An FBI official who was in the room at the time, testified that Attorney General Loretta Lynch did direct fired FBI director James Comey to refer to the Clinton email investigation as a ‘matter,” according to a recently released transcript from his interview with congressional investigators.
James Rybicki, Comey’s former chief-of-staff took his former’s boss’s side when asked about the issue during his closed-door interview with the joint House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Reform Committee in January of last year.
Comey has previously alleged, under oath, that Lynch 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.’”
Rybicki said that after the meeting between Comey Lynch, and a few other officials, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General had ribbed them about being in the “Federal Bureau of Matters”
That official, George Toscas, who was the number three in charge at the Justice Department at the time, however, took Lynch’s side when he was asked about the meeting, telling House investigators that he saw her remarks “less as a direction to do it that way and more of a discussion of that’s the way she would do it.”
During her interview with House investigators in December of last year, Lynch flatly denied that she ever instructed Comey 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.”
Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) on Monday released transcripts from interviews of nine former DOJ and FBI officials with the joint House Judiciary and Oversight and Reform Committees.
Rybicki, Toscas and Lynch’s transcripts were among them.
House Judiciary staffer Robert Parmiter asked Rybicki if he was in the room when Lynch told Comey to call the Clinton email investigation a “matter,” and he said he was.
When asked when the meeting occurred, Rybicki said his recollection was “the fall of 2015,” but he didn’t remember the exact date.
“I do remember that both the Director and Attorney General Lynch had Hill appearances coming up, and that’s what prompted the meeting,”he added.
Parmiter asked Rybicki if the Attorney General had “directed the Director to call it a ‘matter’ because of the congressional testimony, or in connection with his congressional testimony, or just generally speaking?” Rybicki said that he believed it was just generally speaking.
“Yes, I don’t recall the specific words used, but I would say just generally,” Rybicki said. He told House investigators that he and his boss and possibly some others discussed Lynch’s directive afterward, and thought it would be “a very hard line to hold,” given what had already been disclosed.
“In your experience as chief of staff, I imagine you have witnessed a lot of investigations proceed from the FBI,” Parmiter told Rybicki. “Are you aware of any other instances where the Attorney General or anyone else from DOJ directed the FBI to refer to an investigation as anything other than an investigation?” he asked.
Rybicki said that he’d not.
Rybicki was if he knew “what the other DOJ personnel’s opinion of the Attorney General’s directive was, particularly someone like George Toscas?”
Answered Rybicki: “Certainly. I remember a sort of quip that he said after the meeting that could indicate what he thought of it … It was basically — and I don’t know if this is
verbatim, but it was basically I guess you’re the Federal Bureau of matters now.”
When Toscas was asked about the meeting in August of 2018, he told House investigators that his view of Lynch’s comments mirrored what the DOJ Inspector General concluded in his report, last year.
“As the IG report points out, I was one of a very few people in a meeting where that topic was discussed,” Toscas said, adding that it was “very publicly known” that Comey had interpreted Lynch’s suggestion as a directive.
“My view of that meeting is very well laid out in the IG report. And I saw it less as a direction to do it that way and more of a discussion of that’s the way she would do it,” he said. “In the context of discussing the ongoing investigation or making reference to the investigation, what I recall is that she thought that consistent with our obligation to not discuss ongoing investigations.”
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