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Jeb Bladine: Former FBI chief takes center stage

I’m all in with this week’s testimony by former FBI Director James Comey. It’s 7 a.m. Thursday; Comey just started his Senate testimony; and my column deadline is in two hours. The stage is set, and I’m banking that something interesting will come from the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

Wednesday, Comey released a detailed chronology of his meetings and phone calls with President Donald Trump leading up to the president’s ignominious May 9 firing of Comey. That statement, with annotations and related comments, can be found on the National Public Radio website at www.npr.org.

Also Wednesday, two top U.S. intelligence officials refused to answer related questions by members of the same Senate committee taking Comey’s testimony. Those officials did not claim executive privilege or rights against self-incrimination, and senators became increasingly angry at what some considered contempt of Congress.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

Finally, on Wednesday, I joined many who heard John Dean describe similarities between President Nixon’s Watergate and the current siege of Trump’s presidency. That recollection triggered flashbacks of watching Dean’s live testimony to the Senate Watergate Committee almost exactly 45 years ago.

Back to Thursday morning: America is fully tuned in, with all major networks carrying the live proceedings. With my time running out, here are a few snippets from the first 90 minutes of Comey’s testimony:

Asked why he wrote detailed notes about his nine conversations with the president, Comey said, “I honestly was concerned that he (Trump) might try to lie about our meetings.” Comey believed he might need that record in the future to defend himself and the integrity of the FBI.

Comey said it was “very disturbing” when the president — soon after firing National Security Advisor Michael Flynn — urged Comey to withdraw from the investigation of Flynn. Comey quoted Trump as saying, “I hope you can let this go.”

Said Comey: “I took it as a direction … I took it as, this is what he wants me to do.” He said he would leave it to others to decide whether the circumstances and the president’s words constituted obstruction of justice.

Lastly, with regrets about writing this while the Senate hearing continues, there was the time that Trump requested Comey’s loyalty. “It was my impression,” said Comey, that the president “ … seemed to be working toward getting something for granting my request to keep my job.”Comey promised honesty, but did not promise loyalty. And he was fired.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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