The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote Friday to the FBI and Department of Justice, pushing the agencies for answers about the interview of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, citing an “apparently contradiction” between what former FBI Director James Comey said to the committee, and what he has said since.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, sent the letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, saying that in a March 2017 briefing, Comey told lawmakers that “the agents saw no change in his demeanor or tone that would say [Flynn] was being untruthful” about the contents of a call with the then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. According to committee staff, Comey also said that the FBI agents “saw nothing that led them to believe [he was] lying.”
But Flynn later pleaded guilty in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe to making false statements to the FBI in that interview. He also lost his job at the White House after he was said to have misled Vice President Mike Pence about the discussion with Kislyak.
Last week, the release of a less-redacted version of House Intelligence Committee Republicans’ Russia report showed that Comey told that committee that agents who interviewed Flynn “discerned no physical indications of deception.”
“They saw nothing that indicated to them that he knew he was lying to them,” Comey said, according to the GOP-authored report.
Former deputy director Andrew McCabe made similar statements, raising the possibility that Flynn may not have knowingly lied about asking Kislyak to refrain from responding to U.S. sanctions during the transition.
Comey has suggested he was misunderstood.
“No, I saw that in the media,” Comey said earlier this month on Fox News’ “Special Report.” “Someone misunderstood something I said. I didn’t believe that and didn’t say that.”
Grassley’s letter zones in on comments Comey has made, arguing that conflicts with what Comey told the Senate committee.
“Contrary to his public statements during his current book tour denying any memory of those comments, then-Director Comey led us to believe during that briefing that the agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe he intentionally lied about his conversation with the Ambassador and that the Justice Department was unlikely to prosecute him for false statements made in that interview,” the letter reads.
“In the months since then, the Special Counsel obtained a guilty plea from Lt. General Flynn for that precise alleged conduct," it adds.
Grassley’s letter requests transcripts of intercepted calls, any FBI summaries, the FBI agents notes of their interview with Flynn by May 25. It also requests an interview with one of the agents who conducted the interview with Flynn.
Grassley says that due to the guilty plea, “the Committee’s oversight interest in the underlying documents requested more than a year ago now outweighs any legitimate executive branch interest in withholding it.”
“So too does the Committee’s interest in learning the FBI agents’ actual assessments of their interview of Lt. Gen. Flynn, particularly given the apparent contradiction between what then-Directory Comey told us in March 2017 and what he now claims,” he says.
The request comes as Trump and other Republicans are increasingly raising their voices about what they see as a politically-motivated probe by Mueller.
“The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in place that actually protects people from injustice...and just wait ‘till the Courts get to see your unrevealed Conflicts of Interest!” Trump tweeted on Monday.
He also asked if the probe was being lengthened so as to impact the midterms in November.
“Republicans better get tough and smart before it is too late!” he tweeted.
Fox News' Catherine Herridge, Judson Berger and Alex Pappas contributed to this report.