In congressional testimony last December, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch contradicted former FBI Director James “Cardinal” Comey, flatly denying that she ever instructed him to call the Hillary Clinton email probe a “matter” instead of an “investigation.”
“I have never instructed a witness as to what to say specifically,” Lynch said. “Never have. Never will.”
During that same interview, Lynch also denied that she was ever instructed by former President Obama or his administration to investigate the Trump campaign for political purposes.
House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) released a transcript her testimony on Monday.
Loretta Lynch DENIES telling Comey to refer to the Clinton email case as a "matter," rather than an investigation, directly contradicting statements made by Comey. SOMEONE IS LYING. pic.twitter.com/qb0U4Jopp3
— Cory Groshek (@CoryGroshek) May 20, 2019
Lynch spent about six hours on Capitol Hill behind closed doors on December 19, answering questions from lawmakers on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees about the Justice Department’s Russia and Hillary Clinton email probes.
Lynch told lawmakers that she and Comey had only discussed how to update Congress on the probe without violating the department’s policy of not confirming or denying an investigation.
“In the meeting that I had with the Director, we were discussing how best to keep Congress informed of progress and discuss requesting resources for the Department overall,” lynch said, according to the transcript. “We were going to testify separately. And the concern that both of us had in the meeting that I was having with him in September of 2015 was how to have that discussion without stepping across the Department policy of confirming or denying an investigation, separate policy from testifying.”
She added: “Obviously, we wanted to testify fully, fulsomely, and provide the information that was needed, but we were not at that point, in September of 2015, ready to confirm that there was an investigation into the email matter — or deny it,” Lynch added. “We were sticking with policy, and that was my position on that. I didn’t direct anyone to use specific phraseology. When the Director asked me how to best to handle that, I said: What I have been saying is we have received a referral and we are working on the matter, working on the issue, or we have all the resources we need to handle the matter, handle the issue. So that was the suggestion that I made to him.”
Asked for her reaction to Comey’s claim, Lynch said they had come as a shock.
“I was quite surprised that he characterized it in that way,” Lynch said. “We did have a conversation about it, so I wasn’t surprised that he remembered that we met about it and talked about it. But I was quite surprised that that was his characterization of it, because that was not how it was conveyed to him, certainly not how it was intended.”
House Oversight Commitee ranking member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio — then the panel’s chairman — interjected.
“Excuse me. Ms. Lynch, so in the meeting with the FBI Director you referred to the Clinton investigation as a matter — I just want to make sure I understand — but you did not instruct the Director when he testified in front of Congress to call it a matter. Is that accurate?” Jordan asked.
“I said that I had been referring to — I had been using the phraseology,” Lynch responded. “We’ve received a referral. Because we received a public referral, which we were confirming. And that is Department policy, that when we receive a public referral from any agency, that we confirm the referral but we neither confirm nor deny the investigation. That’s actually a standard DOJ policy.
So in the meeting with the Director, which was, again, around September — I don’t recall the date — of 2015, it was very early in the investigation, I expressed the view that it was, in my opinion, too early for us to confirm that we had an investigation,” Lynch said. ” At some point in the course of investigations, as you all know from your oversight, it becomes such common knowledge that we talk about it using the language of investigation and things, but at that point we had not done that and we were not confirming or denying it. We weren’t denying it at all. There was, just essentially, in my view, we were following the policy. And when the Director asked me about my thoughts, I said, yes, we had to be — we had to be completely cooperative and fulsome with Congress for both of us, and that we needed to provide as much information as we could on the issue of resources.
Comey had previously alleged, under oath, that Lynch had actually directed him to call the Hillary Clinton email probe a “matter” instead of an “investigation.”
“The attorney general had directed me not to call it an investigation, but instead to call it a matter, which confused me and concerned me,” Comey testified in a June 17 interview with the House Intelligence Committee. “That was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude, ‘I have to step away from the department if we’re to close this case credibly.’”
Comey continued: “The Clinton campaign, at the time, was using all kind of euphemisms — security review, matters, things like that, for what was going on. We were getting to a place where the attorney general and I were both going to have to testify and talk publicly about. And I wanted to know, was she going to authorize us to confirm we had an investigation? … And she said, ‘Yes, but don’t call it that, call it a matter.’ And I said, ‘Why would I do that?’ And she said, ‘Just call it a matter.’”
Comey said that alleged request coupled with Lynch’s meeting on the airport tarmac with Bill Clinton in Phoenix in the summer of 2016, led him to question her independence and ultimately to unilaterally hold a press conference in July 2016 announcing the conclusions of the FBI’s email investigation.
“Comey was insubordinate,” former Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) charged on Fox news following the hearing with Lynch. “Comey did not inform the attorney general — who had not recused herself — that he was about to dismiss a case for lack of evidence when in fact he wasn’t a prosecutor, but rather an FBI head. He did a lot of things that justify his firing. And ultimately, one of the greatest questions that had to be resolved was, was FBI director Comey fired for good and valid reasons? And I think we put to rest in no uncertain terms that he was.”
Lynch has credibility issues of her own regarding her actions during the Clinton email and Trump/Russia investigations.
Rep. Collins in March said that Lynch had “a lot of explaining to do.”
Rep. Doug Collins says former Attorney General Loretta Lynch has a lot of explaining to do | https://t.co/ZWZ4fYmTnA
— Y Gemma Droual (@YGDroual) May 21, 2019
Lynch’s disagreement with Comey is only the latest dispute to erupt among the fired FBI director and other high-level former Obama administration officials.
Comey and former CIA Director John Brennan continue to be at odds over whose idea it was to include the unverified Steele dossier in the Intelligence Community Assessment of January 2017 (ICA).
According to Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, sources familiar with the records say that “a late-2016 email chain indicated then-FBI Director James Comey told bureau subordinates that then-CIA Director John Brennan insisted the dossier be included in the intelligence community assessment on Russian interference, known as the ICA.”
On Dec. 19, Lynch denied receiving any political instruction from President Barack Obama or his administration in relation to the investigation into the Trump campaign.
The former AG was asked if she believed the Justice Department or FBI ever got political in their handling of the counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign that began in the summer of 2016.
“I know that they did not,” Lynch answered.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., who is now the House Judiciary chairman, asked: “Did President Obama, or anyone in his administration, ever make a demand or request that the FBI or DOJ infiltrate or surveil the Trump campaign for political purposes?”
Lynch gave a one-word answer: “Never.” Asked how she would react if she had received such a request, Lynch said, “I would have declined it and told them how inappropriate it was.”
Meanwhile, the Justice Department Inspector General (IG) is expected to release its report into possible FBI and DOJ misconduct and surveillance abuse within a matter days or weeks.
(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)