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Former FBI Director James Comey appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday to answer questions about the bureau’s counterintelligence operation into the 2016 Trump campaign.
Chaired by Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee has, for months, scrutinized the FBI’s decision-making process during the earliest phases of the investigation.
That includes false statements made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by a former FBI lawyer to secure a surveillance warrant against then-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, as well as misrepresenting the so-called “Steele Dossier,” a document the bureau knew was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and likely contained false information fed to former British spy Christopher Steele by a suspected Russian intelligence figure.
In kicking off the hearing, Graham noted that the committee discovered evidence recently that the FBI suspected nearly a decade ago that the Steele Dossier sub-source was linked to Russian intelligence.
He also noted that exculpatory evidence proving that there was no coordination — ‘collusion’ — between Moscow and the Trump campaign was not presented by the FBI.
“This, to me, is a stunning failure of the system,” Graham said, adding that the dossier was “fundamentally unsound” when the bureau used it to get spy warrants on Page.
He also warned Democrats that something similar could happen to a president from their party in the future if nothing is done regarding what happened to Trump.
“I’m saying this, to my Democratic friends, if it happened to us, it could happen to you,” he said. “This was a system failure, and you could be next.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking member, dismissed Graham’s claims, however, and noted that an investigation into the origins of the FBI’s “Operation Crossfire Hurricane,” as the Russia probe was called, by DoJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz showed it to have been justified.
She then accused President Trump and his allies of having “seized” on “errors” to cast aspersions at the Russia probe.
“Those errors were serious, but the errors and Steele dossier played no role in the broader Russia investigation,” she claimed.
After Comey was sworn in, Graham asked him to rate the probe, to which the former director, who was fired by President Trump a few months after his inauguration, replied that “it was, in the main, done by the book.”
The chairman then asked Comey if he thought that the FISA court should have been told that Page was an asset for the CIA, a detail that was intentionally left out of the application by former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith.
Clinesmith has since pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the FISA court, becoming the first indictment by U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is conducting an investigation into the origins of the so-called ‘Spygate’ scandal.
Comey pushed back on Graham’s claim, however, saying he disputes that the record showed Page worked for the CIA.
“You’re the director of the FBI, you didn’t know your own agency had information from the CIA verifying what Mr. Page told you, that these contacts had a basis in fact because he was working with the CIA,” Graham said, noting that the committee got Page’s association directly from the spy agency.
The South Carolina Republican, who called the dossier a “bunch of crap,” said the FISA application was “criminally inadequate” and should not have been used, asking Comey how it was possible that it was.
Comey said he was not going to respond to that, adding that Horowitz found “concerning failures” regarding the lack of disclosure to the court.
The former FBI director told Feinstein that neither Obama nor former Vice President Joe Biden, now the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, asked him to investigate a political rival.
“Never,” he said.
Later, Comey suggested that Russia has damaging information about President Trump and that Americans should weigh that when voting this year.
“Know that a nation that does not have America’s best interests at heart wants to re-elect Donald Trump. Let that sink in, let it guide how you think about the way we ought to conduct ourselves going forward,” he said.
Documents that may be declassified this week by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe reportedly show that Russia was actually working on behalf of Hillary Clinton in 2016, not the Trump campaign.
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) September 30, 2020
Also, the dossier — paid for by the Clinton camp and the Democratic National Committee — involved information given to Steele by a likely Russian intelligence asset.
If true, that would mean the Clinton campaign actually aligned itself with Russia, even if inadvertently.
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