Comey faces off with GOP over Clinton emails, alleged bias
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.
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.