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June 8 (Reuters) - Former FBI Director James Comey on Thursday accused the Trump administration of defaming him, but declined to offer his opinion on whether President Donald Trump sought to obstruct justice by asking him to drop an investigation into the former national security advisor.
The hearing could have significant repercussions for Trump's presidency as special counsel Robert Mueller and several congressional committees investigate alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump's campaign colluded with this. STORY: KEY POINTS:
* Comey said Trump had repeatedly told him he was doing a great job.
* Comey said administration chose to defame him and FBI by saying organization was in disarray. Comey said "those were lies, plain and simple'.
* Comey said he has no doubt Russia interfered with U.S. election. Comey says he is confident no votes cast in 2016 election were altered
* Comey says it is not for him to say whether Trump tried to obstruct justice in their conversations
* Comey says found conversations with Trump very disturbing
* Comey says Trump did not ask him to stop Russia investigation
* Comey says FBI became aware of Russia cyber intrusion in late summer of 2015
SCOTT WREN, SENIOR GLOBAL EQUITY STRATEGIST, WELLS FARGO INVESTMENT INSTITUTE, ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI: "From the statement released yesterday, just from the headlines, it sounded like it was pretty benign, so the action in the market, not just so far today, but in general over the last couple of months is the market certainly doesn't think there's going to be much that comes out of this, and I think largely that's because if there was something that's going to come out, as leaky as things seem to be, we would have heard something more than what we've been hearing so far.
"So I think the market thinks that's the likely outcome."
JOHN CANAVAN, MARKET STRATEGIST, STONE & MCCARTHY RESEARCH ASSOCIATES, PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY
“He didn’t offer that much that was new. He confirmed all the previously reported concerns. Concerns about the interactions (between Comey and Trump) remain. There was a very muted market response.
"It leaves us where we were before. It becomes that much more difficult for the Trump administration to put together a fiscal stimulus package. Anything they could put together with tax reform and infrastructure spending would be a lot smaller than had been expected. You are also pushing back the timing on any fiscal stimulus into 2018, possibly in 2019.
"A lot of the initial euphoria for strong fiscal stimulus has already been unwound, primarily in the bond market. Even without fiscal stimulus, the economy would be able to maintain its current momentum. We are looking for steady growth next year. In our view, this would allow the Fed to raise next week and likely one more time this year either in September or in December."
DAN SCAVINO JR., WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL MEDIA, ON VERIFIED TWITTER ACCOUNT
“Sorry Dems- nothing here. No votes were altered by Russians in the 2016 election. POTUS or team NEVER asked to stop election investigation.”
ART HOGAN, CHIEF MARKET STRATEGIST AT WUNDERLICH SECURITIES IN NEW YORK
"To the extent it doesn't seem to be a 'gottcha' moment here, the market's plodding along.”
"Unless something comes out that's outside the realm of the expected, that's what we should expect. I wouldn't say the market's taking action either way here.
"The market looked at this as one of three major events today. Along with this you've got the ECB and the UK election. It's a pretty catalyst filled day."
"It feels like Comey is pretty good at staying in the middle of the fairway in his responses.
"If they haven't been able to tease anything out of him in the first two hours they're probably not going to get more. I think the market is looking at this as a non-market moving event much like the ECB meeting was."
THOMAS SIMONS, MONEY MARKET ECONOMIST, JEFFRIES & CO., NEW YORK
“(The testimony) doesn’t appear to be super substantive. My read on the prepared remarks yesterday was that there was nothing particularly stirring there.
"I think the market is taking less of an alarmist review of this situation because there is no smoking gun here that there has been any illegal activity by high-ranking officials, so it’s not particularly impactful for thinking about the impact for Trump’s economic agenda to go through or anything like that."
JON ADAMS, SENIOR INVESTMENT STRATEGIST AND PORTFOLIO MANAGER AT BMO GLOBAL ASSET MANAGEMENT IN CHICAGO.
“We would need to see more evidence as far as explicit direction from the president for there to be a more significant market reaction. We’ve been worried about complacency in the market around political risk as investors have become immune to the daily noise out of Washington. We ask ‘does this impact economic growth or earnings growth?’, and so far the answer is no to both of those questions.”
OMER ESINER, CHIEF MARKET ANALYST AT COMMONWEALTH FOREIGN EXCHANGE IN WASHINGTON.
"So far we haven't had any major surprises or any kind of bombshells released. The dollar-yen ran up a little bit as the testimony got underway, suggesting a little bit of a relief on the fact that we are not likely to get a smoking gun from James Comey that we did not already know.
"We are not likely to get any new revelation that suggests that the President's behavior was anything other than maybe inappropriate and certainly likely fell short of the bar for obstruction of justice.
"Outside of a little bit of a move higher in dollar-yen, there's really not much that is going on."
STEPHEN MASSOCCA, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AT WEDBUSH SECURITIES IN SAN FRANCISCO
“It’s the James Comey show. Nobody cares. None of this is going to matter. The Republicans are going to say there is nothing to see here, move along. There is no ‘there,’ there, in my opinion, which is why stocks aren’t reacting.... At best what we have here is a president who has zero political experience probably said something he shouldn’t have said. I don’t see it becoming a bigger issue.
"I don’t think this is going to move any needle in any direction. It’s not significant enough that the Republicans are going to bail on Trump and the Democrats are going to make a lot of noise about it. But at the end of the day people care about unemployment, job growth and more important issues than this, in my opinion.”
BUCKY HELLWIG, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AT BB&T WEALTH MANAGEMENT IN BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA
"The hearings should be mostly a non-event for stocks unless there is some kind of unforeseen 'smoking gun' either way – detrimental to the president or beneficial to him."
"Because the president did not invoke executive privilege, it raises the likelihood that nothing happens during the hearings; i.e., there is nothing secret or detrimental to keep out of the hearings."
"Separately, it looks like the market is looking for excuses to go higher as it dances around all-time highs. Earnings are rising, rates are falling (supporting higher PEs), and the technical indicators show the market in an uptrend, so if the hearings maintain the status quo, it could move money off the sidelines into stocks."
TOM DI GALOMA, MANAGING DIRECTOR, SEAPORT GLOBAL HOLDINGS, NEW YORK: “At the end of the day, former FBI Director Comey hasn't really revealed anything new, in my view, so bond prices are either treading water to heading lower.”
DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP ON VERIFIED TWITTER ACCOUNT “Hoping and telling are two very different things, you would think that a guy like Comey would know that. #givemeabreak”
FAIZA PATEL, CO-DIRECTOR, LIBERTY & NATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM AT THE BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE IN NEW YORK CITY
“Comey's notes will be very useful for Mueller. They are detailed, close in time notes so will carry weight, even potentially legal weight. They were made before Comey was fired and so he had no grudge against Trump when he wrote them.”
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS HARVARD LAW SCHOOL, CAMBRIDGE, MA
“Nothing I’ve heard so far changes my view that the president did not obstruct justice.” LAURA DONOHUE, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER, PROFESSOR OF LAW, WASHINGTON D.C.
“If the President directed Comey to drop the investigation, with an improper purpose, then it is a violation of the law.”
“TIM KAINE, DEMOCRATIC US. SENATOR FROM VIRGINIA, ON VERIFIED TWITTER ACCOUNT “Trump and his team brought their own cloud in with them. It’s not the investigation that’s the cloud. It’s their own actions. #ComeyDay”
TERRY SANDVEN, CHIEF EQUITY STRATEGIST AT U.S. BANK WEALTH MANAGEMENT IN MINNEAPOLIS.
“Today is about Washington and the drama surrounding former FBI director James Comey's testimony and the talk about the demise of President Trump's presidency or growth agenda seems premature, short of a smoking gun.
"I think after today's testimony, focus will quickly shift back to his pro-growth agenda, mainly less regulation, tax reform, healthcare reform and infrastructure spending.
"But clearly all eyes are on Washington and I expect equities to generally trend sideways today short of any new revelations coming out of the testimony.”
STOCKS: Stocks were little changed as Comey's testimony kicked off, trading slightly lower-to-flat, then moved slightly ahead. BONDS: U.S. Treasury prices were lower ahead of Comey's testimony and pared losses as he testified. FOREX: The dollar strengthened against a basket of currencies and then pared gains slightly as Comey's testimony began.
Reporting by Megan Davies