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Comey slams Trump, House Republicans after 2nd Capitol Hill meeting

Posted: 5:08 PM, Dec 17, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-17 17:08:01-05

Former FBI Director James Comey slammed Republicans on Monday for not speaking out against President Donald Trump's attacks on the FBI and strongly defended the agency's conduct, following his second round of questioning at a closed-door congressional interview.

"Somebody has to stand up and speak for the FBI," Comey told reporters after his nearly six-hour interview with members of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, adding that he thought Republican "silence is shameful."

"The FBI's reputation has taken a big hit because the President of the United States has lied about it constantly," Comey said, adding "that damage has nothing to do with me."

The committees are also interviewing former Attorney General Loretta Lynch behind closed doors on Wednesday, according to two sources.

Comey sat down with lawmakers from both parties for another six-hour interview earlier this month, where Republicans quizzed him everything from the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton email case to his knowledge about Christopher Steele and the FBI's use of the dossier on Trump and Russia as part of its Russia probe.

Monday's sequel with Comey was be odd in at least one respect because the 235-page transcript of the first part of Comey's interview was released the day after he testified, giving the public an opportunity to Monday-morning quarterback the proceedings before they concluded.

Republicans left that previous interview saying they were frustrated with the questions that Comey couldn't answer, and they noted after the interview how many times Comey had responded that he did not know or recall an answer to their questions.

North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows said going into the Comey interview Monday that he felt there were inconsistencies in the former FBI director's testimony earlier this month. Meadows raised questions about when Comey learned that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC had paid for the dossier written by Christopher Steele.

"I think that the knowledge of when the FBI and specifically Director Comey became aware of the involvement of the DNC, Perkins Coie, Fusion GPS as it relates to their hiring of Christopher Steele, the whole FISA application. At what point did he become aware of that?" Meadows said.

"He seemed to indicate the other day that he wasn't aware of that until he read reports long after he was gone," Meadows added. "I find that very hard to substantiate based on other evidence. So hopefully we'll give him a chance today to clarify that. I can tell you when you look at his public statements and also his testimony, those don't seem to reconcile, so we're going to give him a chance to hopefully reconcile his remarks."

But Democrats have criticized bringing Comey back. Rep. Lacy Clay, a Democratic member of the House Oversight Committee, called the interview so far a waste of time, saying it amounted to the "last gasp" of the Republican majority.

President Donald Trump also took the opportunity to weigh in on Twitter to attack Comey and the special counsel investigation.

"Leakin' James Comey must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day," Trump tweeted last week, without providing evidence for his claim. "His Friday testimony was so untruthful! This whole deal is a Rigged Fraud headed up by dishonest people who would do anything so that I could not become President. They are now exposed!"

Comey offered his own assessment after the first round of questions had concluded, tweeting that the interview "wasn't a search for truth, but a desperate attempt to find anything that can be used to attack the institutions of justice investigating this president. They came up empty today but will try again. In the long run, it'll make no difference because facts are stubborn things."

Last chance for House GOP

Comey's two interviews are part of the Republican-led congressional investigation into the FBI's conduct during the 2016 investigations into Hillary Clinton's email and Russia.

The interviews with Comey and Lynch are likely to be among the last for the Republican-led investigation, as incoming Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-New York, has already made clear he has no interest in continuing the Republican FBI probe once Democrats take control of the House.

Gowdy and outgoing Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte are also retiring from Congress. They haven't yet said what they plan to do to summarize their findings in the yearlong investigation into the FBI and Justice Department.

In the transcript of Comey's interview earlier this month, the former FBI director defended the FBI's investigations as well as the integrity of special counsel Robert Mueller.

"There are not many things I would bet my life on. I would bet my life that Bob Mueller will do things the right way, the way we would all want, whether we're Republicans or Democrats, tdhe way Americans should want," Comey said.

Much of the content of the interview was similar to the questions that the Justice Department inspector general probed in a report released earlier this year that faulted Comey for his actions in the Clinton email case.

Comey was quizzed about his interactions with Trump and a potential obstruction of justice case that would involve Trump's comments to him about the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

There also were some tidbits in the interview about the Russia investigation, a topic in which an FBI lawyer limited what Comey could discuss.

But Comey, for instance, said that the FBI's counterintelligence investigation opened in July 2016 was an investigation into four individuals and not the Trump campaign itself.

New information about Flynn interview, dossier

The two-part interview has one benefit for lawmakers: Two new documents have been released since Comey last appeared earlier this month.

The FBI on Friday released a redacted version of the memo that Comey and other top intelligence officials used to brief Trump about the dossier in January 2017. The memo discloses how Steele was described, and Republicans are likely to press Comey on why it didn't include the fact he was paid by Democrats.

In addition, the special counsel's office last week released memos from the FBI about Flynn's interview when he lied about the content of calls with then-Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.

The memos were released to push back on an assertion from Flynn's attorneys that the FBI caught Flynn off guard with the January 2017 interview.

They're also relevant to Comey's congressional testimony, as lawmakers asked him about his assessment of the FBI's interview with Flynn during Comey's first round of testimony. Trump and some Republicans have also suggested that the FBI didn't initially believe Flynn lied after the interview.

"They gave General Flynn a great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated - the FBI said he didn't lie and they overrode the FBI," Trump tweeted Thursday. "They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements. Sad!"

Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who was fired over anti-Trump text messages, wrote that the agents who interviewed Flynn had "the impression that Flynn was not lying or did not think he was lying." But the memos did not say whether the FBI made any judgments that day about whether Flynn was lying.

And Comey pushed back on that notion in his testimony.

"My recollection was he was -- the conclusion of the investigators was he was obviously lying, but they saw none of the normal common indicia of deception: that is, hesitancy to answer, shifting in seat, sweating, all the things that you might associate with someone who is conscious and manifesting that they are being -- they're telling falsehoods," Comey said. "There's no doubt he was lying, but that those indicators weren't there."