Comey faces off with GOP over Clin­ton emails, al­leged bias

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - POLITICS - BY MARY CLARE JALONICK

WASH­ING­TON — For­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey spoke to House in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­hind closed doors for al­most seven hours Fri­day, be­grudg­ingly an­swer­ing ques­tions about the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s de­ci­sions dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Comey, who ap­peared un­der sub­poena, an­nounced af­ter the meet­ing that he would re­turn for more ques­tion­ing Dec. 17. Ap­pear­ing an­noyed, he said “we’re talk­ing about Hil­lary Clin­ton’s emails, for heaven’s sake, so I’m not sure we needed to do this at all.”

Two GOP-led com­mit­tees brought Comey in as they sought to wrap up a year­long in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the depart­ment’s de­ci­sions in 2016. Repub­li­cans ar­gue that depart­ment of­fi­cials were bi­ased against Don­ald Trump as they started an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his cam­paign’s ties to Rus­sia and cleared Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton in the probe into her email use. Comey was in charge of both in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Democrats have said the in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the House Ju­di­ciary and Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form com­mit­tees are merely a way to dis­tract from and un­der­mine spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s Rus­sia probe. Mueller took over the depart­ment’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion when he was ap­pointed in May 2017.

Just as the meet­ing ended, Pres­i­dent Trump tweeted that “it is be­ing re­ported that Leakin’ James Comey was told by Depart­ment of Jus­tice at­tor­neys not to an­swer the most im­por­tant ques­tions. To­tal bias and cor­rup­tion at the high­est lev­els of pre­vi­ous Ad­min­is­tra­tion. Force him to an­swer the ques­tions un­der oath!”

While it was un­cer­tain if Comey spoke un­der oath Fri­day, ly­ing to Congress is a crime un­der any cir­cum­stance.

A re­port re­leased this June from the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s in­ter­nal watch­dog said Comey was “in­sub­or­di­nate” in his han­dling of the Clin­ton email in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the fi­nal months of the 2016 cam­paign. But it also found there was no ev­i­dence that Comey’s or the depart­ment’s fi­nal con­clu­sions were mo­ti­vated by po­lit­i­cal bias to­ward ei­ther can­di­date.

The re­port said the for­mer FBI di­rec­tor, who an­nounced in July 2016 that Clin­ton had been “ex­tremely care­less” with clas­si­fied ma­te­rial but would not be charged with any crime, re­peat­edly departed from nor­mal Jus­tice Depart­ment pro­to­col. Yet it did not sec­ond-guess his con­clu­sion that Clin­ton should not have been pros­e­cuted, de­spite as­ser­tions by Trump and his sup­port­ers that any­one less po­lit­i­cally con­nected would have been charged.

AP PHOTO/MANUEL BALCE CENETA

For­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey, right, with his at­tor­ney, David Kel­ley, left, ar­rives to tes­tify Fri­day un­der sub­poena be­fore the House Ju­di­ciary and Over­sight Com­mit­tee on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton.

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