Former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before Congress Thursday morning was supposed to focus on Donald Trump. Early on, however, Comey veered off track into the Obama Administration, and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s involvement in an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Comey, who was in charge of the inquiry into the Clinton scandal that dominated election headlines, testified that Lynch asked him to call the FBI’s probe a “matter” and not an “investigation.”
Comey also told senators that the change “confused and concerned” him —giving him a “queasy feeling”—and led him to believe that Lynch was trying to align the administration’s official line on the investigation with the Clinton campaign’s.
Sen. Richard Burr, one of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s ranking members, also asked Comey whether Bill Clinton’s tarmac meeting with Lynch had an impact on the email “matter.”
The former president chatted with Lynch at the Phoenix airport, when both weirdly wound up on the tarmac at the same time. Bill Clinton said the meeting was “primarily social,” about travel, grandchildren and golf. The two later admitted, though, that the meeting looked shady.
Comey responded that the unexpected rendezvous in Arizona forced him to take to the airwaves to prove that the investigation was still independent. The meeting “tainted” the bureau, he claimed, and it was necessary to reiterate that the FBI remained neutral on the subject of whether Clinton had improperly handled classified documents, and that they were still looking into it.
“That was the thing that capped it for me, that I had to do something separately to protect the credibility of the investigation, which meant both the FBI and the Justice Department,” Comey said.
Those statements line up with ones Comey made at a Senate hearing in early May.
In all, Comey’s testimony revealed little more about his interactions with Trump than was previously known. But the former FBI director did note that Russia’s interference with the U.S. elections was significant, and that Comey was deeply concerned over the timing of his firing.