The Idaho senator, who questioned the former FBI director before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday, later said Comey should have asked President Trump what he meant when he talked about ending part of the FBI’s Russia probe.
During the hearing, Risch pressed Comey on whether the president was merely expressing a desire for Comey to end the probe of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s Russian contacts. Comey said he took the president’s comment as “a direction.”
In his written testimony, Comey quoted the president telling him, at a Feb. 14 one-to-one meeting: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
“He did not direct you to let it go?” Risch asked Comey.
“Not in his words, no,” Comey replied
Risch: “He did not order you to let it go?”
Comey: “Again, those words were not an order.”
Risch then asked Comey: “Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice, or for that matter any other criminal offense, where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?”
Comey replied: “I took it as a direction. This is the President of the United States with me alone saying, ‘I hope this’. I took it as this is what he wants me to do. I didn’t obey that but that’s the way I took it.”
“You may have taken it as a direction but that’s not what he said,” Risch pressed. Comey said yes.
“You don’t know of anyone that’s ever been charged for hoping something. Is that a fair statement?” Risch said.
“I don’t as I sit here,” Comey replied.