The hearing is expected to focus on whether Trump tried to interfere with the FBI’s ongoing investigation into whether the president’s campaign team colluded with Russian officials in an attempt to sway the outcome of the 2016 election.
To help you keep all of the details straight, here’s a timeline of what has happened between the president and Comey since the beginning of this year.
Comey and other intelligence leaders meet with the president-elect at Trump Tower to brief him on findings that indicated Russia acted to interfere in the election.
After that briefing, Comey pulls Trump aside and privately briefs him on an unverified intelligence dossier prepared by a former British spy that contains provocative allegations about how Russian officials had been cultivating Trump for years and had gathered compromising material about him.
“The IC [intelligence community] leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified,” Comey later writes in the testimony he prepared for Thursday’s hearing. “Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge of the material and its imminent release from the President-Elect; and (2) to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing.”
Two days after Trump’s inauguration, he attends a reception for law enforcement and security officials at the White House. Comey is in attendance. As Reuters reported:
Trump saw Comey in the audience and called out to him. Comey then strode up to Trump, who shook his hand and gave him a hug.
“He’s become more famous than me,” Trump said with a chuckle.
The New York Times reported further details of this meeting on May 18:
Mr. Comey — who is 6 feet 8 inches tall and was wearing a dark blue suit that day – told [Benjamin] Wittes that he tried to blend in with the blue curtains in the back of the room, in the hopes that Mr. Trump would not spot him and call him out.
Trump invites Comey to the White House for a private dinner. According to Comey’s account of the meal, Trump asks Comey whether he plans to stay in his role as FBI director.
Comey assures the president that he intends to serve the remainder of his term and adds that he is “not on anybody’s side politically.”
The conversation takes an “awkward” turn, according to Comey. As he writes in his prepared testimony:
A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.
The New York Times reported details from the dinner on May 11.
Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, is asked to resign after it’s revealed he discussed sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the U.S. before Trump became president and then lied about doing so. While it’s not yet public knowledge, the retired lieutenant general is under federal investigation for lobbying work he did on behalf of the Turkish government.
Trump meets with Comey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other officials for a counterterrorism briefing. After the briefing, Trump asks to speak with Comey alone.
After the other officials leave the Oval Office, Trump begins talking about Flynn’s departure from the White House. He describes Flynn as a “good guy” and says he doesn’t think Flynn has done anything wrong aside from misleading Vice President Mike Pence.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump says, according to Comey’s account of the meeting. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
After the meeting, Comey asks Sessions to prevent any further one-on-one meetings between himself and the president.
Sessions recuses himself from Justice Department investigations into whether Russia interfered in the election, as well as inquiries on whether Trump’s team colluded with Russian officials.
During a House Intelligence Committee hearing, Comey confirms his agency is investigating possible ties between Trump’s team and Russian officials. It’s the first public, formal confirmation of the probe.
Trump calls Comey at the FBI to discuss the Russia investigation.
As Comey writes in his prepared testimony:
He described the Russia investigation as “a cloud” that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to “lift the cloud.”
Trump again calls Comey, this time asking what the FBI director has done to publicly “get out” that the president is not personally under investigation. Comey tells Trump about the proper channels for such a request.
I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.
He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.
That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.
Comey again appears on Capitol Hill, this time testifying at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asks Comey to explain his decision to publicly reveal that the FBI may be reopening its investigation of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server just days before the 2016 election.
“Look, this was terrible. It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election, but honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision,” Comey said.
Trump abruptly fires Comey, saying he believes Comey is “not able to effectively lead” the FBI. He cites recommendations from Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that Comey should be removed due to his handling of the Clinton email investigation.
The move surprises lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and renews calls from Democrats for a special prosecutor to investigate the Russia matter.
Comey, who is in Los Angeles for a speaking engagement, learns of his ouster from TV.
Trump tweets about his decision to fire Comey, defending the move and accusing Democrats of hypocrisy for criticizing him.
That same day, Trump meets with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, in the Oval Office. According to a New York Times report published later in the month, Trump tells the Russian officials that firing Comey has relieved him of “great pressure.”
“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump says, according to the Times report.
Meanwhile, the White House account of why Trump decided to fire Comey begins to fall apart.
In an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt, Trump contradicts his own aides and says Sessions’ and Rosenstein’s recommendations had little to do with why he fired Comey.
“Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey,” he says.
He also says he considered “this Russia thing” when deciding whether to terminate the FBI director.
Trump goes on an early-morning Twitter rant about Comey, warning him against “leaking to the press.”
After the New York Times publishes a bombshell report revealing Trump asked Comey to end the Flynn investigations, some Democrats begin raising the possibility that the president obstructed justice and could face impeachment.
The Justice Department appoints former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the investigation of whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials.
Trump lashes out at Mueller’s appointment, describing the probe as a “witch hunt.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee announces that Comey has agreed to testify at a public hearing.
Trump decides against invoking executive privilege to block Comey’s testimony.
“In order to facilitate a swift and thorough examination of the facts sought by the Senate Intelligence Committee, President Trump will not assert executive privilege regarding James Comey’s scheduled testimony,” says White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Comey’s prepared testimony is released to the public.