Former FBI Director James Comey was questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee about the early stages of the Bureau’s investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia Fox News reported. Comey spent most of the hearing denying knowledge of the actions of the agency he oversaw at the time.
The former FBI director defended the entire investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. “In the main, it was done by the book. It was appropriate, and it was essential that it be done. The overall investigation was very important. The Page slice of it? Far less given the scope.”
Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked Comey about the FISA application and renewals of it that relied on a dossier supplied by ex-British spy Christopher Steele. The Steele dossier was never verified by American intelligence and has been found to be inaccurate in many details.
Graham asked Comey what efforts the FBI made to verify the dossier before its use in the FISA application.
In what would become a familiar refrain throughout the Committee session Comey said, “I don’t know.”
Graham then asked what Comey knew about Kevin Clinesmith, the former FBI lawyer who pled guilty to altering an email referring to former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page’s working with the CIA.
“I know nothing of Mr. Clinesmith,” Comey said of his former colleague at the FBI.
When asked about the warrant itself, Comey claimed that he only signed the certification for it, not the affidavit it was based on. He was then asked if he knew who was responsible for the misleading information included in the warrant.
“I do not,” Comey said.
Graham attempted to solicit information from Comey about Steele’s sub-source, who informed the FBI that the dossier was extremely unreliable and based on rumor and innuendo. The unidentified sub-source was also known to be a spy for Russia.
Again Comey denied any knowledge of the matter. “I don’t remember learning anything about Steele’s sources,” Comey said. He then said he didn’t even remember the FBI interviewing the sub-source.
Eventually, Graham laid into Comey for his lack of any knowledge about the actions of the FBI that Comey was in charge of. “How could the director of the FBI not know all of this? How is it possible the system gathers so much exculpatory information — it’s an internet rumor according to the CIA,” Graham said. “How could all that happen and not get up to you?”
Committee member Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) cast doubt on Comey’s veracity and competence.
“How can you now as a private citizen and former FBI Director show up and then speculate freely regarding any alleged ties between President Putin and President Trump… You don’t seem to know ANYTHING about this investigation that you ran,” Lee said during the hearing according to The Daily Caller.
After spending most of the hearing denying knowing much of anything about the investigation done under his watch, Comey said, disingenuously, “I’m not looking to shirk responsibility. The director is responsible.”
Rod Rosenstein and Sally Yates have already appeared before the committee to give testimony. The committee will next hear testimony from former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.