An oversight hearing of the FBI on Wednesday largely turned into a proxy fight over the Nov. 8 presidential election, with Director James B. Comey defending his agency.
“You can call us wrong but don’t call us weasels,” Comey told the House Judiciary Committee when asked about criticism of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. “We are not weasels, we are honest people.”
Republicans questioned Comey on the FBI’s investigation and recommendation not to prosecute the Democratic presidential nominee, something they have pressed since the director announced his decision in July.
Democrats called the questions pure political maneuvering, but asked Comey if the FBI is probing whether a foreign policy adviser of Republican Donald Trump was communicating with Russian officials about possibly lifting economic sanctions if he becomes president.
Comey mainly stuck to two themes: Defending the FBI’s investigation of Clinton, and not commenting on whether the FBI is investigating Trump. He said it wasn’t fair to imply the FBI was dishonest or conducted the Clinton investigation unprofessionally.
“We do not carry water for one side or the other,” Comey testified. “That’s hard for people to see, because [in] so much of our country we see things through sides. We are not on anyone’s side.”
The hearing came ahead of a House Rules meeting set for Wednesday afternoon to formulate a rule for floor consideration of a resolution that would recommend the House find Bryan Pagliano, a former technology aide to Clinton, in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about the private email setup.
Committee Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.) said new documents show Clinton had hundreds of emails with classified information, and that President Barack Obama used a pseudonym in email communications with Clinton.
“It seems clear that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton committed multiple felonies involving the passing of classified information through her private email server,” Goodlatte said. “The FBI, however, declined to refer the case for prosecution on some very questionable bases.”
Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) criticized Republicans for focusing on the Clinton investigation instead of recent terrorist attacks in Minnesota, New York and New Jersey or on the reports of Trump’s adviser speaking with Russian officials.
“Let me be clear: If true, this allegation represents a danger to our national security and a clear violation of federal law — which expressly prohibits this type of back-channel negotiation,” Conyers said about Trump’s adviser.