INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Sen. Joe Donnelly (D – IN) told I-Team 8 Thursday that he was “very concerned” by former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony that President Trump asked him to “let go” of the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
That revelation, first reported by the New York Times last month, was further catapulted into the public eye Thursday as Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee as it continues to investigate Russia’s role in the U.S. election.
During his nearly three hours of testimony, the former FBI director told the panel of senators that he felt his firing by President Trump was directly related to his handling of the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
Comey also said that he felt “stunned and concerned” by a White House dinner conversation with President Trump earlier this year in which Comey said President Trump asked him to “let go” of the FBI’s probe into ties between Flynn and Russians. Flynn had been forced to resign amid a White House scandal in which he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his ties or prior conversations with Russian officials.
During Comey’s testimony Thursday, the former FBI director first blasted President Trump and his administration as liars for defaming the FBI and claiming the department was in disarray in the days that surrounded Comey’s firing.
Prior to being fired, Comey said that he began taking contemporaneous notes of his meetings with President Trump after he became concerned that he might later need a record of their conversations.
During the Senate hearing, Comey was asked if Trump’s request about the Flynn matter would arise to the level of obstruction of justice. Comey said he would have to defer to special counsel Robert Mueller, who was investigating the matter.
Donnelly echoed Comey’s comments.
“It’s very, very concerning, but I will also defer to Robert Mueller. That’s the purpose of the special counsel in this process is to review what did happen in regards to potential criminal investigation and to make those decisions,” Donnelly told I-Team 8.
Comey also revealed that while he was investigating the scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton’s emails last year, that then-acting Attorney General Loretta Lynch asked him to refer to the FBI’s inquiry as “a matter” rather than “an investigation.”
Donnelly, who stumped for Clinton in Indiana during last year’s election, said Lynch never should’ve made that request.
One major revelation during Thursday’s Senate hearing came from Comey himself, as he acknowledged that he was behind the leak to the New York Times of his memos about meetings with Trump. Comey testified that after seeing Trump’s tweet that there may have been tapes of their conversations, Comey felt compelled to put his notes out into the public arena. He said he asked a friend who is a Columbia Law School professor to share the contents of the memos with the New York Times.
Comey caught heat for the leak during the Senate hearing and for his failure to confront the president on his request that he “let go” of the Flynn matter.
Comey said he should’ve been “stronger” and later “if he had it to do over again, maybe” he would’ve acted differently.
Donnelly, during the interview with I-Team 8, appeared to come to Comey’s defense.
“As we look at this from both sides, the Justice Department should not be Democrat or Republican. The Justice Department works for the people of this country. Their boss is the U.S. Constitution and the people who live in this great nation. That’s who I think Director Comey has worked for every single day,” he said.
I-Team 8 also reached out to Sen. Todd Young (R- IN) for comment. A spokesman said there would be no statement. The rest of Indiana’s largely Republican congressional delegation remained silent about the Comey hearing on their various Twitter accounts.