James Comey pleads ignorance when answering House committee questions about his past at the FBI

December 10, 2018

James Comey pleads ignorance when answering House committee questions about his past at the FBI Image via Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jz8ug1UY-2k

Former FBI director James Comey said some variation of “I don’t know,” “I don’t recall,” or “I don’t remember” more than 240 times when answering questions from two House committees about the FBI’s prior handling of investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Trump campaign team.

The former FBI director pleaded ignorance to questions about some of the core evidence of bias against the agency, including texts exchanged between former agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Comey also claimed he knew nothing about former British spy Christopher Steele’s involvement in supplying the dossier that his Justice Department used to sign off on FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrants to spy on the Trump campaign.

President Donald Trump didn’t hesitate to blast his Justice Department foe over his selective memory, which was first noted by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).

Comey forgetful, evasive in testimony

Comey was grilled by the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees in a private interview on Friday about his department’s handling of two investigations during the 2016 election year: one into Clinton, wherein the former secretary of State was exonerated after she misused a private email server for official state business, and another into alleged Russian involvement in the election. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) told Comey at the outset of their interview to say so if he didn’t remember the answer to a question, but the former FBI director left more than 200 questions about the investigations unanswered.

Specifically, Comey was unable to answer questions about texts between disgraced anti-Trump agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and equivocated when asked if he would have fired Strzok had he known about the texts, including one where Strzok told Page they would “stop” Trump.

“I don’t know [what the text means]. And that — I think that’s what it means to be open-minded, to give people a chance to explain something and then to think about their explanation. I don’t know what it would be, and maybe there’s none, but — yeah, that’s how I would think about it,” Comey said. “Is there some explanation for this? If there is, tell me what it is, and then I’ll make a judgment based on that. I can’t get inside the head of people writing texts that I never saw, so that’s why it’s a little tricky for me to answer.”

Comey also said that anybody who thinks he went easy on Clinton is “smoking something.”

Rep. Jordan, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee and who is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, excoriated Comey’s dodgy testimony in a tweet following the meeting.

Knew nothing about Steele, FISA

Comey’s gap-ridden private testimony comes after the former FBI director spent two months fighting against having a closed-door session, pushing for a public hearing instead. Comey previously said he was concerned about his testimony being selectively leaked to give a misleading impression, but the former director finally gave up his challenge to a subpoena from Goodlatte, cutting a bargain with the chairman to testify before the committees only if the entire exchange was recorded and a transcript released within 24 hours, a promise Republicans made good on Saturday.

Given the results, it’s clear why Comey initially hesitated to testify in private: just as he claimed to be in the dark about significant aspects of the Clinton probe, Comey claimed wide-ranging ignorance on the Trump-Russia investigation and its origins, saying that he knew nothing about the “initiation document” that sparked the investigation in July 2016. He characterized the probe as initially being not about Trump but instead being about “four Americans,” who he did not identify, who were allegedly involved in election interference, a direct challenge to Republicans’ claims that the fix was in for Trump from the get-go.

Still, Comey did a terrible job of inspiring confidence that his department was justified in spying on the Trump campaign. Comey denied that he knew or ever met Steele, denied knowing that the dossier was funded by Clinton and the Democrats when he was director, and denied knowing that Steele used a connection with former Justice Department official Bruce Ohr to pass along damaging information about Trump to the bureau — though he did admit that the FBI still had not corroborated the Steele dossier months after the bureau got the warrant, an astounding admission given Comey’s authority over the department at the time.

Comey also echoed in his interview the popular Democrat narrative that the Russia interference investigation started off as a probe of Trump campaign associate George Papadopoulos rather than as a counter-intelligence investigation spurred by Steele’s dossier. Comey went on to say that he was not friends with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Still, on Sunday, Comey alleged that Trump “obviously” obstructed justice with his 2017 talk about former adviser Michael Flynn and said that “we” should use “every breath we have” to bring Trump down in 2020 — a task that he and his fellow Dems will soon discover is easier said than done.

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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.