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Trump's "tapes" tweet prompted Comey to leak memos

Alex Brandon / AP

Fired FBI Director James Comey appeared in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify about his interactions with President Trump as they relate to the federal government's Russia probe — and there's been some significant revelations thus far.

A big thing: Comey refused to state whether he believed that President Trump's request to shut down the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn amounted to obstruction of justice — saying it was a question for the investigation's special counsel Bob Mueller — but he called it "a very disturbing thing, very concerning."

Another big thing: After his firing and this Trump tweet, Comey asked a close friend of his — Columbia law professor Daniel Richman — to leak the content of his memos to the media with the hope of triggering the appointment of a special counsel.

QuoteI took it as a direction…I took it as what he wants me to do. Comey on Trump's "hope" that he'd shut down the Flynn investigation

Why Comey wanted to testify:

  • "The explanations, the shifting explanations [for his firing], confused me — and increasingly concerned me."
  • "It confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation."
  • "The administration then chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI."

Why Comey wrote his memos:

  • "I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting and I thought it important to document."
  • Comey wrote them in an unclassified manner to make them "easier to discuss" across government. He added, "I remember thinking, 'This is a very disturbing development, very important to our work, I need to document it.'"

Why Comey was concerned about Trump's behavior:

  • "My common sense told me that he's looking to get something in exchange for my request to stay in the job."
  • When Trump requested the Flynn shutdown: "Why would you kick everyone out of the Oval Office?"

Comey's reaction to idea Trump may have tapes:

  • "I've seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes."
  • "The president surely knows if he taped me. If he did, my feelings won't be hurt. Release all the tapes. I'm good with it."

The status of the investigation:

  • Comey confirmed that Trump himself was not under investigation while he was FBI director.
  • Did Trump collude with Russia? "That's a question I don't think I should answer in an open setting." Comey added that he meant nothing "nefarious" with that statement, simply that he's been out of government for a month.

Other key takeaways:

  • On not shutting down Trump's Flynn request: "Maybe if I were stronger I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in."
  • On AG Sessions: Comey stated that he believed Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation eventually because the FBI was "aware of facts" that he "can't disclose in an open setting."
  • The Steele dossier: Comey refused to state in the open session whether any aspects of the Steele dossier had been verified.
  • On former AG Loretta Lynch's push to tone down the rhetoric surrounding the Clinton email investigation, Comey said, "The attorney general was looking to align campaign language with our language, which... gave me a queasy feeling."
  • Comey's message to his former colleagues at the FBI: "I am so sorry that I didn't get the opportunity to say goodbye to you properly."

For a quick recap of Comey's hearing, sign up for Axios PM, a free daily newsletter from Mike Allen. 1-click signup here.

Steve LeVine 10 hours ago
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Self-driving lab head urges freeze after "nightmare" fatality

Uber self-driving car in Pittsburgh. Photo: Jeff Swensen / Getty

Carmakers and technology companies should freeze their race to field autonomous vehicles because "clearly the technology is not where it needs to be," said Raj Rajkumar, head of Carnegie Mellon University's leading self-driving laboratory.

What he said: Speaking a few hours after a self-driven vehicle ran over and killed a pedestrian in Arizona, Rajkumar said, "This isn't like a bug with your phone. People can get killed. Companies need to take a deep breath. The technology is not there yet. We need to keep people in the loop."

Khorri Atkinson 4 hours ago
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Brother of Florida shooter arrested for trespassing at Stoneman Douglas High

Nikolas Cruz, the suspect in the Florida schol school massacre. Photo: Amy Beth Bennett, Pool / Getty Images

Zachary Cruz, the brother of Nikolas Cruz who confessed to carrying out last month's massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was arrested Monday after authorities say he trespassed on the site where the shooting took place, per the Miami Herald.

Situational awareness: The arrest comes just over a month after his brother shot and killed 14 students and 3 staff members to which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.