During his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey declined to say “in an open setting” whether President Donald Trump colluded with Russia in its interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“Do you believe Donald Trump colluded with Russia?” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) asked bluntly.
“That’s a question I don’t think I should answer in an open setting,” Comey replied. “When I left, we did not have an investigation focused on President Trump. But that’s a question that will be answered by the investigation, I think.”
Later in the same line of questioning, Cotton asked about earlier comments by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the former ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that she knew of no evidence of collusion between Trump associates and Russia.
In response, Comey said he did not doubt Feinstein but didn’t want to discuss an ongoing investigation in public.
“I’m not trying to suggest by my answer something nefarious, but I don’t want to get into the business of saying, ‘Not as to this person, not as to that person,’” Comey said.
It’s unclear from Comey’s comments whether he’s aware of some evidence of collusion that’s classified or whether, out of an abundance of caution, he didn’t want to answer a question in public that might lead into sensitive or classified information regardless of whether there’s evidence of collusion.
The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a closed question-and-answer session with Comey today at 1 p.m., following Comey’s public testimony, where it’s likely senators will follow up on this and other questions.