Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome back to the second and final day of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing with former FBI Director James B. Comey. We covered two topics at yesterday’s hearing. Today we will complete our questioning, covering five remaining topics. Let’s begin.
Topic #3: The Trump Dossier
15. Information contained in Fusion GPS’s and Mr. Steele’s discredited Trump dossier was collected starting back in the latter half of 2015 as a work-for-hire project paid for by Republican primary opponents of President Trump and subsequently by the Clinton campaign. Mr. Comey, can you confirm you received a copy of the dossier from Senator McCain, an outspoken political opponent of President Trump?
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper later said that its contents could not be confirmed as true. Former CIA Deputy Director Morell disclosed that Mr. Steele had paid his Russian sources and talked to them only through third parties, a highly unreliable way to gather intelligence. Bob Woodward referred to the dossier as “garbage.” Further, Fusion GPS’s legacy of involvement in political dirty tricks is not new information. Yet it was reported that the FBI, starting last October, was prepared to pay Mr. Steele to continue his work. Why would the FBI rely on such a dodgy political hit piece for a counterintelligence investigation? How much did the FBI rely on the dossier as a basis for its FISA warrant requests in July and October 2016?
16. Senator Grassley’s March 6 letter to you states “The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for President in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends.” How are such behaviors consistent with justice and the rule of law? The letter also asked if the FBI had verified or corroborated any of the dossier’s claims. Did you? If so, please describe. If not, why did you continue to rely on it when it was being heavily criticized by people across the political spectrum?
Why did you insist on including unverified dossier materials in the January intelligence community report on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election and in briefings of Presidents Obama and Trump? Why did you again fail to provide the requested answers to the FBI’s Congressional oversight committee and continue not to answer questions asked even earlier in this hearing? In parallel with your stonewalling, Fusion GPS has refused to answer Senator Grassley’s questions in his March 24 letter.
Why would the FBI rely on such a dodgy political hit piece for a counterintelligence investigation? How much did the FBI rely on the dossier as a basis for its FISA warrant requests in July and October 2016?
17. Senator Grassley’s April 28 letter to you asked for more information and noted how you again failed to supply the requested information in what he called the FBI’s “startling lack of responsiveness.” The letter also pointed out how Fusion GPS allegedly violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act “by working on behalf of Russian principals to undermine U.S. sanctions against Russians.” In other words, the FBI was prepared to hire a firm who was working on behalf of Russian principals and relying on its only indirectly-sourced information in the FBI’s effort to determine if Trump associates were colluding with Russians. Really, sir? Why would you ever use such poor judgment and ignore the obvious conflicts of interest?
Mr. Comey, with all due respect, it is hard to review this fact pattern and conclude anything except that you were a willing, or at least an enabling, participant in the promotion of a post-election political smear campaign against President Trump. This is hardly behavior expected from the FBI Director. If you weren’t such a participant, then you should have had no problem answering the questions put before you.
Topic #4: The DNC & Podesta “Hacks”
18. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) claimed its email system was hacked by the Russians. Given that the FBI was conducting a probe of alleged Russian hacking, why did the FBI not conduct a forensic examination of the DNC server for national security reasons, regardless of the DNC’s preferences? Does the FBI routinely let third parties―partisan political ones at that―determine the scope of its investigations?
Mr. Comey, with all due respect, it is hard to review this fact pattern and conclude anything except that you were a willing, or at least an enabling, participant in the promotion of a post-election political smear campaign against President Trump. This is hardly behavior expected from the FBI Director.
19. It has been reported and confirmed that the FBI did not examine the DNC servers or John Podesta’s devices before issuing its joint report with the Department of Homeland Security “accusing Russian civilian and military intelligence services of compromising networks and infrastructure associated with the 2016 presidential election.” Is that true? How could the FBI know? Earlier in this hearing, you testified in the affirmative that there was evidence of these outcomes when the truth of the matter is you do not have any idea or proof. Given that sanctions against Russia were implemented over the interference claims, was that good judgment on the part of the FBI?
20. In lieu of doing its own forensic examination, the FBI relied on CrowdStrike’s third-party assessment that the “servers have most likely been hacked by Russian agents.” Why? Were you aware that CrowdStrike was funded by Google Capital (CapitalG), an arm of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, whose chairman was a highly visible supporter of Hillary Clinton and major donor to the Democratic party―who might have had an interest in enabling the Russian hacking meme? In addition, several months after you publicly praised CrowdStrike, the company revised and retracted some of their studies used to bolster the Russian DNC and Podesta hacking allegations, all amidst further appearances of conflicts of interest. More recently, we have learned that CrowdStrike has refused to testify in a public forum to the House Intelligence Committee. What do they have to hide? There is now an additional potential conflict of interest because CrowdStrike’s president used to work at the FBI for Special Counsel Mueller. Are you still willing to bet your personal reputation on CrowdStrike’s analysis, which the FBI will never have any way of verifying?
Mr. Comey, a reasonable person could conclude that, contrary to your testimony here, the Russian hacking allegations are unproven and unprovable based on how poorly the FBI handled the case, enabling an ongoing ability to purposely stir up partisan domestic political angst. It is a shame that the FBI would make itself a party to such behaviors.
Topic #5: Obstruction of Justice
21. Let’s first establish facts: You testified under oath on May 3 that no higher-ups in the Department of Justice ever told you to stop investigating a case. Acting FBI Director McCabe then testified under oath that “there has been no effort to impede the investigation, to date” in response to a question asking if your firing had “impeded, interrupted, stopped or negatively impacted” any of the FBI’s investigations. You have testified today that neither President Trump nor anyone working for the administration told you to stop the Russia investigation (for documentary evidence, check out 1:08-1:32 at this video link).
Further, you have testified today that President Trump told you it would be good to have an investigation, get all the facts out, and he wanted to know if it was discovered that anyone on his team did anything wrong (for documentary evidence, check out 4:07-5:22 at this video link). As to General Flynn, you claim President Trump said “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy.” It has been pointed out in earlier testimony that the President neither directed nor ordered you to let the Flynn matter go. You also testified that you were not aware of anyone who has ever been charged with obstruction of justice for saying they hoped for an outcome (for documentary evidence, check out 3:30-5:29 at this video link).
Mr. Comey, I do not see any obstruction of justice by President Trump anywhere in what you or Mr. McCabe have said under oath. Do you?
More specifically, do you agree that obstruction of justice requires both proof of specific, corrupt intent and executive discretion? Do you also agree that the definition of what are corrupt actions that could interfere with an investigation is spelled out in statutory law? By your previous testimony, isn’t it correct that you are saying President Trump did not act corruptly? Do you further agree that all executive power—including that of prosecutorial discretion—ultimately resides with the president, in accordance with the Constitution? Do you also agree that prosecutors and the FBI only have the power delegated to them by the president? Therefore, do you agree that the president has the constitutional right to order the termination of an investigation, including the right to pardon, as long as it is not done with corrupt intent? But President Trump did not order you or anyone else to terminate the investigation, correct? So, a high-level review of statutory law also leads us to the same conclusion that there was no obstruction of justice. Said another way, pressure is not a synonym for obstruction of justice any more than collusion is a synonym for crime.
Is it also correct that the law imposes an affirmative duty on you to report immediately an obstruction of justice felony to the authorities, in this case, the Department of Justice? Since you did not inform the Justice Department of any such attempt by President Trump and you would not put yourself in legal jeopardy, can we not further conclude that President Trump did not obstruct justice?
Mr. Comey, I must say that I find it troubling that you can claim to have had a problem telling President Trump of your discomfort but then have no difficulty sitting here today and talking about it in front of television cameras. I am also deeply concerned about how political partisans are willing to twist the facts in an effort to get political opponents. These attempts to criminalize political disagreements undermine our civil liberties. I am disappointed that you are enabling such efforts by your actions, as has happened with other allegations of obstruction of justice in your past.
Mr. Comey, I must say that I find it troubling that you can claim to have had a problem telling President Trump of your discomfort but then have no difficulty sitting here today and talking about it in front of television cameras. I am also deeply concerned about how political partisans are willing to twist the facts in an effort to get political opponents.
22. Mr. McCabe also contradicted news reports by stating there had been no request for additional probe funding from the Department of Justice. Can you confirm that was also true during your tenure?
Topic #6: Three Major FBI Scandals, Ethical Issues During Your Tenure
23. In your final May congressional testimony, you offered assurances that the FBI used espionage data gathered without a warrant only when it was “lawfully collected, carefully overseen, and checked.” However, recent reports drawing from a declassified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Memorandum Opinion and Order as well as a Department of Justice Inspector General report, contradict that testimony and show “hundreds of violations of the FBI’s privacy-protecting rules that occurred on your watch…including illegally sharing raw intelligence with unauthorized third parties to accessing intercepted attorney-client privileged communications without proper oversight.” The Inspector General expressed concerns that such violations go back to as early as 2012. Mr. Comey, I find it deeply troubling that this kind of rogue behavior has occurred on your watch in parallel with your repeated attempts to avoid congressional oversight. Why did you let it happen and would you like to correct your May testimony?
24. Senator Grassley again wrote you on March 28 asking for further information about the extent of then-FBI Deputy Director McCabe’s involvement in the Trump associates’ Russia probe. The reason for the inquiry was to address the appearance of a conflict of interest given that Mr. McCabe’s wife received $467,500 in 2015 campaign contributions for a state senate race in Virginia from a group affiliated with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who is a close friend of the Clintons.
Senator Grassley noted in his letter that Mr. McCabe was under investigation by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General for his failure to recuse himself from the subsequent Clinton investigation and the FBI’s December 14, 2016 response to his earlier October 28, 2016 letter to you about such issues was incomplete. The March 28 letter further pointed out that Mr. McCabe and his wife met with Governor McAuliffe on March 7, 2015, only five days after the New York Times broke the Clinton email server story, after which the Governor recruited Mr. McCabe’s wife to be a candidate.
In light of your lack of responsiveness, Senator Grassley wrote Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein on May 2, asking him to “supervise and oversee” what already should have been done by you and highlighting how 98 percent of the McAuliffe-related campaign donations came after the FBI launched its investigation of Secretary Clinton with Mr. McCabe’s involvement. Why did the FBI not respond with the requested information and why were you so indifferent to what seems like obvious conflicts of interest by a direct report on the two most public FBI investigations in years?
25. You and others have been sued in the last week by Dennis Montgomery, a former intelligence contractor, who left the agencies with 47 hard drives and over 600 million pages of information in 2015, much of it classified. Unlike Mr. Snowden, Mr. Montgomery worked out a grant of limited immunity with the U.S. attorney’s office as a whistleblower and was then interviewed on tape by the FBI, after which he turned over all of the hard drives to the FBI to ensure no leaks. The suit alleges the FBI was given extensive proof of illegal spying on Americans, including Chief Justice Roberts and Mr. Trump. Mr. Montgomery was told that the FBI would conduct a full investigation into the described activities. Why did that investigation not happen? Because of the FBI’s ongoing lack of responsiveness, Mr. Klayman, attorney for Mr. Montgomery, wrote House Intelligence Committee Chairman Nunes on March 21 and then published this editorial. Why did you bury Mr. Montgomery’s information and not pursue any of it when there is ample tangible evidence of gross misconduct?
The suit alleges the FBI was given extensive proof of illegal spying on Americans, including Chief Justice Roberts and Mr. Trump. Mr. Montgomery was told that the FBI would conduct a full investigation into the described activities. Why did that investigation not happen?
Mr. Comey, you have spent a lot of time during this hearing talking about atmospherics and your feelings, including your interpretation of certain phrases or words spoken to you, while ignoring these three substantive issues which occurred on your watch. I would suggest you had your priorities wrong and your decision to ignore these issues has damaged your credibility.
Topic #7: Hillary Clinton
26. Why did you memorialize every meeting and call with President Trump―a man you stated was not under investigation―but allowed Hillary Clinton to be interviewed on July 2, 2016 about her email server without her being placed under oath and without a recording or transcript when she actually was under criminal investigation? Why did you not memorialize your discussions with Attorney General Lynch when she pressured you to downplay the Clinton investigation or, even resign on principle if you felt she was compromising your ability to do your job?
It is striking how the people who are clamoring most loudly about collusion between Trump associates and Russia seem to have no interest in the Clinton’s proven Russian dealings and the resulting conflicts of interest―including Hillary’s approval of a deal selling off 20 percent of the U.S. uranium supply to Russia and the estimated $145 million of donations to the Clinton Foundation that followed, Bill’s $500,000 speech to Renaissance Capital, John Podesta’s dealings with a company having close relations with the Putin regime, and the Skolkovo technology project.
Did you think AG Lynch’s request constituted a directive to shut it down? How do you justify your inclusion of a requirement for intent to be present when it is not in the statutes connected to the Clinton investigation?
27. It is striking how the people who are clamoring most loudly about collusion between Trump associates and Russia seem to have no interest in the Clinton’s proven Russian dealings and the resulting conflicts of interest―including Hillary’s approval of a deal selling off 20 percent of the U.S. uranium supply to Russia and the estimated $145 million of donations to the Clinton Foundation that followed, Bill’s $500,000 speech to Renaissance Capital, John Podesta’s dealings with a company having close relations with the Putin regime, and the Skolkovo technology project.
Mr. Comey, perhaps the contrast between your actions in President Trump’s case and your actions with respect to Hillary Clinton will make you appreciate why many Americans do not trust your impartiality and doubt your character.
Mr. Comey, in his May 9 memo, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein described how your actions undermined public confidence in the FBI. He referenced seven former Attorneys General and Deputy Attorneys General who served under Presidents Ford, G.H.W. Bush, Clinton, G.W. Bush and Obama, all of whom decried your poor judgment in the Clinton server investigation. I share their assessment, which is only made worse by concerns about your past performance, how you have handled the Trump investigation, and your repeated disregard for Congressional oversight. The common theme across all of these is your disdain for operating according to anyone’s rules but your own, which has brought greater politicization to law enforcement and undermined the cause of justice. With that, I cannot state strongly enough my great disappointment in your performance as FBI Director.
In conclusion, these two days of hearings have confirmed seven things:
First, a bipartisan group of leaders acknowledge there is no evidence of any collusion between the Russians and anyone on the Trump team regarding the 2016 election.
Second, President Trump personally has never been under investigation and your failure to acknowledge that in a public and timely manner got you fired.
Third, the FBI’s actions ensure that we will never be able to prove or disprove whether anyone hacked the DNC server and John Podesta’s devices. The DNC’s intraparty corruption makes it plausible that there was no Russian hacking and it is reasonable to conclude some people desire that ongoing ambiguity for purposes of partisan political gain.
Fourth, there was no obstruction of justice by President Trump.
Fifth, any Russian interference in the 2016 election did not change any votes (for documentary evidence, check out 0:57-1:08 at this video link).
Sixth, after you were fired, Mr. Comey, you pursued a score-settling strategy by leaking information for the express purpose of inducing the appointment of a special counsel. Said another way, you had no case but, as you have in the past, you sought to unleash the power of the federal bureaucracy in order to chase political targets in search of crimes. Given the first five conclusions from these hearings, there are no Russia/election-centric crimes and that makes everything moving forward a bad faith attempt to strike at the heart of the people’s sovereignty. As such, there is no legitimate basis for a special counsel and we should send Mr. Mueller home now.
Seventh, increasingly the American people are seeing how the Russia 2016 election story highlighted throughout these two days is a corruption story endemic to the Deep State, filled with pervasive conflicts of interest, and which is “investigating its [domestic] political opponents―for no good reason, only for a general fishing expedition . . . and without any probable cause.”
This ongoing fundamental threat to our liberty will persist until the Washington, D.C. swamp is drained and their current power is justly returned to a sovereign people.