Fired FBI Director James B. Comey said Wednesday that the only explanation he can see for President Trump’s actions on Russia is that Moscow has some dirt on him, and urged voters to take that into consideration when they cast ballots.
Mr. Comey also said, though, that a situation like that of Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden and his son, who had ties to Ukrainian and Chinese companies, would “concern” the FBI.
Testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Comey, whom Mr. Trump had fired in 2017, unloaded on his former boss, saying the president hasn’t been vocal enough in criticizing Russia and particularly Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said there’s no good reason other than that Moscow is effectively blackmailing him.
“I have never felt that way about an American president, and I don’t know whether the Russians have something over President Trump, but it’s difficult to explain his conduct, his statements, in any other way,” said Mr. Comey, who spent months leading an investigation of Mr. Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Asked specifically his message to voters, Mr. Comey told them to be wary of Russia and its apparent affection for Mr. Trump.
“Know that a nation that does not have America’s best interests at heart wants to reelect Donald Trump. Let that sink in,” he said.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, suggested Mr. Trump’s personal debt, as reported by The New York Times, may leave the president open to being compromised by a foreign power.
Mr. Comey said that’s true in the abstract, but said he wasn’t familiar enough with Mr. Trump’s finances to speak to his own situation.
Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, was stunned that Mr. Comey would make that allegation.
“With all due respect, you don’t seem to know anything about an investigation that you ran, so how can you now as a private citizen and former FBI director show up and then speculate freely regarding any alleged ties between President Putin and President Trump?” he said.
At one point Sen. Lindsey Graham, chair of the committee, asked Mr. Comey what he would make of a situation involving a candidate who had a family member who “was receiving millions of dollars from a corrupt company in the Ukraine” and “was getting a million and a half dollar investment portfolio from the China bank.”
“I’d be concerned about any effort to exert leverage over a government official, potential government official or someone close to them in an effort to influence them,” Mr. Comey replied.
He did not specifically name Mr. Biden, though.
Mr. Comey’s firing sparked a two-year special counsel’s investigation that concluded there was no conspiracy between the Trump team and Russia, shooting down the premise of the FBI probe known as Crossfire Hurricane.
Mr. Comey’s successor as FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, says Russia is attempting to influence the 2020 election by denigrating Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.