In testimony before the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees, former FBI Director James Comey made numerous assertions that are seemingly at odds with other statements he made during the course of the same testimony.
Comey also made claims that raise questions about his actions as FBI director or are contradicted by information presented by others.
Breitbart News reviewed the full transcript of Comey’s testimony last Friday. Below, in no particular order, are five problematic aspects to claims made by the embattled former FBI director.
1 – Comey says that the FBI’s Russia collusion investigation was not initiated by the anti-Trump dossier financed by Democrats. Yet earlier in the same testimony, he states that he doesn’t remember the “factual predicate” that launched the FBI’s investigation, and he cannot recall ever seeing the bureau’s initiation document that officially started the probe.
Here is where Comey stated twice that the dossier did not launch the probe:
QUESTION: Director Comey, do you agree with Mr. Baker (former FBI counsel James Baker) that the initial allegation in the FBI’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign’s potential coordination with the Russian Government, quote/unquote, had nothing to do with the Steele dossier?
Mr. Comey: Yes. That’s correct
QUESTION: Mr. Comey, was the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference and potential coordination with the Trump campaign started by a fraudulent dossier?
Mr. Comey: It was not.
Mr. Deutch: Can you explain how you know that?
Mr. Comey: Because I know what the basis was for starting the investigation. It was the information we’d received about a conversation that a Trump foreign — campaign foreign policy adviser had with an individual in London about stolen emails that the Russians had that would be harmful to Hillary Clinton. It was weeks or months later that the so-called Steele dossier came to our attention.
While Comey conveys certainty that the dossier was not involved in launching the probe, he earlier stated that he doesn’t “remember precisely” the “factual predicate” that led to the FBI’s investigation.
He made those comments here:
Mr. Gowdy: Director Comey, can you tell us the factual predicate that may have led to the launching of that counterintelligence investigation?
Mr. Comey: I don’t think that I can describe the factual predicate for two reasons: I don’t remember precisely; and to the extent I remember, I think those are classified facts that implicate the concern the Bureau just expressed.
Comey also repeatedly stated that he cannot recall ever reading the FBI’s initiation document that launched the probe.
2 – Comey claimed he “did not know for sure” how Steele’s dossier reached the FBI. Yet John McCain repeatedly stated that he personally hand delivered the dossier directly to Comey. It is true that McCain delivered the dossier to the FBI after the agency reportedly obtained it earlier by other means, but Comey’s direct involvement in later receiving the dossier raises questions about the veracity of his statements.
“How did Chris Steele’s information reach the FBI?” Comey was asked generally. The question did not refer to any specific time period.
“I don’t know for sure,” Comey answered. “I have some recollection that he passed it to an agent that he knew and that that agent sent it on to headquarters. I think that’s the way in which it reached the Counterintelligence Division, but I don’t remember the specifics of that.”
In a book published earlier this year, The Restless Wave, McCain, the late Arizona senator, wrote that he gave Steele’s dossier to Comey on Dec. 9, 2016.
In October 2017, McCain also said that he gave Steele’s material to the FBI. “I gave it to no one except for the director of the FBI. I don’t know why you’re digging this up now,” McCain told the Daily Caller during what the news website described as a testy exchange. A reporter had asked McCain whether he was the source who provided the dossier to BuzzFeed News.
The founders of the controversial opposition research firm Fusion GPS previously admitted that they helped Steele share the document with McCain.
While he was alive, McCain’s office never responded to repeated queries from Breitbart News asking whether McCain knew that the information he delivered to Comey was actually an opposition document reportedly funded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
It is unclear why McCain would feel the need to get the dossier to the FBI leadership a few weeks after the November 2016 election. According to numerous reports and Capitol Hill testimony, the FBI immediately took Steele’s information seriously when the ex-spy reportedly provided his anti-Trump claims to a contact at an FBI field office in Rome in July 2016.
Mother Jones reported that a “few weeks” after Steele went to the FBI on his own in July, “the bureau asked him for information on his sources and their reliability and on how he had obtained his reports.”
“He was also asked to continue to send copies of his subsequent reports to the bureau,” Mother Jones reported.
“In other words, by the end of the July, the leadership of the FBI was paying attention,” the Washington Post reported.
Not only were they paying attention, the BBC reported that Steele’s information served as a “road map” for the FBI’s investigation into claims of coordination between Moscow and members of Trump’s presidential campaign.
The dossier reportedly served as part of the FBI’s justification for seeking the FISA court’s reported approval to clandestinely monitor the communications of Carter Page, the American oil industry investor who was tangentially and briefly associated with Trump’s presidential campaign.
3 – Comey says that prior to signing a FISA application to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, the embattled former FBI director was aware that the Steele dossier was financed by Democrats who opposed President Donald Trump. Yet according to Democratic and Republican House Intelligence memos, that information was not specifically included in the FISA application, which in part relied on Steele’s work to obtain warrants to monitor Page.
In the testimony, Comey was asked about his knowledge of Steele’s political patrons.
I thought he was retained as part of a Republican-financed effort — retained by Republicans adverse to Mr. Trump during the primary season, and then his work was underwritten after that by Democrats opposed to Mr. Trump during the general election season.
“When did you learn that his work went from being financed by what you described as Republicans to what you described as Democrats?” Comey was asked.
The former FBI director was also asked whether he learned about political actors financing Steele “before there were any court filings” — a clear reference to the FISA application, which Comey first signed in late October 2016.
Comey replied: “I certainly learned of it before the end of October. And I think the filing that you’re referring to obliquely was at the end of October sometime. So, it was before that.”
Comey’s FISA application to conduct surveillance did not specifically state that the FBI had information that Steele was being paid in connection with any U.S. political party, according to House documents.
A House Intelligence Committee memo released last February documented that as FBI director, Comey signed three FISA applications to spy on Page with the dossier serving as part of the basis for the warrant requests.
“Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior and FBI officials,” the memo states.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released a rebuttal of the House memo that confirms the key contention that the FBI and DOJ both failed to inform the FISA court that Steele’s dossier was funded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) via the Perkins Coie law firm.
The Democratic memo quotes a footnote from the FISA application, which says that Steele:
was approached by an identified U.S. person who indicated to Source #1 [Steele] that a U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. (The identified U.S. person and Source #1 have a long-standing business relationship.) The identified U.S. person hired Source #1 to conduct this research. The identified U.S. person never advised Source #1 as to the motivation behind the research into candidate #1’s ties to Russia. The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.
That footnote was further confirmed when the Trump administration released a redacted version of the FISA applications last July.
The statement in Comey’s FISA application that “the FBI speculates” that Steele “was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit” Trump’s campaign is a far cry from informing the court that the dossier utilized in the FISA warrant was paid for by Trump’s primary political opponents, namely Clinton and the DNC.
4 – Comey repeatedly stated in the testimony that he “never” knew Steele had been retained to do his work by U.S.-based law firm Perkins Coie. Yet the FISA warrant to spy on Carter Page signed three times by Comey stated the FBI had information that Steele had been hired by a “U.S.-based law firm.”
It specifically stated the FBI “was approached by an identified U.S. person who indicated to Source #1 [Steele] that a U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s ties to Russia.”
Comey made his remarks during testimony on Friday. Here is a transcript of the relevant portions of Comey’s latest testimony as it relates to Perkins Coie:
Mr. Gowdy: When did you learn that Fusion GPS was hired by Perkins Coie?
Mr. Comey: I never learned that, certainly not while I was Director.
Mr. Gowdy: Well, when did you learn the DNC had hired Perkins Coie?
Mr. Comey: I never learned that. Again, while I was Director. I think I’ve read it in the media, but, yeah, even today, I don’t know whether it’s true.
Mr. Gowdy: While you were the Director, you never knew that the DNC hired a law firm that hired an oppo research firm that hired Christopher Steele?
Mr. Comey: No, I don’t think so. I don’t have any recollection of being told that or reading that or learning that while I was Director.
Comey was not asked to explain how he could sign three FISA warrants stating that Steele was hired by a “U.S.-based law firm” yet claim not to know Steele was hired by Perkins Coie, which was working for Clinton and the DNC.
Later in the testimony, a skeptical Mark Meadows (R-NC) asked Comey to explain his claim that he didn’t know Steele was being paid via Perkins Coie considering testimony from Comey’s own former legal counsel, FBI official James Baker, that Baker was contacted by an attorney for Perkins Coie and was provided with documents related to the Russia probe.
Here is the relevant portion of that testimony:
Mr. Meadows: Let me ask one clarifying question, if you don’t mind. Director Comey, you were saying that you had no knowledge that Perkins Coie was actually involved with the Democrat National Committee and involved in this particular investigation that ultimately was initiated. Is that correct?
Mr. Comey: I, when I was FBI Director, don’t remember ever being told anything about Perkins Coie. I think I’ve since read stuff in the media, but not when I was Director.
Mr. Meadows: So are you saying that James Baker, your general counsel, who received direct information from Perkins Coie, did so and conveyed that to your team without your knowledge?
Mr. Comey: I don’t know.
Mr. Meadows: What do you mean you don’t know? I mean, did he tell you or not?
Mr. Comey: Oh, I — well —
Mr. Meadows: James Baker, we have testimony that would indicate that he received information directly from Perkins Coie; he had knowledge that they were representing the Democratic National Committee and, indeed, collected that information and conveyed it to the investigative team. Did he tell you that he received that information from them? And I can give you a name if you want to know who he received it from.
Mr. Comey: I don’t remember the name Perkins Coie at all.
5 – Comey agreed with Democratic assessments that disgraced former FBI agent Peter Strzok proved he was not motivated by partisan politics because he was one of only a few people who knew about the investigation into Russian collusion and yet never leaked the details to the news media. Later in the same testimony, however, Comey said a main reason the investigation was not made public was because “we didn’t know whether we had anything,” implying the FBI could look bad if it released information to the public without evidence to back up the investigation. He also said informing the public could hamper the investigation.
Speaking of Strzok, Comey said “it’s hard for me to see how he was on Team Clinton secretly at that point in time. And he also was one of the handful of people in the entire world who knew we were investigating four Americans who had some connection to Mr. Trump during the summer of 2016, and he didn’t tell a soul. So it’s hard to reconcile that with his being on Team Clinton.”
Later in the same testimony, Comey provided motivations for not going public related to credibility:
QUESTION: Why wouldn’t you have announced that?
Mr. Comey: Well, for a number of reasons. It would — there wouldn’t be any policy exception that would permit it; that is, it would jeopardize the ongoing investigation and it would be brutally unfair because we didn’t know whether we had anything. We literally just started. And as I said, by the time I was fired, we still hadn’t come to a conclusion. And so we’d be revealing something that was inherently misleading and jeopardizing our ability to investigate by revealing it.
It’s for that reason — I actually don’t remember any discussion about whether to reveal that we had these classified counterintelligence files. Instead, what we debated a lot was should we tell the American people that the Russians are messing with our election more broadly.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
Joshua Klein contributed research to this article.