90 Miles From Tyranny : 4 Questions James Comey Actually Answered in Senate Hearing

Thursday, October 1, 2020

4 Questions James Comey Actually Answered in Senate Hearing

Former FBI Director James Comey took questions from a Senate committee for almost four hours Wednesday, but had the same answers for many of them.

Comey, who President Donald Trump fired in May 2017, fielded questions remotely by video link primarily about the FBI’s Russia-Trump investigation code-named “Crossfire Hurricane” before a special counsel took up the matter.

Throughout the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, in which he gave sworn testimony, Comey repeatedly offered the responses “I don’t know,” “I know nothing about … ,” “I don’t recall,” “I don’t remember,” “I only know what is in the public record,” “I can’t answer that,” and “That doesn’t ring a bell.”

Comey also said, “I don’t know anything about the facts that have recently been revealed about the subsource.”

In another often-repeated variation, Comey frequently responded to senators by questioning their questions, saying, “I don’t agree with your characterization,” “I don’t agree with your preamble,” or “I don’t agree with your predicate.”

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found numerous flaws in the FBI investigation in a report last year—primarily with regard to the agency’s surveillance of Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

In some instances, Comey did answer senators’ questions. Here are four examples. 

1. ‘Proud’ of Russia Investigation

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked the former FBI director: “How would you rate the Crossfire Hurricane investigation in terms of being done thoroughly, by the book, and an investigation the FBI should be proud of?”

Comey responded, “Overall, I’m proud of the work. There are parts that are concerning, which I’m sure we’ll talk about. But overall, I’m proud of the work.”

Later in the hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked broadly about the Russia probe as well as the investigation of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and misinformation in the application for a warrant to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

“Was that handled in a competent and honest way?” Cruz asked.

Comey continued with his “overall” defense.

“I think the overall investigation of the Russia interference and whether Americans were associated with it was conducted in an honest, competent, independent way,” Comey said.

Cruz noted that Horowitz’s report found 17 significant omissions in the FBI’s application for the initial warrant to spy on Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

“So, in your view, 17 mistakes and lying to the court is competent and honest?” Cruz asked.

Comey responded of the inspector general: “I don’t believe he concluded they were lies to the court. There were significant failings with how the Carter Page FISA [application] was prepared and renewed.”

Cruz brought up Kevin Clinesmith, the FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty in August to altering information in a CIA email, leaving out information that Page had worked with the CIA.

“That fraudulent document was then used as the basis for a fraudulent submission to the FISA court. Do you believe that is honest and competent?” Cruz asked.

Comey replied, “I don’t believe you offered an accurate summary.”

Cruz wrapped up by calling the FBI’s probe corrupt and hinting that Comey was corrupt:
This investigation of the president was corrupt. The FBI and the Department of Justice were politicized and weaponized. In my opinion, there are only two possibilities: that you were either deliberately corrupt or woefully incompetent. And I don’t believe you were incompetent. This has done severe damage to the professionals and the honorable men and women at the FBI, because law enforcement should not be used as a political weapon. That is the legacy you have left.

Later, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, referred to a notorious compilation of anti-Trump material compiled by Christopher Steele, a former Bristish intelligence agent, and financed by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Cornyn asked Comey: “Did you call the Steele dossier salacious and unverified?”

Comey: “The entire dossier was something we were trying to see if we could rule in or rule out.”

Cornyn: “Are you aware of any verification by the FBI?”

Comey seemed unsure before eventually responding: “I learned a lot about the Steele material and the subsource interviews from the Horowitz report that I didn’t know before.”

2. Russia and Hillary Clinton’s Campaign

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee regarding declassified information on how Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign pushed the Russia investigation to distract from her own campaign problems.

“In late July 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging that U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee,” Ratcliffe’s letter says. “The IC [intelligence community] does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.”

The letter from the director of national intelligence goes on to say:
On 07 September 2016, U.S. intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral to FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok regarding ‘U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server.’

Graham asked Comey: “Do you recall getting an inquiry from the intelligence community in September of 2016 about a concern that the Clinton campaign was going to create a scandal regarding Trump and Russia?”

Comey, as he did for much of the hearing, responded, “I do not,” and added: “That doesn’t ring a bell.”

Later, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked about the appropriateness of the director of national intelligence’s releasing the letter.

“I don’t understand Mr. Ratcliffe’s letter well enough to comment,” Comey responded to Leahy. “It’s confusing. I think it contains in it a statement that is unverified information. I really don’t know what he’s doing.”

3. If Comey Knew Then What He Knows Now

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