WASHINGTON – FBI Director James Comey refused Wednesday to confirm under oath whether the FBI is investigating accusations that the Obama administration spied on President Trump’s election campaign and transition team.
At the beginning of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday , Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa., asked Comey if the FBI was investigating whether members of the Obama administration leaked information about the Trump team to the media.
The director replied that he could not confirm that in public without permission from the Justice Department, which, he said, would have had to authorize any such investigation.
Grassley indicated he would ask the Justice Department to provide the authorization.
The chairman asked Comey a series of questions related to possible spying on the Trump team, but Comey gave the same response each time: He could not reply in a public forum.
Grassley specifically wants to know more about a dossier the FBI used to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on Trump associates. The dossier was also used to justify allegations of collusion between the Russian government and the Trump team. But much of the dossier has been proven wrong, and none of it has been proven accurate. The dossier’s most sensational allegations have been discredited.
The chairman has written several letters to the FBI questioning the use of the dossier. He said the FBI’s responses have had several “material inconsistencies.”
When he asked Comey on Wednesday why he had not replied, Comey again said he could not explain in public.
The dossier was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, who worked for an opposition research firm that had connections to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Grassley also grilled Comey about a recent New York Times report of an email that described assurances made by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch that she would protect Clinton by making sure the FBI’s investigation of her email scandal did not go too far.
Grassely wanted to know who had sent the email and other details, but, again, Comey refused to respond in an open hearing.
Earlier this week, Clinton blamed Comey and the FBI’s investigation of her email scandal for her election loss.
Apparently in response, President Trump tweeted on Tuesday: “FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds! The phony Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?”
Trump had previously expressed confidence in Comey and said he had no plan to fire him.
But, asked last month whether it was too late to fire the director, the president replied, “No, it’s not too late, but, you know, I have confidence in him. We’ll see what happens. It’s going to be interesting,”
President Obama appointed Comey to a 10-year term in 2013.
Comey did tell Grassley he had never been an anonymous source of quotes in the media on the investigation of the Clinton and Trump campaigns and that he had never authorized anyone in the FBI to do so.
The director also said he had never shared classified information related to those investigations to the media.