Former FBI director James Comey, who appeared in a politically charged hearing before the US Congress on Wednesday, defended the FBI’s investigation into the 2016 Crossfire Hurricane into the links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“This was an investigation that was appropriately predicted and opened, and essentially conducted in the right way,” Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
Comey said he had “no idea what on earth” said US Attorney General William Barr when he said the investigation into Trump-Russia was unfounded.
“The idea that the attorney general believes this was an illegitimate preliminary investigation puzzles me,” Comey told the committee.
Comey’s video feed appearance comes just weeks before the US presidential election, when President Donald Trump and his allies continue to attack the Russia affair as a “joke”.
The president sacked Comey in May 2017, prompting the Justice Department (DOJ) to launch an independent investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia relations under Special Adviser Robert Mueller, whose report included dozens of connections between campaign officials and Russian activists.
“You saw what happened to Hillary Clinton, where it was a big scam,” said President Trump in the presidential debate on Tuesday evening with Democrat Joe Biden, citing new but questionable Russian information received on Tuesday by his administration’s top espionage officer were published.
National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe, a former Texas Congressman and Trump loyalist, released a letter to the Senate committee exposing alleged CIA intelligence about Hillary Clinton’s 2016 efforts to tie Trump to Russia.
According to the letter, US officials had received information from Russian intelligence in 2016 that Clinton, then the Democratic presidential candidate, “approved a proposal by one of their foreign policy advisors to denigrate Donald Trump by sparking a scandal alleging Russian Security services would intervene ”.
Democrats said the letter conveyed Russian disinformation. Ratcliffe admitted that American intelligence “has no knowledge of the veracity of this claim or the extent to which Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or forgery.”
Comey denied it in his testimony. “I don’t understand Mr Ratcliffe’s letter well enough to comment on it. It’s confusing … I really don’t know what he’s doing. “
US Senator Lindsey Graham interviewed James Comey, a former FBI director, at an oversight hearing for the Senate Judiciary Committee investigating the FBI’s investigation into the Crossfire Hurricane into the 2016 Trump campaign’s relations with Russia [Ken Cedeno/Pool via Reuters]Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican and loyal ally of Trump who is facing a tough re-election campaign in South Carolina, has opened a persistent investigation into how the investigation into Trump-Russia was launched.
Republican lawmakers have picked up flaws identified in an internal DOJ investigation to further cast doubt on the Russian investigation, and Barr has hired a federal attorney, U.S. attorney John Durham, to conduct a special criminal investigation.
The Democrats deplored the backward nature of Wednesday’s hearing, arguing that the Russia investigation was valid and that the committee’s time could be better spent on other matters.
“Most people think we should be talking about other things besides maybe President Trump,” said Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, while Senator Patrick Leahy called the hearing a “political mission” for the president, The Associated Press reported.
Comey is the youngest high-profile former DOJ or FBI officer to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He acknowledged “worrying” and “embarrassing” problems processing surveillance requests, which are detailed in a detailed report by the Inspector General of the DOJ (IG) for 2019.
“I don’t want to shirk responsibility,” said Comey. “I was the director.”
A former FBI attorney pleaded guilty to modifying an email relating to monitoring former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page as part of Durham’s ongoing investigation into the Russia investigation.
When asked Republicans, Comey said that if he had known what he knew today, he would not have approved Page’s surveillance. However, he ignored the relevance of site monitoring to the investigation.
“The overall investigation was very important. The side piece of it? Much less, ”said Comey.
The DOJ Inspector General found no evidence of party political prejudice when the FBI investigation was opened and concluded that the investigation was opened for a legitimate reason.
Former CIA chief John Brennan said in a tweet that the Republicans had skewed the record.
Unsurprisingly, Lindsey Graham is deliberately, brazen, and astute misrepresenting the facts in today’s Senate Justice hearing with Jim Comey.
I’m really looking forward to the day Graham, Trump and the rest of their kind are no longer affiliated with the US government.
– John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) September 30, 2020
However, the FBI failed to disclose to the Surveillance Court that a key source for Christopher Steele, the former British spy who had compiled a dossier on Trump and Russia, refused the FBI information attributed to him in an interview.
The IG report and documents released in recent months have raised questions about the reliability of some of the information that Steele, a former head of the Russia office of British intelligence agency MI6, put on the file.
The FBI relied “over and over and over” on this document even though it was “fundamentally inconsistent,” Graham said.
“What do we do – we just say that it was bad, is that how it works? Is anyone getting fired? Is anyone going to jail? “Graham said before turning to Democratic colleagues and saying, ‘If it happened to us, it could happen to you.”
The Senate panel has heard from former senior DOJ officials Rod Rosenstein and Sally Yates and is planning testimony from former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.