Former FBI Director James Comey is back on the Hill for an encore, after a controversial appearance more than a week ago in which he told lawmakers seeking answers over the FBI's handling of the Trump-Russia collusion probe some version of "I don't know" at least 245 times.
Comey is set to testify behind closed doors again Monday morning, before members of the House oversight and judiciary committees.
The prior Dec. 7 session left lame-duck Republican lawmakers fuming as Comey repeatedly said "I don't remember," "I don't know" and "I don't recall" when grilled about investigations Republicans believed were aimed at hurting President Trump. The questioning covered the FBI's probe of Hillary Clinton's email server and how a counter-intelligence investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election morphed into an all-encompassing probe of Trump's inner circle, including the obtaining of FISA warrants used to spy on American citizens.
“Comey just thinks he’s always right, and … it doesn’t matter if everyone else concludes he did wrong,” a furious Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said after the initial session. “He knows better. So, that’s what it’s like to interview an amnesiac with incredible hubris.”
“Comey just thinks he’s always right, and … it doesn’t matter if everyone else concludes he did wrong."
A transcript of the marathon interview was released on Dec. 8, demonstrating in black and white the fired FBI boss' lack of responsiveness and the tension between the former Republican and GOP lawmakers. Comey then gave a talk in New York in which he called the Trump presidency "an attack on our values," and beseeched Americans to "get off the couch" and vote Trump out of the White House in 2020.
Comey also raised eyebrows when he told MSNBC a week ago that he broke protocol in order to send FBI agents to interview President Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn in 2017. The new details about that fateful interview -- which led to criminal charges against Flynn -- are sure to come up in Monday's interview. The judge handling Flynn's guilty plea has raised new questions about how the affair was handled.
Asked to describe how two FBI agents ended up at the White House to interview Flynn in January 2017, Comey, speaking to MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace during a forum discussion last Sunday, said flatly: “I sent them.”
Comey went on to acknowledge the way the interview was set up – not through the White House counsel’s office, but arranged directly with Flynn – was not standard practice. He called it “something I probably wouldn't have done or maybe gotten away within a more … organized administration.”
During the questioning earlier this month, Comey said that the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia initially focused on four Americans and whether they were connected to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Comey did not identify the Americans, but said Trump, then the Republican candidate, was not among them.
Comey dodged questions connected to the current Mueller-led probe, including whether his May 2017 firing by Trump constituted obstruction of justice.
The Republican-led committee interviewed Comey as part of its investigation into FBI actions in 2016, a year when the bureau — in the heat of the presidential campaign — recommended against charges for Clinton and opened an investigation into Russian interference in the election.
Comey agreed to Monday's follow-up appearance before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees. The panels are chaired by Republicans until the new Congress takes over, at which time Democrats will take over House chairmanships and are expected to ramp up congressional investigations of Trump.