Bars and gathering places in Washington, D.C., and other cities held parties Thursday for customers who wanted to watch fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Durham venues did not have organized events, but residents held private viewings and made their opinions known on social media.
At the Geer Street coworking space The Mothership (formerly Mercury Studio and The Makery), two members of the organization took time out of their schedule to hold an informal viewing party. Krista Nordgren, a co-owner of The Mothership, and Justin Cook, a photographer who works at the space, were glued to the Washington Post’s live feed on a laptop. On a separate laptop, Nordgren opened President Trump’s Twitter page to keep track of any messages he might tweet (he did not tweet during the testimony).
Comey released a statement prior to his Thursday testimony. He faced questions from the committee related to Trump’s efforts to get him to shelve the investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, the ongoing investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election, and the private dinner at which Trump asked Comey for his personal loyalty as FBI director.
Comey’s testimony may not have had the impact of John Dean’s in 1973 before a Senate committee investigating the Watergate break-in, but it was not without drama. In response to a question from Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia about the loyalty request, Comey replied that “my common sense told me [Trump] was looking to get something” in exchange. When Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California asked him why he didn’t tell the president his request to go easy on Flynn was inappropriate, Comey replied that he was so “stunned by the conversation that I just took it all in.” He told key staff members about the request, and “I think they were as shocked as I was,” Comey said.
The former director’s composure and skill drew cheers and admiration from Cook and Nordgren. “His resting pulse must be 20 beats a minute,” Cook said of Comey. He also called Comey “a master chess player” for his ability to keep to the facts when being grilled by some committee members. “He just represents the ultimate in professionalism to me, [with] his independence,” Cook said. To him, Comey is “the antithesis of Trump.”
Nordgren said she admired Comey’s character. “I was surprised,” she said. “I didn’t know that much about Comey’s character.” Trump “seems so dangerous,” she said. The former director “may be flawed, but he has lots of personal integrity [and he’s] coming up against someone who has no personal integrity,” Nordgren said.
Cook, a former reporter, said the competition between the Washington Post and New York Times to break stories is exciting. “This is the journalist’s dream on the grandest scale imaginable,” Cook said. “There’s a part of me that hopes that common sense and professionalism wins.” More than just a story about Russian interference in the election, this story represents “a greater human drama,” he said.