Embattled FBI director James Comey has refused to clarify whether his organization is investigating Donald Trump’s ties to Russia in a closed briefing Friday for members of Congress, angering legislators who recall his high-profile interjections about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Guardian has learned.
Comey’s lack of candor in a classified setting, intended to brief members on the intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia interfered in the election to benefit Trump, follows a public rebuff this week to senators seeking clarification.
In that earlier hearing, Comey said he would “never comment” on a potential FBI investigation “in an open forum like this,” raising expectations amongst some attendees of Friday’s briefing that Comey would put the issue to rest in a classified setting.
But according to sources attending the closed-door Friday morning meeting, that was not the case. As such, frustration with Comey was bipartisan and heated, adding to intense pressure on the director of the FBI, whose conduct in the 2016 election itself is now being investigated by an independent US justice department watchdog.
One source in the meeting said Comey would not answer “basic questions” about the FBI’s current investigative activities. The FBI chief was grilled “over and over again,” according to the source, about his standards for acknowledging FBI investigations, with legislators repeatedly bringing up Comey’s dramatic public confirmation that the bureau was revisiting classification issues with Hillary Clinton’s private email server days before the election, as well as his summer press conference announcing that he would not seek indictment.
Clinton is said to blame Comey’s intervention, which contravened longstanding justice department rules, for her electoral defeat.
Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who had pressed Comey during a September hearing about his criteria for acknowledging an investigation, sharply asked Comey if the director was applying a double standard to Trump.
Comey had said in September testimony that his standard was a “a need for public to be reassured, [and] when it’s obvious, it’s apparent, given our activities, public activities that the investigation is ongoing”.
Nadler, according to a different source, then asked Comey in the Friday meeting: “Do you believe that standard has been met with reference to the possible investigation of the Trump campaign’s possible connections to the Russian government? And if not, why not?”
Comey dodged the question, sparking anger amongst attendees.
A spokesman for Nadler confirmed the congressman pressed Comey on the issue.
Joining Comey in the approximately 90-minute briefing on Friday were director of national intelligence James Clapper, CIA director John Brennan and NSA director Mike Rogers. None of their interactions with legislators were said to be contentious, in sharp contrast with Comey.
The Wall Street Journal said on Friday in an editorial that Comey ought to resign. The FBI has not made any comment on the editorial, and the question of Comey’s resignation is said to have not come up in the closed-door briefing. Trump has not definitively said if he will retain Comey in the new administration, though the director’s term is slated to run through 2023.
The FBI did not respond to a request for comment.
This article was sourced from http://newsxlive.com