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Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee took swipes at James Comey on Wednesday after the former FBI director said he believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has something” on President Donald Trump.
After a lengthy monologue in which Lee recounted how he has long had issues with respect to the manner in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court operates, he also noted that he developed a respect for Comey that led him, as a senator, to support his director nomination. After a period of patience, his disapproval began to emerge.
Continuing, Lee noted that he supported Comey’s nomination though he had “grave concerns with the FBI and how it was administering FISA at the time.”
“I trusted you. I believed that you would act in good faith,” Lee said, adding that he asked Comey on many occasions — during his confirmation and then during oversight hearings — “what you would do to help make sure that the FISA process was respected and not manipulated.
“You gave me your word,” Lee said. “I have to say today I’m very disappointed to see that those promises announced to me seem very insincere.”
“With all due respect,” Lee went on, his voice rising, “you don’t seem to know anything about an investigation that you ran. So how can you now, as a private citizen and former FBI director, show up and then speculate freely regarding any alleged ties between President Putin and President Trump?
“I think I heard you say that you speculate they might have something on President Trump because of how President Trump refers or doesn’t refer to President Putin in public,” Lee said.
Lee was referring to Comey’s answer to a long-winded earlier question that seemed to be asked to purposely illicit the rehearsed response.
He noted further that Comey’s viewpoint does not appear to take into account that “nothing about the fact that sources you’ve relied on in the past have turned out not to be accurate.”
“You didn’t identify the inaccuracies subsequently to the FISA court. It acknowledges nothing about the fact that there are perfectly reasonable explanations” as to why Trump would refer to Putin in whatever manner he uses because, Lee said, Trump refers to other world leaders, including competitors, in a similar manner.
“So honest, how can you now as a private citizen come to us and in your capacity as [the] former FBI director speculate so freely regarding these alleged ties when you don’t seem to know anything about this investigation you ran?” Lee asked.
“I’m sorry, senator, I can as a private citizen because I have eye and ears,” Comey responded. “That’s how it strikes me watching a president in Helsinki take Putin’s side against his own intelligence community, and lots of stuff like that.”
Comey did agree with Lee that the FBI’s FISA court process should be examined.
Multiple investigations by Congress, the FBI, and special counsel Robert Mueller, over the course of four years, have never found any evidence of any links or ties between President Trump and President Putin.
“Everything Russia-Trump was looked at. You had $25 million, 60 agents. You had subpoenas, you had people’s lives turned upside down,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said Sunday during a Fox News interview.
As to Comey’s claim that Trump deferred to Putin and not his own intelligence community, there is evidence indicating that some intelligence officials were working to undermine the president, some of it recently uncovered.
“When I was briefed on the House Intelligence Committee report on the January 2017 [Intelligence Community Assessment], I was told that [then-CIA Director] John Brennan politicized this assessment by excluding credible intelligence that the Russians wanted Hillary Clinton to win the 2016 election and ordered weak intelligence included that Russia wanted Trump to win,” said former CIA and National Security Council official Fred Fleitz in August.
He said the same ICA ignored credible evidence that Moscow was on board for Clinton.
The FBI, under Comey, also appears to have ignored evidence that the infamous, and discredited, “Steele dossier” incorporated information passed to former British spy Christopher Steele by someone the bureau has long suspected is a Russian intelligence asset, according to recent reports.
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