledgement in his prepared text that he told Trump he was not directly under investigation as part of the FBI's Russia probe.

Republicans also say the president does want the Russia investigations to move forward, an argument the White House has used against Democrats who say Trump fired Comey in an effort to halt the FBI probe

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6:30 p.m.

Speaker Paul Ryan says it's "obviously" inappropriate for a president to ask for loyalty from the FBI director.

Ryan made his comments after testimony emerged from ousted FBI Director James Comey in which he said President Donald Trump sought his loyalty.

Interviewed on MSNBC, the Wisconsin Republican agreed with Greta Van Susteren when she asked whether it that was inappropriate.

Ryan says FBI directors are supposed to be independent, and "that's something that's very critical."

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6:20 p.m.

A top Capitol Hill ally of Donald Trump says the president is the victim of a "political witch hunt."

New York GOP Rep. Chris Collins told reporters that Trump acted appropriately when asking former FBI Director James Comey to go easy on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who is under a federal investigation regarding his contacts with Russia.

Collins says Trump's actions were "clearly not anywhere close to touching something called 'obstruction of justice.'"

Collins says he is proud of Trump for sticking up for "someone who was as loyal Mike Flynn was throughout the campaign."

In prepared testimony released Wednesday, Comey says he believes Trump was asking him to drop the FBI's investigation into Flynn's alleged lies about conversations the Russian ambassador in December.

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6:10 p.m.

Donald Trump's attorney says the president feels "completely and totally vindicated" by former FBI Director James Comey's statement to the Senate intelligence committee that he told Trump he was not personally under investigation.

Marc Kasowitz said in a statement Wednesday, "The President is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the President was not under investigation in any Russian probe."

He says: "The President feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda."

Comey's opening statement, made public a day before he is set to testify, states that he informed Trump that he was not personally under investigation, validating the president's previous claims that Comey told him was not the target of the probe.

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5:36 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence has canceled an interview with PBS' "NewsHour."

Sara Just, the program's executive producer, tweeted around 3 p.m. Wednesday that Pence had canceled "moment ago."

About an hour before Just's tweet, the Senate Intelligence committee released the testimony that fired FBI Director James Comey prepared for the panel's hearing Thursday. Comey describes several meetings and conversations he had with President Donald Trump about the Russia investigation. Trump fired Comey last month.

Pence traveled to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to speak at a ceremony for the newest class of astronauts. He was to do the interview from Houston.

A spokesman says the interview was canceled because Pence was running late. He says the vice president is committed to finding an opportunity to reschedule.

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4:14 p.m.

A prominent law professor in Washington, D.C., says President Donald Trump's comments to James Comey contained in the former FBI director's written testimony were inappropriate but not criminal.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, says nothing he read in Comey's statement persuades him that Trump violated the law by interfering with a federal investigation.

Turley was referring to the entirety of Comey's written statement, including his account of an Oval Office meeting in which Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. Comey says Trump told him, "I hope you can let this go."

Turley says in an email that "the comments are grossly inappropriate," but that "we do not indict people for being boorish or clueless."

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3:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump is ignoring questions about James Comey's prepared testimony before the Senate Intelligence committee.

Trump gave a thumbs-up after he returned to the White House from a trip to Cincinnati. Reporters awaiting his arrival began shouting questions about the former FBI director's credibility and whether Trump disputed the testimony Comey has prepared for Thursday's hearing.

Trump walked across the South Lawn and made a beeline for a group of tourists who cheered as he exited the helicopter. He then went to the Oval Office.

The president had traveled to Cincinnati to talk about upgrading inland waterways, part of his proposal for rebuilding the nation's infrastructure.

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3:45 p.m.

A White House spokeswoman says she isn't sure if President Donald Trump has read James Comey's pre-released opening statement for his Senate Intelligence committee hearing but says the timing of the release is "interesting."

Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday that she hadn't read it and wasn't sure if the president read it while returning from a day trip to Ohio.

She says, "I do find the timing of the release a little bit interesting," given it followed testimony by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the head of the National Security Agency Mike Rogers. The two men testified before the Senate Intelligence committee earlier in the day.

Comey's remarks say the president asked him to pledge loyalty and to abandon the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

2:30 p.m.

Fired FBI Director James Comey says Donald Trump told him the Russia investigation was creating a "cloud" over his presidency.

And Comey says the president asked him what they could do to "lift the cloud."

This was in a phone call on March 30 — according to written testimony Comey submitted ahead of an appearance Thursday before the Senate Intelligence committee.

Comey also says Trump told him that he "had nothing to do with Russia" and "had not been involved with hookers in Russia."

Comey says he told the president that the bureau was investigating the matter as quickly as possible.

Later, Trump fired Comey.

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2:12 p.m.

Former FBI Director James Comey says he informed Donald Trump in early January that he was not personally under investigation in the bureau's Russia counter-intelligence investigation.

Trump was then president-elect. Comey says that the decision to give Trump that assurance came after consultation with top bureau officials.

Comey says he documented their meeting afterward by typing up notes on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower "the moment I walked out of the meeting."

That revelation and others are contained in written testimony Comey submitted Wednesday ahead of his appearance Thursday before the Senate Intelligence committee.

They confirm some of what has already been reported publicly in the media. But the information has not previously come directly and publicly from Comey.

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2:11 p.m.

Former FBI Director James Comey says it was "very concerning" when President Donald Trump asked him to back off an investigation of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.

Comey describes the exchange in dramatic detail in written testimony ahead of an appearance Thursday before the Senate Intelligence committee.

He says Trump asked him to stay behind in the Oval Office after a meeting with a larger group, and as they stood near a grandfather clock, Trump described Flynn as a good guy who'd been through a lot.

Then the president said to Comey: "I hope you can let this go."

Comey said that he immediately prepared a memo documenting the February exchange. And the investigation continued.

Trump fired Comey in May.

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2:10 p.m.

Former FBI Director James Comey will say in his opening statement to a congressional hearing that President Donald Trump told him, "I need loyalty. I expect loyalty" during a January dinner.

Comey is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence committee Thursday. His prepared statement was released Wednesday afternoon.

In the statement, Comey says he and Trump dined together privately in January. During the meal, he says Trump asked him if he wanted to remain on as FBI director. Comey says he replied that he wanted to serve out his ten-year term and "was not on anybody's side politically."

Comey says Trump then made his statement about loyalty.

Trump abruptly fired Comey last month.