North Carolina senator at center of Comey's testimony on Trump, Russia

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WBTV AND RNN) - Fired FBI Director James Comey has begun to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday, less than a month after his abrupt removal from office by President Donald Trump.

The testimony comes as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into the role Russian interference played in the 2016 election.

At the helm of the committee hearing, Comey's testimony is Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina. Burr chairs the Intelligence Committee and has presided over the upper chamber's investigation.

Comey's prepared remarks released

Comey released a written statement in advance of his 10 a.m. ET Thursday testimony before the U.S. Senate. Comey said he met with President Donald Trump in a Jan. 27 one-on-one setting at the White House where Trump asked him if he wanted to keep his job, and said, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty."

Comey's appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee will address the investigation into allegations that the Russians interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

Comey confirmed earlier reports that Trump told him he hoped the FBI could let go of the investigation into fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who lied to Vice President Mike Pence about improper meetings with Russians before the president's inauguration.

Comey wrote that he told the president he could not be considered "reliable" in the way politicians use the word, but "he could always count on me to tell the truth." Comey said he was not on anyone's side politically, and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, "A stance I said was in his best interest as the President."

After the president told Comey he needed loyalty, Comey said the two looked at each other in silence. 
The meeting also addressed the unverified dossier published by Buzzfeed that contained salacious material regarding a Trump visit to Russia.

Comey said he discussed with the FBI leadership team about whether it would be appropriate to let Trump know he personally was not under investigation regarding the Russia probe.

"That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted," he said, in the memo.

Comey said he did offer that "reassurance" after a Jan. 6 meeting.

"The president is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the president was not under investigation in any Russian probe," attorney Mark Kasowitz said in a statement. "The president feels completely and totally vindicated."

Burr's leadership echoes previous North Carolina senator's place in history

Burr's leadership of the investigation into Russian meddling has been compared to the job then-Senator Sam Ervin, also of North Carolina, did as chairman of the committee that investigated the Watergate scandal.

Ervin and his staff undertook years of work to investigate details of the scandal.

One committee staffer now lives in Charlotte.

Attorney David Erdman worked on the committee as a young law student. He was assigned to investigate various people involved in the scandal as well as helping with the committee's computer.

"There was no doubt in anybody's mind it was very important. All you had to do was pick up the paper every day and see that," Erdman recalled of his time on the committee in a recent interview with WBTV. "I went to work every day thinking that I needed to do my part of the investigation correctly."

Erdman had simple advice for the senators and staff working on the current Russia investigation.

"Figure out what needs to be studied and study it hard and then be confident that your answer is the right answer," he said.

Thursday's testimony from Comey is scheduled to be carried live on TV networks across the country. WBTV reporter Nick Ochsner will be tweeting live from the hearing room and will sit down exclusively for an interview with Burr after Comey's testimony concludes.

"History is watching. And whatever the truth is – whatever it is – will come out," Erdman, the Watergate Committee staffer, said. "And rather than in any way hiding from the truth or trying to shade the truth, those staffers ought to want to be, like you reporters, the first to get to the truth."

Here is Comey's statement in its entirety:

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