FBI Director James Comey explained Wednesday why he made comments in late October about reopening the investigation into then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails while not making any remarks about the bureau’s ongoing investigation into President Donald Trump, then the GOP presidential nominee, and his associates’ potential collusion with Russia.
Comey said the reason was because he had testified under oath that the Clinton investigation was wrapped up, while he had never commented publicly on the FBI’s investigation into Trump and Russia.
During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that Comey was testifying at, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked about the discrepancy.
“You sent a letter to the Senate and House that you were reviewing additional emails that could be relevant,” Leahy said. “Both investigations were open, but you still only commented on one.”
Comey defended his decision.
“I commented on October 28 in a letter to the chair and ranking [members] of the Oversight Committees that we were taking additional steps involving the Clinton email investigation because I had testified under oath repeatedly that we were done — that we were finished there,” Comey said.
“With respect to the Russia investigation, we treated it like we did with the Clinton investigation. We didn’t say a word about it until months into it, and then the only thing we’ve confirmed so far about this — the same thing as with the Clinton investigation — that we are investigating.”
He continued: “And I would expect that we’re not going to say another peep about it until we’re done. And I don’t know what will be said when we’re done, but that’s how we handled the Clinton investigation as well.”
Comey sent a letter to congressional leaders in late October — just 11 days before the November election — noting that the FBI was reviewing emails tied to Clinton’s private server that were found as a part of a separate investigation into disgraced New York City politician Anthony Weiner. The letter, which implied a reopening of the investigation into Clinton’s emails, reverberated through both the Clinton and Trump campaigns.
Comey announced days later that nothing was found in the additional emails.
Then in March, Comey announced during a House Intelligence Committee hearing that the FBI was investigating potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials to help swing the election in Trump’s favour. He noted that the investigation launched in late July.
Leahy noted that Comey repeatedly commented on the Clinton investigation while saying nothing about the probe into Trump’s associates. Leahy said that during his four decades as a US senator, he can’t remember seeing anything like the FBI’s actions on the Clinton investigation.
“Was it appropriate for you to comment on one investigation repeatedly and not say anything about the other?” Leahy asked.
“I think so,” Comey said.
“I think I treated both investigations consistently under the same principles,” he added. “People forget, we would not confirm the existence of the Hillary Clinton email investigation until three months after it began, even though it began with a public referral and the candidate herself talked about it. In October of 2015 we confirmed it existed.”
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