Local lawmakers troubled by Comey testimony, president's 'behavior'

Updated 6/8/2017 5:36 PM
  • Former FBI Director James Comey took center stage Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington.

    Former FBI Director James Comey took center stage Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington. Photo for The Washington Post by Astrid Riecken

  • Dick Durbin

    Dick Durbin

  • Tammy Duckworth

    Tammy Duckworth

  • Mike Quigley

    Mike Quigley

  • Peter Roskam

    Peter Roskam

  • Brad Schneider

    Brad Schneider

Suburban lawmakers offered grim assessments of testimony from former FBI Director James Comey that puts him and President Donald Trump on a collision course over who is lying about an investigation into Russian tampering with the election.

It "is striking ... that the head law enforcement officer of the United States testified he was directed by the president not to pursue an investigation," said U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, a Chicago Democrat who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. "That just doesn't happen."

Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday that he took copious notes of meetings with the president where they discussed the issue because "I was honestly concerned he might lie."

Comey also testified that when Trump asked if he could see his way to "letting go" of a probe into former National Security Council Director Michael Flynn's Russian ties, Comey took it as a directive but chose not to obey.

"I have real concerns about the way the president clearly and inappropriately engaged the former FBI director," said U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, a Deerfield Democrat.

White House officials said the president did not lied. Trump's attorney Marc Kasowitz said the hearing "confirmed the president was not under investigation as part of any probe into Russian interference. The testimony also made it clear the president never sought to impede the investigation," he said.

Wheaton Republican Peter Roskam called Comey's testimony a "welcome and needed contribution to the public record." In a statement, Roskam added that he had full confidence in reviews by special counsel Robert Mueller and House and Senate intelligence committees.

In separate statements, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Democrats, also put their faith in the independent investigation by former FBI Director Mueller.

"Who do you trust?" Durbin, of Springfield, asked. "Director Comey kept extensive records of what the president asked of him, and agreed to testify publicly under oath. That speaks volumes."

Comey's "testimony about the president's behavior should concern any American who respects the basic rule of law and our democratic institutions," said Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, a Plano Republican, called the hearing an important "step in gathering the facts related to Russia's involvement in American affairs and the 2016 election. I continue to support the work of our committees and their investigations."

Other local lawmakers, all Democrats, went further. U.S. Rep Bill Foster of Naperville called the president's request for Comey's loyalty "disconcerting."

"The Federal Bureau of Investigation must remain independent of politics and free from outside influence. Any indications of obstruction of justice must be aggressively investigated," Foster said.

Schneider is on the House Judiciary Committee, which would handle impeachment proceedings, but he said "it's premature" to ask about that.

Quigley agreed but noted that "the White House has graduated from delaying and distracting. When you're firing the FBI director and directing him not to do an investigation ... there is evidence of obstruction" of justice.

Quigley was surprised by Comey's testifying he expected Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the Russian probe related to the AG's contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Comey "knew Sessions would recuse himself and the reasons for recusal were problematic. That's a big deal," Quigley said.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston said in a statement that Russian meddling in the election shouldn't get lost in the scandal. "Comey clearly reinforced that the United States was attacked by an opportunistic foreign adversary with the goal of undermining our democracy."

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