When 6’8″ James Comey walked into the Hart Senate Office Building on Thursday, he towered over the reporters, senators and aides in the wood-paneled room. It was the first time the former FBI Director had spoken publicly since he was abruptly fired by President Trump.
On Wednesday, Comey released his 7-page opening statement that cataloged five instances when he spoke one-on-one with President Trump. The document described Comey’s uneasiness during those conversations with the president and as he made his opening testimony Thursday, there was a tangible tension in the air.
At one point in the hearing, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked Comey why he didn’t stop the conversation about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as it was happening. Feinstein noted that the Oval Office is intimidating, but said to Comey “you’re a big strong guy.” In response, Comey said, “Maybe if I was stronger [I would have stopped the conversation].” Moments later, he referred to Trump’s tweet insinuating that there were tapes of their conversation and Comey stated, “I hope there are tapes.”
The Senators heading the committee, Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA) both delivered opening remarks that framed the seriousness of the hearings. Burr noted that there is also a closed hearing and reminded the public that questions that might delve into confidential matters will be held until that session while Warner, in his opening statement, called Comey’s prepared remarks “very disturbing.”