House pan­els grill Comey on 2 probes

‘I’m not sure we needed to do this at all,’ EX­FBI chief says

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation -

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

Comey, who ap­peared un­der sub­poena, said 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.”

A tran­script of the in­ter­view, ex­pected to be re­leased shortly, “will bore you,” Comey said.

Two Gop­led 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 that they cleared Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into her email use. Comey was in charge of both in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Point­ing fin­gers

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

After the ques­tion­ing was un­der­way, some Repub­li­cans sig­naled that 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.”

Democrats dis­agreed that Comey wasn’t co­op­er­a­tive.

“He an­swered the ques­tions he had to an­swer,” said Rep. Raja Kr­ish­namoor­thi of Illi­nois.

As the in­ter­view with Comey ended, Mueller re­vealed new de­tails about his Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the cases of Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, Paul Manafort, and for­mer per­sonal lawyer Michael Co­hen.

Just as the meet­ing ended, 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!”

Over the past year, Repub­li­cans on the two com­mit­tees have called in a se­ries of of­fi­cials and sug­gested after the closed­door meet­ings that there is ev­i­dence of bias at the Jus­tice De­part­ment. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion’s most pub­lic day was a 10­hour hear­ing in which for­mer FBI spe­cial agent Peter Str­zok de­fended anti­trump texts he sent to a col­league as he helped lead both in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Str­zok fought with Re­pub­li­can law­mak­ers in a rivet­ing hear­ing that fea­tured Str­zok read­ing aloud from his texts, and Democrats and Repub­li­cans openly yelling at each other.

New York Rep. Jer­rold Nadler, the top Demo­crat on the Ju­di­ciary panel, vowed to end the in­ves­ti­ga­tion when Democrats take the House ma­jor­ity in Jan­uary.

“This is a waste of time to start with,” Nadler said. “The en­tire pur­pose of this in­ves­ti­ga­tion is to cast as­per­sions on the real in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which is Mueller. There is no ev­i­dence what­so­ever of bias at the FBI or any of this other non­sense.”

Tes­ti­fy­ing again

Comey, who has tes­ti­fied pub­licly on Capi­tol Hill about both the Clin­ton and Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tions, ap­peared for the in­ter­view after un­suc­cess­fully fight­ing the 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.

His lawyers said he would pre­fer to tes­tify pub­licly and said the com­mit­tees were prone to se­lec­tively re­veal in­for­ma­tion for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.

“Don’t do it in a dark cor­ner and don’t do it in a way where all you do is leak in­for­ma­tion,” said Comey’s at­tor­ney, David Kel­ley.

JAMES COMEY will re­turn for more ques­tion­ing Dec. 17.

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