Donald Trump 'asked James Comey To Shut FBI Investigation Into Michael Flynn'





By MATTHEW NUSSBAUM and LOUIS NELSON

Updated

2017-09-22T12:53-0400

Former FBI director James Comey struggled on Friday to give the convocation address at Howard University, speaking over a group of about 20 students who sang and chanted continuously throughout the speech.

Protesters seated near the back of Howard’s auditorium stood with raised fists and began singing “We Shall not be Moved” as Comey stepped to the lectern and thanked the university’s president. The group ran through multiple other chants, including “no justice, no peace,” "f*** Jim Comey" and “get out Jim Comey, you’re not our homie,” prompting the former FBI chief to stand silently at the microphone, delaying the start of his remarks, hands folded in front of him.

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At one point, Comey sought to quiet the protesters by saying that “I hope you’ll stay to listen to what I have to say, and I just listened to you for five minutes.” The effort was unsuccessful, and after several more minutes of waiting out the protesters, and one administrator’s unsuccessful admonitions for the protesters to be seated, Comey offered his speech as the chants and slogans continued to pour from the back of the auditorium.

No effort was made to remove the demonstrators.

“I love the enthusiasm of the young folks, I just wish they would understand what a conversation is. A conversation is where you speak and I listen, and then I speak and you listen,” the former FBI director said. “And then we go back and forth and back and forth. And at the end of a conversation, we're both smarter. I am here at Howard to try to get smarter, to try to be useful, to try to have healthy conversations."

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Comey’s convocation remarks focused mostly on offering advice to Howard’s students and extolling the virtues of the historically black university. He did not speak to his former role as FBI director, his firing by President Donald Trump, or the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election.

But he did push back against the common conservative critique that colleges are places separate and cloistered from the “real world.” A university, and particularly Howard, Comey said, offers a place to grow and challenge one’s beliefs.

To often, Comey said, others "aren’t looking to learn anything about you”

Much of the world is “a place where people are on sides rather than trying to understand are they still on the right side. They care mostly about their side winning.,” he said.

“Howard University has always been different which is why I wanted to be a part of it,” Comey said, as the protesters continued to chant.

He characterized Howard as an “island” that has managed to incubate itself from much of the conflict and frenzy of the real world. That separation affords Howard’s students a rare opportunity to learn and shape themselves, Comey said.

“There is simply too little time taken in the rest of the real world to reflect, to think, to try to reshape the world and yourself. The rest of the real world is a place where its hard sometimes to find people who will listen with an attitude that they might actually be convinced of something,” he said. “Instead, what happens in the rest of the real world — and about four rows in this auditorium — is that people don’t listen at all, they just try to figure out what rebuttal they’re going to offer when you’re done speaking. Sometimes they will pause briefly before telling you you’re an idiot.”

Comey’s remarks were the first of several he is scheduled to give at Howard, where he will deliver a series of lectures during the 2017-2018 school year.

The crowd of about 1,500 in the auditorium — primarily students and faculty — seemed divided on the protest along generational lines. At one point much of the auditorium started their own chant: “Let him speak.”

And one administrator sought to quell the demonstration.

“You made your point now let our students discuss and debate the issue. Would you do that?” he said. “Let them discuss and debate the issue.”

The demonstrators responded with a new chant: “White supremacy is not a debate!"

Finally, with the audio adjusted, Comey delivered his address, over the chants. University administrators sat stone faced as Comey struggled, with some success, to be heard over the chants. When he finished, much of the auditorium rose to give him a standing ovation. But in the back, where the students were seated, there was little applause. As the demonstrators marched out after Comey’s speech, the student section burst into applause.

“I think that the protesters are correct in not really wanting James Comey here because he’s not really done anything to represent us,” said Asim Williams, 18, an incoming freshman from Detroit. “He hasn’t done anything positive for us.”

He said Comey perpetuates injustice in law enforcement, but said he was willing to hear him speak, particularly if he would address current issues like race relations and police killings of unarmed African Americans.

“Tell us your stance on what’s happening,” Williams said, taking issue with Comey’s decision to speak more broadly about Howard.

“It was him telling us things, generic things, sprinkling gold on nothing,” he said.

Given the tone of the speech, he said, he was glad the protesters disrupted it in the way they did.

“I think that this is necessary to make our voices heard,” he said. “The more uncomfortable it feels, and the stranger it feels, the more necessary it is.”

Sade Johnson, a freshman from New York City, also expressed support for the demonstration. She slammed the administration for inviting Comey, describing him as anathema to what the university stands for.

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James Comey is pictured here. | Getty Images>

Comey takes lecture post at Howard University

By NEGASSI TESFAMICHAEL

“This is a safe space and you’re going to invite someone just to shake things up?” she said. Asked her specific qualms with Comey, she said he had “criminalized” the Black Lives Matter movement and mentioned his impact on the 2016 election.

A number of Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, point to Comey’s decision days before the election to announce a re-opening of the investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server as a primary version Trump won.

Trump fired Comey in May, an explosive incident that led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the Justice Department's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Trump later admitted that he had the FBI's Russia investigation in mind when he fired Comey.

Comey has since revealed that Trump asked him to back off the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired in February and has come under intense scrutiny for his own Russia ties and his lobbying work on behalf of Turkey. Comey went into detail about his discomfort with Trump in public testimony to Congress in June, airing his concerns about Trump's honesty. Trump had asked Comey for his personal loyalty at a private dinner, Comey testified, though the White House denied this.

The White House, with an assist from right-wing media outlets, have made Comey a target for withering criticism, with press secretary Sarah Sanders seeming to suggest that Comey should be a target of DOJ investigation himself. On Twitter, Trump has called Comey "cowardly," a "leaker" and accused him of leading a "witch hunt" against Trump.

Comey has taken on the role as endowed chair in public policy at Howard for the 2017-18 school year, and will deliver a series of lectures.

He is donating his $100,000 salary to a scholarship for students who came to the school from foster care. That gift is being used to support seven students at the university this year who have been in foster care.

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