Former FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch asked him to describe the bureau's inquiry into Hillary Clinton's private email server "a matter," and not an investigation.
"At one point, 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, according to the transcript provided by Politico. "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."
He said this discussion is what prompted him to publicly characterize Clinton's actions as "extremely careless," but also to announce he would not recommend prosecution.
"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,'" Comey added. "And I said, 'Why would I do that?' And she said, 'Just call it a matter.'"
When asked why he did not object to this request, Comey said he thought, "This isn't a hill worth dying on, and so I just said, 'Okay.' The press is going to completely ignore it — and that's what happened."
News outlets continued to use the word "investigation" to describe the case, as Comey predicted, though her request "concerned me because that language tracked with how the campaign was talking about how the FBI was doing its work."
He added later he is not sure "whether it was intentional or not, but it gave the impression that the attorney general was trying to align how we describe our work" with the Clinton campaign's wording, giving him "a queasy feeling."
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