GOP ques­tions Comey about Clin­ton, and both sides grouse

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - NATION+WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON >> House Repub­li­cans in­ter­viewed James Comey be­hind closed doors Fri­day, haul­ing the for­mer FBI di­rec­tor to Capi­tol Hill one fi­nal time be­fore they cede power to Democrats in Jan­uary. GOP law­mak­ers who stepped out­side while the ques­tion­ing was un­der­way in­di­cated they weren’t sat­is­fied and will bring him back later this month.

Comey wasn’t pleased ei­ther, telling re­porters, “We’re talk­ing about Hil­lary Clin­ton’s emails, for heaven’s sake, so I’m not sure we needed to do this at all.”

A tran­script of the in­ter­view “will bore you,” Comey said af­ter the six-hour in­ter­view with two House com­mit­tees.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted Fri­day that Comey ap­par­ently was told by Jus­tice Depart­ment at­tor­neys not to an­swer some ques­tions. Trump called that “to­tal bias and cor­rup­tion at the high­est lev­els of (the) pre­vi­ous Ad­min­is­tra­tion,” adding that law­mak­ers should force Comey to an­swer ques­tions un­der oath.

Repub­li­cans say Comey and other Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials were bi­ased against Trump as they in­ves­ti­gated his cam­paign’s ties with Rus­sia in 2016 and cleared Clin­ton in a sep­a­rate probe into her email use.

Comey said he will be back at the Capi­tol for an­other closed-door in­ter­view the week of Dec. 17.

Democrats also were un­happy, say­ing Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Repub­li­cans’ ques­tions were merely dis­trac­tions from spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s Rus­sia probe.

Comey ap­peared for the in­ter­view af­ter un­suc­cess­fully fight­ing a sub­poena in court. It was the first time he an­swered law­mak­ers’ ques­tions since an ex­plo­sive June 2017 hear­ing in which he as­serted that Trump fired him to in­ter­fere with his FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion of al­leged Rus­sia ties to the Trump cam­paign.

Two GOP-led com­mit­tees are wrap­ping up a year­long in­ves­ti­ga­tion into de­ci­sions made at the Jus­tice Depart­ment dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Repub­li­cans ar­gue that depart­ment of­fi­cials were bi­ased against Trump as they started the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and cleared Clin­ton in a sep­a­rate 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 the spe­cial coun­sel’s Rus­sia probe. Mueller took over the depart­ment’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion when he was ap­pointed in May 2017.

Un­der a deal struck with the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, Comey was to be free to speak about Fri­day’s ques­tion­ing af­ter­ward and a tran­script was to be re­leased. Comey had ar­gued that Repub­li­cans would se­lec­tively leak de­tails and mis­char­ac­ter­ize the pro­ceed­ings.

Walk­ing into the meet­ing, Comey said he might an­swer ques­tions in pub­lic af­ter the ses­sion. He gave a wry an­swer when asked if he was “best friends” with Mueller, as Trump has tweeted.

“Note that I smiled,” Comey said.

Af­ter the ques­tion­ing was un­der­way, some Repub­li­cans sig­naled they were un­happy with Comey’s level of co­op­er­a­tion. Cal­i­for­nia Rep. Dar­rell Issa said Comey had two lawyers in the room, his per­sonal lawyer and a lawyer from the Jus­tice Depart­ment. He said the depart­ment lawyer re­peat­edly in­structed Comey not to an­swer “a great many ques­tions that are clearly items at the core of our in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Issa sug­gested the com­mit­tee might bring Comey back be­cause he wasn’t an­swer­ing ques­tions. Two other Repub­li­cans, Reps. Andy Biggs of Ari­zona and Mark Mead­ows of North Carolina, also sug­gested they might need a sec­ond ses­sion with Comey if they didn’t fin­ish their in­ter­view by a late af­ter­noon dead­line.

Democrats dis­agreed that Comey wasn’t be­ing co­op­er­a­tive.

“He an­swered the ques­tions he had to an­swer,” said Rep. Raja Kr­ish­namoor­thi of Illi­nois. But he added that he was left with the im­pres­sion that “we got nowhere to­day.”

Florida Rep. Ted Deutsch said the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity “wishes to only ask ques­tions still about Hil­lary Clin­ton’s emails, all to dis­tract from the big news to­day, which is what’s hap­pen­ing in court.”

Mueller was to re­veal more de­tails about his Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion in court on Fri­day as he faced dead­lines in the cases of Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, Paul Manafort, and for­mer per­sonal lawyer Michael Co­hen.

SU­SAN WALSH — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey is fol­lowed by re­porters on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton, on Fri­day, Dec. 7, 2018, af­ter tes­ti­fy­ing be­hind closed doors to the House Ju­di­ciary and House Over­sight com­mit­tees.

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