Comey’s caution to meet Trump’s tweets in Russia hearing

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump (L) speaks in Ypilanti Township, Michigan March 15, 2017 and FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., May 3, 2017 in a combination of file photos. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By Warren Strobel and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former FBI Director James Comey will tell Congress on Thursday that President Donald Trump pressed him repeatedly to halt a probe into his ex-national security adviser’s ties with Russia and to declare publicly that Trump himself was not under investigation.

Comey’s testimony in the most widely anticipated congressional hearing in years will put at center stage a high-stakes clash between two men with vastly different personas.

The outcome could have significant repercussions for Trump’s 139-day-old presidency as special counsel Robert Mueller and multiple congressional committees investigate whether Trump’s campaign team colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. The White House and Russia deny any collusion occurred.

In written testimony released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Comey quoted Trump as telling him the Russia investigation was a “cloud” impairing his ability to operate as president.

Comey said in his statement that in a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office on Feb.14, Trump asked him to drop an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn that is part of a wider probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Comey quoted Trump as saying.

Comey also said Trump told him during a one-on-one dinner on Jan. 27 that he needed “loyalty.”

Trump fired the FBI chief on May 9, setting off a political firestorm, and he has since called Comey a “showboat” and a “grandstander.”

Democrats, along with some Republicans, on the committee will use the hearing on Thursday to press for further details of any attempts by Trump to blunt the Russia investigation.

“I’m very concerned about the implication that Comey keeping his job was dependent on his loyalty or, in Comey’s words, developing a ‘patronage relationship.’ That is another way the President sought to impede the investigation,” Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said in a comment emailed to Reuters.

Senator Susan Collins, a Republican member of the panel, said earlier this week: “I want to know more also about the president’s interactions with Mr. Comey with regard to the investigation into Michael Flynn. … It makes a big difference what the exact words were, the tone of the president, the context of the conversation.”

But Republican Senator Richard Burr, the panel’s chairman, sought to downplay Comey’s “loyalty” remark, saying: “I don’t think it’s wrong to ask for loyalty from anybody in an administration.”

Trump’s attorney, Marc Kasowitz, released a statement on Wednesday saying the president felt “totally vindicated” by Comey’s acknowledgement that he had told Trump on three occasions that he was not personally under investigation.

Despite landing himself in other political controversies, including his handling of the FBI investigation of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server, Comey is widely seen as cautious and fact-oriented.

“One thing you don’t ever hear about him is (that) people don’t think he tells the truth. He brings a lot of credibility,” said Benjamin Wittes, a Comey confidant and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Less than five months into office, Trump has proven himself to be impulsive and visceral, turning to Twitter to lambaste perceived adversaries in 140 characters or less.

AWKWARD RELATIONSHIP

As Comey’s written testimony underscored, he and the U.S. president had an awkward, topsy-turvy relationship.

Then-candidate Trump excoriated Comey last summer for deciding not to prosecute Clinton over her handling of government emails, then praised him when he reopened the issue in October just days before the election.

Trump initially kept Comey on as FBI director, and publicly embraced him at a January White House event. Two days after firing him, Trump said it was because of “this Russia thing.”

Trump is widely expected to use his Twitter account, which lists 31.8 million followers, to counterpunch at Comey on Thursday – perhaps even in real time.

The Republican president’s unconstrained use of Twitter has confounded allies and skeptics alike.

“Every time you tweet, it makes it harder on all of us who are trying to help you. I don’t think you did anything wrong. Don’t get in the way of an investigation that could actually clear you,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News on Wednesday.

Despite the high drama, Comey is not expected to drop any major new bombshells, or directly accuse Trump of trying to obstruct justice by asking him to halt the FBI probe of Flynn.

He is also unlikely to reveal new details of the ongoing Russia investigation. U.S. law enforcement officials said Comey had discussed his testimony with Mueller’s investigative team to ensure it did not interfere with the special counsel’s probe.

“The one thing you know he’s not going to do, you know he’s not going to reach a conclusion (on the legality of Trump’s actions) and he’s not going to talk about the underlying investigation,” said Stephen Ryan, a former federal prosecutor and congressional investigator now at the McDermott, Will & Emery law firm.

Still, Ryan said the testimony, and senators’ questions, would be historic. The closest comparison, he said, was the appearance 44 years ago of President Richard Nixon’s White House counsel John Dean, who, after being fired by Nixon, gave damning testimony in 1973 to the Senate Watergate Committee.

(Additional reporting by John Walcott; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Peter Cooney)

A Powerful Message from A Powerful Woman

In all my years in Christian television, I’ve never met a woman like Brigitte Gabriel.

I’ve had the chance to interview some exceptional people on my shows — politicians, entertainers  from all walks of life, and a multitude of preachers and prophetic voices — but I have never heard a story as powerful as hers. I talk about how our entire world can be turned upside down in an instant, how quickly we can lose nearly everything we know, and here is a remarkable woman who has lived through it all. Continue reading

Visions of Morningside – The Journey to Morningside

After a long flight, with my head buried in my Bible, I made it to Dallas,TX!  After months of waiting, anxiety building to panic, I had gotten on that plane and I made it!

Grabbing my things, I ventured my way off the plane and there was my wonderful brother waiting for me.  I cannot tell you how good it was to see a familiar face! It was so good to see my blood, my kin.  We embraced and I probably hugged him just a little longer than I normally would have.  I was just so glad that I had made it! I was smelling that Texas air and I was with my family. My mind, body and spirit were calm and my anxiety had lifted!   Continue reading

Calling on the Line – The Journey to Morningside Continues

With a simple license plate that said “God Cares,”  I was able to breathe for the ride to the airport to catch my flight to Dallas. I knew the Master’s Commission event that I was to attend there called “The Mix” was a key to my future.  God was showing me that He was there with me, but the ride to the airport was not nearly long enough. And suddenly, we had arrived.  

So far I had managed to keep my head buried in my Bible. Each word, a kind of anti-anxiety treatment, but it really only lasted for as long as I remained there. The moment I turned my head from His Word I could feel the anxiety coming back.  I had been in the midst of an almost paralyzing attack of anxiety, but I knew that God had a plan for me.  It was this plan that would make me fight every blast of fear the enemy could throw at me.   Continue reading

Burn That Bridge

It was April and I was on my way to the airport to catch a plane to Dallas, Texas.  The Lord was calling me there, I knew it! Yet, my familiar panic attacks had gotten hold of me; the enemy was determined to keep me from meeting my destiny.  My mom and sister were sitting with me in our car parked in the Walmart parking lot by the airport and I was still in the throes of a panic attack.

My Mom and Kristi were so patient and loving. I was trying to go for a long weekend at an event in Dallas called The Mix, a taste of what Master’s Commission was all about. These wonderful women finally turned to me and asked the big question, “What do you want to do Zach?”   Continue reading

The Tunnel – The Journey To Morningside Continues

In my last blog I had just heard of Master’s Media from my brother during Christmas time of my senior year.

Lloyd Zeigler who was the leader at the Phoenix First Master’s Commission had decided to start another ministry in Dallas, Texas and my brother had moved there with him.  He said, “Listen Zach, there is something coming up this February, (about two months away) and it’s called “The Mix”.  Kids from all around the country come to Dallas and spend two or three days at the Master’s Commission there.  You will have a compact, fast taste of Master’s Commission that will give you the chance to see if this is something you really would like to do.” Continue reading

BOOM! There It Is! – The Journey Continues

It had not even been a year yet since I was saved and God was doing quick work!  I had spent my summer devoted to finding the path and following the calling that God was bringing into my life.  And now it was my senior year of high school.   I knew that God had called me to Christian television and media.  I had no idea what that was going to look like. My mind was incredibly busy with trying to set things up, finding the next step.  God hadn’t given me particular answers quite yet so I was going to try to fill the empty holes with answers the best way I knew how.

I knew that God had called me to be a part of revolutionizing Christian television and Christian media for this generation.  But there were certain things I didn’t know.  I didn’t know the logistics of how it was that this was going to come about.  I decided I was going to go to a Christian college and get my pastoral license and I would take a lot of classes in media and television as well.  That seemed to me to be the most logical thing I could possibly do. Continue reading

Journey to Morningside Part 2 – And The Word is Media

There I was, the summer before my senior year in High school.  I had only been saved for a few months and I was so on fire that I was joining every church camp I could either attend or be a part of as a member of the camping staff.  During my time as a counselor for the youth camp, I had been spending some private with Jesus in my cabin just asking God for guidance on a couple of matters that were heavy on my heart.  The first concerned my infatuation with an awesome girl that the Lord basically told me not to pursue which was so confusing to me because I thought she would make a great wife!  The second issue on my heart was regarding a passion of mine I hadn’t told my Mom or Dad or even closest friends.  Nobody knew about the calling I kept feeling in my heart.  The passion that I felt was ignited inside of me. Continue reading

Journey to Morningside

Sometimes the answer is NO

Let’s begin this journey to Morningside with the question that many have asked me, “How did God call you to Media?”  I had gotten radically saved in high school…evangelizing every Saturday with my buddies, people were getting saved all over the place, even at my school. The Holy Spirit’s fire was with us wherever we were. I wanted to spread the Word of Jesus Christ more and more! Continue reading

Go Big Or Go Home

After turning my life over to God, I became OOOOONNNN FIRE for Jesus!   You know when you look at fire and its different colors?   Some of the hottest spots are the blue flames. That is where I was.  I felt like dynamite but I also realized that many things in my world would have to change. I went on a sabbatical for at least 6 months from my not so Jesus centered friends whom I love so much. I’m close with several of them to this day.  They truly respect me for my Christian beliefs and several of them have actually come to know the Lord since that time. Continue reading