A guide to the James Comey hearing, for normals
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A guide to the James Comey hearing, for normals


Hello and welcome to what will probably be the most consequential and most-watched political event of the magically dystopian year that is 2017.

You’re here to learn about Thursday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, at which former FBI Director James Comey will testify. 

So let’s do that.

Below you’ll find a guide to what you should be on the lookout for as you munch your breakfast/lunch at your desk. Enjoy.

What time is the hearing and how can you watch?

The hearing will start around 10 a.m. ET. 

We’ve outlined how to watch here, but in case you don’t feel like clicking that link…

– If you’re by a TV, just turn it to a major network channel. 

– Or, if you’re on the internet, you can pick from your choice of livestreams.

What’s this hearing about?

The hearing is a chance for Comey to make a statement — and for senators to ask questions — about the events that led to Trump firing Comey on May 9. It set off alarm bells because the FBI was conducting an investigation into the Trump team’s potential ties with Russian government officials. 

Senators are also likely to question Comey about Trump’s reported request for Comey to end an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. 

What moments should you watch for?

Sometimes you’ll recognize a moment as its happening. If one of the senators fires off a series of questions at Comey, it’s likely significant for one reason or another. 

Other than that, you should keep your eyes and ears peeled for anything Comey says about obstruction of justice, meddling in ongoing investigations, and/or whom the FBI is investigating. 

Who will be at the hearing?

Comey will be the bell of the ball. Cameras will be on him for much of the hearing as he fields questions from senators. 

The other important folks are the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Of note: 

– Republican Chairman Richard Burr

– Democratic Vice Chairman Mark Warner

– Former Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio

– Democrat Kamala Harris, of Maybe-She’ll-Be-President-One-Day-Soon fame 

– Former chairman of this same committee, Democrat Dianne Feinstein

– Independent Angus King, who perhaps earned the title of ‘Most Pissed Off Questioner’ at Wednesday’s tune-up hearing featuring leaders of various intelligence agencies. See below:

If you’ve already read Comey’s opening statement, why watch the hearing?

Comey’s prepared statement is explosive. If you haven’t read it, it’s here. The former FBI director alleges that the president requested “loyalty,” and asked Comey to abandon an investigation into the president’s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn. Several experts have said the opening statement is evidence that the president obstructed justice, since the FBI was conducting an investigation into the Trump team’s potential ties to Russian government officials at the time Comey was fired. That statement may be the most significant part of the whole hearing. 

But, at the very least, it’s worth watching this hearing to see how much Comey reveals now that he’s a regular citizen. He may shed more light on interactions with Trump that would qualify as obstruction of justice. In his opening statement, Comey said he’s talked one-on-one with Trump nine times, but he didn’t go into detail about all those conversations. 

How long is this going to last?

The open hearing is set to last from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. ET, though it’s expected to go a little longer. That said, you (almost certainly) won’t need to be at your desk all day. 

Will this settle the Trump-Russia debate once and for all? 

There is almost a zero percent chance. We’re not likely to get much information on the potential relationship between the Trump campaign/administration and the Russian government. We’re more likely to get some new information on whether and how often the president tried to derail the FBI’s investigation into those potential Russia connections. 

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June 8, 2017
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