Clintonian: What you thought you heard Comey say about lack of interference was not what he actually said.
I was a guest today on Newsmax TV – America Talks Live with Bill Tucker. The main topic was James Comey’s upcoming testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
I was able to clear up a common misconception about Comey’s May 3, 2017, testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Many people — on Twitter and in the punditry — believe that Comey stated on May 3 there had been no attempts to stop his investigation. If Comey gave such testimony before the Senate, it would be consistent with the testimony of Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, on May 19 that there had been no “political interference” in the investigation (emphasis added):
I welcome the opportunity to discuss my role in the removal of FBI Director James Comey, although I know you understand that I will not discuss the special counsel’s ongoing investigation. Most importantly, I want to emphasize my unshakeable commitment to protecting the integrity of every federal criminal investigation. There never has been, and never will be, any political interference in any matter under my supervision in the United States Department of Justice.
But, there are reports that Comey will testify next week that Trump supposedly asked him to halt the investigation of Michael Flynn, engaged in some as yet unspecified uncomfortable interference, and that Comey wrote a memo or memos to the file documenting such conversations. (Note: Those reports do not attribute those words directly to Comey, but rather, to people who supposedly know what he will say.)
So would Comey’s expected testimony really contradict his May 3 testimony?
Here’s the video of the testimony exchange with Senator Mazie Hirono:
Most people listening to the exchange would think Comey denied any attempt to stop the investigation. That’s the natural implication of his words.
But read the transcript carefully, focused on the wording I’ve underlined:
HIRONO: Yes. And so speaking of the independence of not just the judiciary but I’d like you to clarify the FBI’s independence from the DOJ apparatus. Can the FBI conduct an investigation independent from the department of Justice. Or does the FBI have to disclose all it’s investigations to the DOJ? And does it have to get the Attorney General’s consent?
COMEY: Well we work with the Department of Justice, whether that’s main justice or U.S. attorney’s offices on all of our investigations.
And so we work with them and so in a legal sense we’re not independent of the department of justice. We are spiritually, culturally pretty independent group and that’s the way you would want tit. But yes, we work with the Department of Justice on all of our investigations.
HIRONO: So if the Attorney General or senior officials at the Department of Justice opposes a specific investigation, can they halt that FBI investigation?
COMEY: In theory yes.
HIRONO: Has it happened?
COMEY: Not in my experience. Because it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something that — without an appropriate purpose. I mean where oftentimes they give us opinions that we don’t see a case there and so you ought to stop investing resources in it. But I’m talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason, that would be a very big deal. It’s not happened in my experience.
You may have thought you heard Comey say no one ever had tried to halt or interfere in an FBI investigation (which would include Donald Trump), but what he said was that neither the Attorney General nor senior officials at DOJ had done so.
I explained all this in my Newsmax interview:
“It’s going to be parsed, and I’ll tell you exactly how he’s going to do it, and you’re hearing it heard first. If you go back and you read that Senate testimony … on May 3rd, and you look at what the question was, the question wasn’t whether anybody had ever done it [interfered or asked for a halt], the question was whether anyone from the Department of Justice had interfered or told him to stop the investigation.
So he is going to say that the Department of Justice never did it, but Donald Trump did, and that’s how he’s going to get around that testimony. And that’s my prediction, and nobody sees it coming, except the people who are watching right now.”
“He testified at a congressional hearing in late March, and he said nothing about it whatsoever. And then he testified … in early May and was asked the question. And so is he really going to come in and essentially pull a Bill Clinton, and argue over what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is? And he’s going to say, well when you asked me that question whether anybody from Department of Justice had ever asked me to halt my investigation, I said ‘no,’ but I didn’t volunteer to you that the President had done it — that’s just not very credible but that’s the wiggle room he has if you want a literal interpretation and reading of the question asked and the question he answered. So I think it’s a credibility issue, I don’t think it’s a legal issue.
And I think he is probably primed to go, this is going to be his day in the spotlight, and I think he is going to unload, to the extent he can and to the extent Robert Mueller hasn’t told him ‘don’t go there.’ He’s going to unload on Trump big league.”
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