Fmr. AG Loretta Lynch denies telling James Comey to call Clinton investigation a ‘matter’… someone’s lying

(File Photo: screenshot)

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch contradicted testimony from former FBI Director James Comey on calling the Hillary Clinton email probe a “matter” instead of an “investigation.”

Lynch testified during a joint closed-door session of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees that was held last December, saying that she was “quite surprised” by Comey’s testimony which mischaracterized her remarks about the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s mishandling of classified materials.

(File Photo: screenshot)

House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins released Lynch’s testimony on Monday, revealing her reaction to Comey’s accusation, amid several Congressional reviews into possible FBI and Justice Department misconduct.

Comey had testified before the House Intelligence Committee in June 2017 that Lynch’s instructions to downplay the probe in 2015 influenced his decision to hold a press conference in July 2016 in which he announced the investigation’s findings.

“The attorney general had directed me not to call it an investigation, but instead to call it a matter, which confused me and concerned me,” Comey said in that testimony. “That was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude, ‘I have to step away from the department if we’re to close this case credibly.’”

“The Clinton campaign, at the time, was using all kind of euphemisms — security review, matters, things like that, for what was going on,” he continued. “We were getting to a place where the attorney general and I were both going to have to testify and talk publicly about. And I wanted to know, was she going to authorize us to confirm we had an investigation? … And she said, ‘Yes, but don’t call it that, call it a matter.’ And I said, ‘Why would I do that?’ And she said, ‘Just call it a matter.’”

But in December 2018, Lynch testified and denied that she had ever made the statement.

When she was asked if she had “ever” told Comey to call the Clinton probe a “matter,” Lynch responded “I did not.”

“I have never instructed a witness as to what to say specifically. Never have, never will,” Obama’s former attorney general continued.

“In the meeting that I had with the Director, we were discussing how best to keep Congress informed of progress and discuss requesting resources for the Department overall. We were going to testify separately. And the concern that both of us had in the meeting that I was having with him in September of 2015 was how to have that discussion without stepping across the Department policy of confirming or denying an investigation, separate policy from testifying,” she said.

“Obviously, we wanted to testify fully, fulsomely, and provide the information that was needed, but we were not at that point, in September of 2015, ready to confirm that there was an investigation into the email matter — or deny it,” Lynch added. “We were sticking with policy, and that was my position on that. I didn’t direct anyone to use specific phraseology. When the Director asked me how to best to handle that, I said: What I have been saying is we have received a referral and we are working on the matter, working on the issue, or we have all the resources we need to handle the matter, handle the issue. So that was the suggestion that I made to him.”

(File Photo: screenshot)

Comey’s interpretation of her comments apparently surprised Lynch who testified that it was “not how it was conveyed” to the then-FBI chief.

“I was quite surprised that he characterized it in that way,” Lynch said. “We did have a conversation about it, so I wasn’t surprised that he remembered that we met about it and talked about it. But I was quite surprised that that was his characterization of it, because that was not how it was conveyed to him, certainly not how it was intended.”

The House Oversight Committee chairman at the time, ranking member Jim Jordan, needed to clarify her statement, the testimony released on Monday showed.

“Excuse me. Ms. Lynch, so in the meeting with the FBI Director you referred to the Clinton investigation as a matter — I just want to make sure I understand — but you did not instruct the Director when he testified in front of Congress to call it a matter. Is that accurate?” the Ohio Republican had asked.

“I said that I had been referring to — I had been using the phraseology,” Lynch replied. “We’ve received a referral. Because we received a public referral, which we were confirming. And that is Department policy, that when we receive a public referral from any agency, that we confirm the referral but we neither confirm nor deny the investigation. That’s actually a standard DOJ policy.”

She went on to note that very early into the probe, it was “too early for us to confirm” that there even was an investigation.

“We weren’t denying it at all. There was, just essentially, in my view, we were following the policy,” Lynch testified. “And when the Director asked me about my thoughts, I said, yes, we had to be — we had to be completely cooperative and fulsome with Congress for both of us, and that we needed to provide as much information as we could on the issue of resources.”

Lynch’s contradiction of Comey’s account of what happened is another episode in the drama playing out as former high-level Obama administration officials seem to be throwing each other under the bus amid multiple government investigations.

The release of the transcripts by Collins on Monday sparked fiery reactions on social media.

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Frieda Powers

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