The presses have yet to cool from printing his book “A Higher Loyalty,” and former FBI Director James Comey has found himself in more trouble with Congress.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that Comey had told the House Intelligence Committee that agents hadn’t noticed any physical signs of deception when they interviewed former national security adviser Michael Flynn about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Now, according to the Washington Examiner, a letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee has gone even farther, with Chairman Chuck Grassley saying to the Department of Justice and FBI that Comey had suggested Flynn wouldn’t be charged for making false statements to investigators.
“Director Comey specifically told us during that briefing that the FBI agents who interviewed Lt. General Michael Flynn, ‘saw nothing that led them to believe (he was) lying,'” Grassley, an Iowa Republican, wrote in the letter.
“Our own committee’s staff’s notes indicate that Mr. Comey said the ‘agents saw no change in his demeanor or tone that would say he was being untruthful.'”
This was similar to what the House Intelligence Committee said in its report.
“Director Comey testified to the committee that ‘the agents…discerned no physical indications of deception. They didn’t see any change in posture, in tone, in inflection, in eye contact. They saw nothing that indicated to them that he knew he was lying to them,'” the House report read.
Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testified similarly, confirming “the interviewing agent’s initial impression and stated that the ‘conundrum that we faced on their return from the interview is that although (the agents) didn’t detect deception in the statements that he made in the interview … the statements were inconsistent with our understanding of the conversation that he had actually had with the ambassador.'”
However, in his letter, Grassley said Comey went even further, claiming that the former FBI director “led us to believe…that the Justice Department was unlikely to prosecute (Flynn) for false statements made in that interview.”
For his part, Comey has always claimed he never told either house of Congress about Flynn not being prosecuted.
“I don’t know where that’s coming from,” Comey said in his ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos about the claims regarding Flynn’s behavior. “Unless … I said something that people misunderstood, I don’t remember even intending to say that. So my recollection is I never said that to anybody.”
Comey similarly told Fox News’ Brett Baier that “someone misunderstood something I said. I didn’t believe that and didn’t say that.”
The difference between what Comey told the Senate and what he told the House could potentially have been resolved by looking at the dates when the testimony happened. He spoke to the Senate just four days after the inauguration in January 2017 and to the House two months later in March.
The House interview was transcribed while the Senate’s wasn’t, although Grassley said he referred to “notes taken by a career, non-partisan law enforcement officer who was present.”
However, there’s nothing that necessarily accounts for the fact Comey refuses to acknowledge that he told either committee what transcripts or notes confirm he said.
Grassley’s letter requests a transcription of the December 2016 call with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that led to Flynn’s questioning by the FBI (and eventually charges of making false statements to investigators, which Flynn pleaded guilty to) as well as the agents’ report.
Grassley also requested the FBI “make special agent Joe Pientka available for a transcribed interview,” along with the relatively better-known (for unfortunate reasons) Peter Strzok, Pientka is one of the two agents who interviewed Trump’s former national security adviser.
As for Comey, the takeaway from the letter is that he either can’t remember anything about the Flynn investigation or he’s lying. If it’s the former, that’s a truly distressing and remarkable thing. If it’s the latter, it should tell us all we need to know about Comey’s character.
Either one, mind you, should be a disqualifying factor for an FBI director — something he probably won’t tell book tour audiences when he grouses about his firing.
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