Flynn’s legal team highlighted the recently leaked FBI notes that suggest Comey described Flynn’s December 2016 calls with the US Ambassador to Russia as “legitimate.” The Flynn team cited the comment as evidence that the FBI had no reason to later question Flynn about these calls as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
But when pressed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) over the comment, Comey said Wednesday that his use of the term “legitimate” would not have been intended to characterize the calls properly. On the contrary, he said his use of the phrase would have meant that the calls were “genuine” and “not fabricated”. However, it is not known why the authenticity of the calls would have been called into question, as they were the product of FBI interceptions.
The exchange punctuated Comey’s broader testimony to a panel, chaired by Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), in which Comey largely defended the office’s investigation into potential Trump ties to Russia. While he acknowledged that some aspects of the investigation had been mismanaged, he said the larger investigation was “essential” and managed appropriately. And he said former President Barack Obama or former Vice President Joe Biden never asked him to investigate a political rival or “be gentle” with anyone.
“It was done by the book, it was appropriate, and it was essential that it be done,” Comey told the committee. “Overall, I’m proud of the work.”
Comey also questioned the decision of Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe to release a Russian intelligence assessment indicating that Hillary Clinton attempted to block Russia’s 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee on Trump. Specifically, Ratcliffe wrote that Comey was made aware of this assessment, which Ratcliffe said was unverified and could be an “exaggeration” or “fabrication” on the part of the Russians.
“It doesn’t remind me of anything,” Comey said, adding that he was “having trouble understanding” Ratcliffe’s letter.
Comey was the last witness to testify in the Graham inquiry, which Democrats have called a partisan effort to strengthen the president in an election year. Trump encouraged Graham’s investigation, in part because it aims to undermine the Russia investigation.
Comey’s former deputy Andrew McCabe is expected to testify before the panel next week, though his lawyer has already said he does not yet have access to the government documents he needs to inform his testimony.
Wednesday marked the third time Comey has testified before GOP-led Congressional committees since Trump sacked him in May 2017. Initially, Trump cited Comey’s handling of the investigation into the private mail server d Hillary Clinton as the basis for his withdrawal, but he said in a TV interview that he removed Comey because of his role as chairman of the probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Trump and his allies in Congress have made Comey a nemesis, the mastermind of an investigation to overthrow the Trump presidency. Trump has been pushing for Comey to be prosecuted and has attacked him on Twitter hundreds of times since his withdrawal.
But Trump’s decision to fire Comey also became the basis for special advocate Robert Mueller – appointed days later by then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – to explore a possible obstruction of justice by the president. . Rosenstein testified before the Judicial Committee earlier this year.
After his withdrawal, Comey revealed he had kept contemporary memos from his conversations with Trump and raised concerns that Trump had pressured him to end the Russia investigation and drop out. the Flynn investigation.