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After Comey Hearing, What Comes Next In Senate Russia Probe?


For both supporters and opponents of President Trump, today's testimony from fired FBI Director James Comey amounts to a watershed. Trump's backers hope Comey's words will help the president pivot away from what they see as a cloud over the White House. Others, including some of Trump's fellow Republicans, think Comey's appearance before the Senate intelligence committee has given new momentum to investigations into Trump's actions and those of his associates. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: If President Trump was rattled by James Comey's testimony, including his charge that the president lied about the FBI being in disarray, he was not showing it. There were no new tweets from the president today. Instead, Trump's personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, read a triumphant-sounding statement after the hearing saying Comey had made clear the president was not the subject of an investigation while asserting Trump never had requested Comey's loyalty.


MARC KASOWITZ: The president feels completely vindicated and is eager to continue moving forward with his agenda, with the business of this country, and with this public cloud removed.

WELNA: Indeed, at the end of the three-hour hearing, the intelligence committee's Republican chairman, Richard Burr, portrayed it as a turning point.


RICHARD BURR: We depart from this. This is a pivotal hearing in our investigation.

WELNA: And yet after the hearing, Burr made it clear that by pivotal he meant, in his words, this is nowhere near the end of the investigation.


BURR: We're more confident today that we can through this process work through a very bipartisan and thorough investigation that at the end of it answers many of the questions that the American people might have today.

WELNA: Mark Warner, the panel's top Democrat, readily agreed.


MARK WARNER: There's still a lot of unanswered questions, and we're going to get to the bottom of this. We're going to get the facts out. The American people deserve to know.

WELNA: Across the Capitol, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Comey made clear today why Trump was unhappy with him as FBI director.


PAUL RYAN: What I got out of that testimony is we now know why he was so frustrated when the FBI director told him three times there's no investigation of him, yet that speculation was allowed to continue. So obviously we know now why he was frustrated.

WELNA: But at the hearing, Comey seemed to leave open the possibility that Trump may now be under investigation while responding to a question from Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton.


TOM COTTON: Do you believe Donald Trump colluded with Russia?

JAMES COMEY: That's a question I don't think I should answer in an open setting. As I said, we didn't - when I left, we did not have an investigation focused on President Trump. But that's a question that'll be answered by the investigation, I think.

WELNA: Comey also testified that Trump told him he hoped the FBI would back off investigating fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. Florida Republican Marco Rubio said after the hearing that Comey was right to find that an unusual request.


MARCO RUBIO: His perception was that it was a demand. And when you put that together with the ask of loyalty, the setting of the Oval Office, the power of the presidency and all these other things, you clearly had an FBI investigator that at a minimum an FBI director felt, you know, intimidated, for lack of a better term, certainly pressured.

WELNA: And then there were the tapes that Trump alluded to in a tweet, suggesting they might contradict Comey. Comey's response - bring them on.


COMEY: I've seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.

WELNA: Adam Schiff, the top Democrat in the House intelligence committee's investigation, says he, too, hopes there are tapes.

ADAM SCHIFF: We haven't been able to get a straight answer as to whether they exist. And I think ultimately we'll have to request them. We'll have to subpoena them or get an answer that they don't exist. But if we can't get them voluntarily, I think we should use whatever process is necessary to compel them.

WELNA: Schiff says his panel, too, wants to hear from Comey, along with the memos of his encounters with Trump. David Welna, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.