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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.

I 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.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.