Comey, GOP face off over Clinton emails, alleged bias
Former FBI chief says transcript of interview ‘will bore you’
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 sixhour interview with two House committees.
President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that Comey was apparently 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.
Former FBI Director James Comey testified Friday to the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform panels.