Republicans released a transcript on Tuesday of the fiery closed-door hearing with James Comey that took place yesterday on Capitol Hill. According to Fox News, the transcript reveals that the former FBI Director defended the agency’s interview of Michael Flynn, which has been under renewed scrutiny as the former National Security Adviser faces sentencing for lying to investigators.
Republicans posed pointed questions at Comey about the FBI’s 2017 interview with Michael Flynn regarding his meeting with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during that interview, in which he was questioned by investigators about his meeting with Kislyak to discuss U.S. sanctions on Russia.
The transcripts show that committee members pointed out to Comey that normal protocol is to involve White House Counsel when interviewing someone like Flynn. Comey acknowledged that that was true, but the transitional environment in the administration at the time was open enough to allow for such direct communication. He explained that it likely wouldn’t have happened that way in an administration that was more established. Republicans then asked Comey why he didn’t warn Flynn that lying during the interview was a prosecutable offense.
“He was an extraordinarily experienced person and so reasonably should be assumed to understand you can’t lie to the FBI,” Comey replied. “Second, it’s not protocol. The FBI does not do that in noncustodial interviews. And, third, you want to find out what the witness will say to you before you heat up an interview by raising the prospect that the witness might be lying to you.”
He did note that Flynn was advised that he could have someone present from the White House Counsel’s office, but Flynn didn’t feel it was necessary.
Comey was also questioned about the infamous Steele dossier, and whether or not he knew about the origins of the report.
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) December 18, 2018
After leaving the interview, Comey criticized the GOP-led committee, saying that they and other Republican leaders needed to get over their fear of “mean tweets” and of “Fox News” in order to do what is right for the country.
“Someday, they’ll have to explain to their grandchildren what they did today,” he said.
He added that he was frustrated to be at the meeting and felt that Republicans were revisiting old ground, such as Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Steele dossier, rather than defending the rule of law from President Trump’s attacks.
“The questions about Hillary Clinton and Steele dossier strike me as more of the same,” Comey said. “I didn’t learn anything new in there. Maybe they did.”