The following is my forensic statement analysis from portions of James Comey ‘s nearly 3-hour testimony during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on 8 June 2017.
Comey, the former F.B.I. director, was fired by President Trump in May 2017. At the end of the content analysis you will also find a body language analysis. You can see the entire video testimony here.
It is important to note that I did watch the entire testimony and have the entire transcript. Therefore, my analysis below is taken in context. Standing alone some deception markers annotated in red, may not seem noteworthy to the reader; although looked at in its entirety with baseline responses, the change of baseline is what is key. For example, if Mr. Comey answered in the affirmative “Yes” to most all questions, then on some he responded “Sure.” that is noteworthy.
Further, 91 times during the testimony he responded with “I don’t recall”, “I don’t remember”, “I don’t know” or some derivative of “It’s not for me to say” or “I cannot discuss.”
Due to the fact that the FBI and an on-going investigation are involved, it is reasonable to expect that certain information could not be discussed during the Senate hearing in an open setting. Without ground truth, or classified security clearance, it’s impossible to determine what the responses would have been, which could have a direct result on this analysis. It is also impossible to determine if any of his refusal to answer responses were an opportunity to omit relevant information. Absence of evidence is not evidence.
My forensic statement analysis
BURR: Director Comey, you have been criticized publicly for the decision to present your findings on the e-mail investigation directly to the American people. Have you learned anything since that time that would’ve changed what you said, or how you chose to inform the American people?
COMEY: Honestly, no. I mean, it caused a whole lot of personal pain for me, but, as I look back, given what I knew at the time and even what I’ve learned since, I think it was the best way to try and protect the justice institution, including the FBI.
(***1. Extra words, known as qualifying words, are sometimes used to show us the person is being deceptive. They’re often used in an attempt to bolster credibility. “Honestly” is a qualifying word, similar to the phrases, I swear to God, to tell you the truth, in fact, etc. 2. The word “think” means there is the possibility he may be wrong. 3. “Try” means attempted by failed; did not complete or did not do what the statement indicated if he only tried.
Likewise, with the word “try” – in 1998, President Bill Clinton testified before a federal grand jury. After taking an oath to tell the truth the independent counsel questioned him about this oath. It was believed that in January of that same year the President lied under oath about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky during his Paula Jones deposition. He was asked if the oath he took in January meant the same thing as it does today. President Clinton responded, “Well, no one read me a definition then and we didn’t go through this exercise then. I swore an oath to tell the truth and I believed I was bound to be truthful and I tried to be.”
The word “tried” means a person attempted but failed to do it. The President is telling us that he tried but failed to be truthful in his Paula Jones deposition. He did not say, “I was bound to be truthful and I was truthful.” He couldn’t say that because people do not want to lie. After giving his grand jury testimony, the President admitted on national television that he did have an inappropriate relationship with Miss Lewinsky. Most people including Monica Lewinsky believe President Clinton lied under oath.)
BURR: At the time of your departure from the FBI, was the FBI able to confirm any criminal allegations contained in the Steele document?
COMEY: Mr. Chairman, I don’t think that’s a question I can answer in an open setting because it goes into the details of the investigation. (***The former FBI Director is not certain if he can answer?)
WARNER at 1:02:08: Now, you’ve had extensive experience at the Department of Justice and at the FBI. You’ve worked under presidents of both parties. What was it about that meeting that led you to determine that you needed to start putting down a written record?
COMEY: A combination of things, I think — the circumstances, the subject matter and the person I was interacting with. Circumstances first: I was alone with the president of the United States — or the president-elect, soon to be president. … And then the nature of the person: I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document. (***1. Not certain – “think”; and 2. Qualifying word “honestly”, often used in deception in attempt to bolster credibility)
WARNER: Did you feel that you needed to create this written record or (ph) these memos because they might need to be relied on at some future date?
COMEY: Sure. I created records after conversations, and I think I did it after each of our nine conversations. If I didn’t, I did it for nearly all of them, especially the ones that were substantive. (***1. ”Sure” is not the same as saying Yes. He did not answer the question. We don’t know if he was responding “sure” to the part of the question that asks about creating memos or about the reason why. It is also a deviation from his baseline responses of using the word Yes, to respond in agreement or affirmative. 2. Also, not certain with “think.”)
WARNER: And so, in all your experience, this was the only president that you felt like, in every meeting, you needed to document, because at some point, using your words, he might put out a non-truthful representation of that meeting?
COMEY: That’s right, Senator. (***See above – same as “Sure.” Not the same as Yes.)
When I was deputy attorney general, I had one one-on-one meeting with President Bush about a very important and difficult national security matter. I didn’t write a memo documenting that conversation either — sent a quick e-mail to my staff to let them know there was something going on, but I didn’t feel, with President Bush, the need to document it in that way, again (ph), because of — the combination of those factors just wasn’t present with either President Bush or President Obama.
And so he was reluctant to make the statement that I made. I disagreed. I thought it was fair to say what was literally true: There is not a counterintelligence investigation of Mr. Trump. And I decided, in the moment, to say it, given the nature of our conversation.
And I — I — as I said in my written testimony, as FBI director, I interacted with President Obama. I spoke only twice in three years and didn’t document it. When I was deputy attorney general, I had one one-on-one meeting with President Bush about a very important and difficult national security matter.
(***1. Omitting of pronouns. Pronouns, or lack of, are quite revealing. If you find missing pronouns in a statement, that is significant. He failed to say He sent a quick email to his staff. Pronouns indicate responsibility. If people don’t want to take responsibility for their actions, or if they can’t truthfully assign responsibility to another person, pronouns will be omitted altogether. The missing pronoun indicates there is stress or strain and a lack of commitment to their statement. The person may not have done what he wants you to believe he has done.
2. “Three” – The number three is a liar’s number. When deceptive people have to come up with a number they will often choose the number three. Some people view the number three as being a complete number as in “Life, Birth and Death” or “Body, Mind and Spirit.” We also have three primary colors which all other colors come from. It may be that when deceptive people use the number they feel they are giving a whole and thorough number.
Another reason why deceptive people may use the number three is because many of the fairy tales and nursery rhymes we heard growing up used the number three. We find this in such stories as “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” “The Three Little Pigs,” “Three Blind Mice” and “Three Billy Goats Gruff.” There are also subtle references to the number three. Jack climbed the beanstalk three times. Cinderella made three visits to the ball. Rumpelstiltskin spun straw into gold three times and he allowed the heroine to guess his name three times over a three-day period. Lastly, we all know if you rub the Genie’s magic lamp he will grant your three wishes. It may be that have unconsciously associated the number three with things that are not true. Therefore, when a deceptive person has to come up with a number he may rely on the number three. If the number three appears in a statement, there may be deception in the story. Any reference to the number three should be closely examined.)
WARNER: At that moment in time, did you ever revisit that as a — in — in these subsequent sessions?
COMEY: With the FBI leadership team?
WARNER: With the team — with your (ph) team.
COMEY: Sure, and — and the — the leader who had that view — it didn’t change. His view was still that it was probably — although literally true, his concern was it could be misleading, because the nature of the investigation was such that it might well touch — obviously, it would touch the campaign, and the person at the head of the campaign would be the candidate. (***See above. “Sure” is not the same as yes.)
COMEY at 1:08:00 : Well, my impression — and, again, it’s my impression. I could always be wrong. But my common sense told me that what was going on is either he had concluded, or someone had told him, that you didn’t — you’ve already asked Comey to stay, and you didn’t get anything for it, and that the dinner was an effort to build a relationship — in fact, he asked specifically — of loyalty in the context of asking me to stay.
And, as I said, what was odd about that is we’d already talked twice about it by that point. And he’d said, I very much hope you’ll stay, I hope you’ll stay.
In fact, I just remembered, sitting here, a third one. When — you’ve seen the picture of me walking across the Blue Room. And what the president whispered in my ear was, “I really look forward to working with you.” So, after those encounters… (***1. “In Fact” – Qualifying phrase, used in deception in attempt to bolster credibility. 2. “Third” – another use of the number three.)
WARNER: And that was just a few days before you were fired?
COMEY: … yeah, that was on the 20 — the Sunday after the inauguration. The next Friday, I have dinner, and the president begins by wanting to talk about my job. And so I’m sitting there, thinking, “Wait a minute, three times, we’ve already — you’ve already asked me to stay, or talked about me staying. And my common sense — again, I could be wrong, but my common sense told me what’s going on here is that he’s looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job.
COMEY: No, and what made me uneasy was I’m, at that point, the director of the FBI. The reason that Congress created a ten-year term is so that the director is not feeling as if they’re serving at — with political loyalty owed to any particular person. The — the statue of Justice has a blindfold on because you’re not supposed to be peeking out to see whether your patron is pleased or not with what you’re doing. It should be about the facts and the law.
(***1. He is using present tense verbs. Looking at the verb tenses helps to determine if a person’s statement is coming from memory or from their imagination. As a general rule, statements should be written in the past tense because the incident has already taken place. Verb tenses refer to the time the action is taking place. In an open statement, the person should be telling what happened or what he witnessed. Therefore, he should be speaking in the past tense. It doesn’t matter if he is talking about something that happened five minutes ago or five months ago. He should be using past tense verbs as he tells his story.
2. “Three” See above. The number three is a liar’s number. When deceptive people have to come up with a number they will often choose the number three.
3. “Supposed to be” and “Should be”. These are similar to “try”. It means it would be ideal but that is not what happened or is happening. Consider his statement: “— the statue of Justice has a blindfold on because you’re not supposed to be peeking out to see whether your patron is pleased or not with what you’re doing. It should be about the facts and the law.” This means there is peeking out to see whether the patron is pleased or and it is not about facts and the law.)
FEINSTEIN: Let me begin with one overarching question. Why do you believe you were fired?
COMEY: Guess I don’t know for sure. I believe the — I take the president at his word, that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. Something about the way I was conducting it, the president felt, created pressure on him that he wanted to relieve. Again, I didn’t know that at the time, but I watched his interview, I’ve read the press accounts of his conversations. So I take him at his word there. Now, look, I — I could be wrong. Maybe he’s saying something that’s not true. But I take him at his word, at least based on what I know now.
(***1. Omitting of personal pronoun I. 2. “Guess” is like “think: or “believe”, he’s not convinced.
3. Also adding “for sure” is a qualifying phrase. She asked him why he believed he and responded with a knowledge statement. The phrase “for sure” indicates he knows something. He just may not have all the details. These words are not needed since he said he did not know “why he was fired.” However, he has to add them to make his story sound believable. This overemphasis is an indication of deception.)
3. “Three” – Three times he said he takes the president at his word. Although, in his opening statement, he was referring to the president’s comments about him after he was fired. Comey said “those were lies, plain and simple.” That contradicts the three (3) times he stated he took the president at his word.)
RUBIO at 1:31:05: Did you perceive that to be a statement that — I took care of you, I — I didn’t do something because you told me he was a good guy. So now, you know, I’m asking you, potentially, for something in return? Is that how you perceived it?
COMEY: I wasn’t sure what to make of it, honestly. (***Deceptive qualifying word).
WYDEN at 1:37: What was it about the Attorney General’s own interactions with the Russians, or his behavior with regard to the investigation, that would have led the entire leadership of the FBI to make this decision?
COMEY: Our judgment, as I recall, was that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. And so we were — we were convinced — and, in fact, I think we had already heard that the career people were recommending that he recuse himself — that he was not going to be in contact with Russia- related matters much longer, and that turned out to be the case. (***1. “In fact” is a deceptive qualifying phrase. 2. “Think” means, could be wrong.)
WYDEN: So, in effect, when you talk about infecting the enterprise, you would have dropped something major that would have spoken to the overall ability of the American people to get the facts?
COMEY: Correct. (***Doesn’t answer the question. What is correct? Dropping something major? Ability of American people? Facts?)
WYDEN: Flynn is gone, but other individuals with contacts with the Russians are still in extremely important positions of power. Should the American people have the same sense of urgency now, with respect to them?
COMEY: I think all I can say, Senator, is it’s a — the special counsel’s investigation is very important. (***1. “Think” = could be wrong. 2. “All I can say” – this is different than “All I know.” When a person says “All I know” he is limited by his knowledge. If someone says, “All I can say” he may be limited by something else. Perhaps the information he is withholding is incriminating. This is noteworthy because “All I can say” is different than all his other “I cannot discuss this in an open setting” responses. It is a deviation from his baseline.)
HEINRICH : A lot of this comes down to, who should we believe? Do you want to say anything as to why we should believe you?
COMEY: Probably (ph) — my mother raised me not to say things like this about myself, so not I’m going to. I think people should look at the whole body of my testimony, because, as I used to say to juries, and when I talked about a witness, you can’t cherry-pick it. You can’t say, “I like these things he said, but on this, he’s a — he’s a dirty, rotten liar.” You got to take it all together. And I’ve tried to be open and fair and transparent and accurate. (***1. “Think” – could be wrong. 2. “Tried” means attempted and failed, or did not complete. He is saying he has not been open, fair, and transparent and accurate.)
MANCHIN at 2:25: And you also mentioned you had — I think, what, six — six meetings — three times in person, six on the phone, nine times (ph) in conversation with the president. Did he ever, at that time, allude that you were not performing adequately — ever indicate that at all?
COMEY: No. In fact, the contrary, quite often. Yeah, he called me one day. I was about to get on a helicopter, the head of the DEA was waiting in the helicopter for me, and he just called to check in and tell me I was doing an awesome job, and wanted to see how I was doing. And I said, “I’m doing fine, sir.” And then I finished the call and got on the helicopter. (***1. “In fact” – deceptive qualifying phrase. 2. “Just”. The word “just” is often used to minimize things. When the word “just” is used to minimize a person’s actions it is an indication more things transpired than what the person is telling us. The use of the word “just” indicates the president may have called for others reasons besides checking in and telling him he was doing an awesome job. Because Comey knows other things were discussed on the call it caused him to unknowingly use the word “just.”)
COTTON: Mr. Comey, you encouraged the president to release the tapes. Will you encourage the Department of Justice or your friend at Columbia or Mr. Mueller to release your memos?
COMEY: Sure. (***He doesn’t answer the question if he will encourage his friend or Mr. Mueller to release his memos. Again, this is noteworthy because his baseline affirmative response is Yes, not Sure.)
COTTON: In your statement for the record, you cite nine private conversations with the president, three meetings and two phone calls. There are four phone calls that are not discussed in your statement for the record. What happened in those phone calls?
COMEY: The president called me, I believe, shortly before he was inaugurated, as a follow-up to our conversation — private conversation on January the 6th. He just wanted to reiterate his rejection of the allegation and talk about — he thought about it more, and why he thought it wasn’t true — the — the — the verified — unverified and salacious parts.
And — and during that call, he asked me again, “Hope you’re going to stay, you’re doing a great job.” And I told him that I intended to. There was another phone call that I mentioned, I think was — could have the date wrong — March the 1st, where he called just to check in with me as I was about to get on the helicopter. There was a secure call we had about an — an operational matter that was not related to any of this, about something the FBI was working on. He wanted to make sure that I understood how important he thought it was — a totally appropriate call. And then the fourth call — I’m probably forgetting. (***See above. “Believe” and “probably” aren’t confident or certain. 2. “Just” is again referencing the helicopter phone call about checking in, indicating there was other reasons why the president called.)
COTTON: Senator Feinstein said, “Well, no. No, it hasn’t.” Do you have any reason to doubt those statements?
COMEY: I don’t doubt that Senator Feinstein was saying what — what she understood. I just don’t want to go down that path, first of all, because I’m not in the government anymore, and answering in the negative, I just worry, leads me deeper and deeper into talking about the investigation in an open setting. I’m always trying to be fair. I don’t want to be unfair to President Trump. I’m not trying to suggest, by my answer, something nefarious, but I don’t want to get into the business of saying not as to this person, not as to that person. (***1. “Just” = more is happening, 2. “Trying” = attempted but failed or didn’t complete – He’s not always fair. Not trying to suggest, but he is.)
HARRIS: Is — so is your knowledge of the extent of his recusal based on the public statements he’s made? Or the…
COMEY: Correct. (***Not the same as Yes.)
HARRIS: And the attorney general recused himself from the investigation, but do you believe it was appropriate for him to be involved in the firing of the chief investigator of that case — of that Russia interference?
COMEY: That’s something I can’t answer, sitting here. It — it’s a reasonable question, but that would depend on a lot of things I don’t know, like what did he know, what was he told, did he realize that the president was doing it because of the Russia investigation — things like that. I just don’t know the answer. (***”Just” = knows more than he is saying.)
MCCAIN at 3:03: Yeah, but I — I think it would intensely arouse my curiosity if the president of the United States said “We had that thing, you know” — I’d like to know what the hell that thing is, particularly if I’m the director of the FBI.
COMEY: Yeah, I — I get that, Senator. Honestly, I’ll tell you what — this is speculation, but what I concluded at the time is, in his memory, he was searching back to our encounter at the dinner, and was preparing himself to say, “I offered loyalty to you, you promised loyalty to me,” and all of a sudden, his memory showed him that did not happen, and I think he pulled up short. (***1. “Honestly” – Extra words, known as qualifying words, are sometimes used to show us the person is being deceptive. They’re often used in an attempt to bolster credibility. “Honestly” is a qualifying word, similar to the phrases, I swear to God, to tell you the truth, in fact, etc.)
BODY LANGUAGE ANALYSIS
Starting at 47:40
COMEY: And although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader.
Those were lies, (Comey is shaking his head side to side, the American signal for No. This is a contradictory nonverbal communication to what his words are saying. He said those were lies, plain and simple, but his body language said they were not.) plain and simple, and I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them and I’m so sorry that the American people were told them. (At the 1:19 Comey said “I take him at his word” on 3 separate occasions within just 103 words. This would explain why he was subconsciously shaking his head side to side while saying “those were lies, plain and simple.”)
Starting at 1:00:35
BURR: Is there any doubt in your mind that this committee can carry out its oversight role in the 2016 Russian involvement in the elections in parallel with the — now — special counsel that’s been set up?
COMEY: No — no doubt. It can be done. It requires lots of conversations, but Bob Mueller is one of this country’s great, great pros. And I’m sure you all will be able to work it out with him to run it in parallel. (Note at 1:00:55 – While saying Mueller is a great, great pro and he is sure the committee can work it out with him, Comey is shaking his head side to side, the American signal for No. There is also a left shoulder shrug and open palm/thumb gesture from within his clasped hands. These are both contradictory nonverbal communication to what his words are saying. He said a positive with his mouth but his body language said the negative. The single shoulder shrug or open palm is a deception marker, indicting he does not believe what he is saying. He could be conflicted about Mueller or about the committee’s ability to work it out with him.)
WARNER: Now, you’ve had extensive experience at the Department of Justice and at the FBI. You’ve worked under presidents of both parties. What was it about that meeting that led you to determine that you needed to start putting down a written record?
COMEY: A combination of things, I think — the circumstances, the subject matter and the person I was interacting with. Circumstances first: I was alone with the president of the United States — or the president-elect, soon to be president. … And then the nature of the person: I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document. (Comey is shaking his head side to side, the American signal for No. This is a contradictory nonverbal communication to what his words are saying – He said he was concerned and thought it was important but his body language said that he wasn’t.)
COMEY at 1:04:30 And I — I — as I said in my written testimony, as FBI director, I interacted with President Obama. I spoke only twice in three years (Side to side No head shake (indicating what he said didn’t happen the way he said it did). and didn’t document it. When I was deputy attorney general, I had one one-on-one meeting with President Bush about a very important and difficult national security matter. (Side to side head shaking continues)
WARNER: At that moment in time, did you ever revisit that as a — in — in these subsequent sessions?
COMEY: With the FBI leadership team?
WARNER: With the team — with your (ph) team.
COMEY: Sure, and — and the — the leader who had that view — it didn’t change. His view was still that it was probably — although literally true, his concern was it could be misleading, because the nature of the investigation was such that it might well touch — (Contradictory single shoulder shrug – not believing himself what he is verbally saying) obviously, it would touch the campaign, and the person at the head of the campaign would be the candidate. And so that was his view throughout.
At 1:09:10 The next Friday, I have dinner, and the president begins by wanting to talk about my job. And so I’m sitting there, thinking, “Wait a minute, three times, we’ve already — you’ve already asked me to stay, or talked about me staying. And my common sense — again, I could be wrong, but my common sense told me what’s going on here is that he’s looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job. (Single contradictory shoulder shrug)
RUBIO at 1:32: So, in essence, the president agreed with your statement that it would be great if we could have an investigation, all the facts came out and we found nothing. So he agreed that that would be ideal, but this cloud is still messing up my ability to do the rest of my agenda. Is that an accurate assessment of… (CROSSTALK)
COMEY: Yes, sir. He actually went farther than that (Single shoulder shrug – not believing himself what he is verbally saying). He — he said, “And if some of my satellites did something wrong, it’d be good to find that out.”
Lastly, keep in mind that in a deception analysis, the shortest sentence is the best sentence to indicate credibility. If there are extra words presented – in fact, honestly, I swear, truthfully, actually, for sure, y’know, and many others, that is an area that needs to be examined closely for deception.
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