Tags: Michael Flynn | Russia Probe | james comey | house | fbi | protocol | transcript

House GOP Grilled Comey on Protocol in Questioning Flynn

james comey exults and gestures during contentious congressional testimony
Fired FBI Director James Comey (Alex Brandon/AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 18 December 2018 05:41 PM

FBI agents knew "exactly" what Michael Flynn said to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before the agency interviewed him at the White House in 2017, ex-FBI Director James Comey told House lawmakers during a closed-door session.

The transcript of the second session by the House Judiciary and Oversight committees was released Tuesday, and was posted by Fox News.

According to Fox News, Comey also explained why he broke with protocol and sent two FBI agents into the White House to interview the former national security adviser in January 2017 — without involving or notifying White House lawyers.

Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in that interview about whether he had discussed with Kislyak the sanctions imposed against Russia by the Obama administration. His sentencing has been delayed until March.

Flynn was fired in February 2017 for misleading Vice President Mike Pence on the Kislyak issue. A Washington Post report a day before Flynn's interview with the FBI revealed the agency had wiretapped Flynn's calls and cleared him of any criminal conduct.

"The agents went to interview Flynn to try and understand why the national security adviser was making false statements to the vice president of the United States about his interactions with the Russians during the transition," Comey said, responding to a question from House Oversight Committee chair Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

"I knew certain classified facts about the nature of [Flynn's] interactions with the Russians" prior to sending the agents into the White House, he added.

The former FBI director said one of the agents he sent was a "career counterintelligence agent," and the other was Peter Strzok – who has since been fired from both special counsel Robert Mueller's team and from the FBI over his anti-Trump bias. Comey denied sending Strzok, or hand-picking the agents who questioned Flynn.

"I knew that the vice president was making statements that he attributed to conversations he'd had with Mr. Flynn that were starkly at odds with those classified facts," he said.

According to Fox News, Gowdy then remarked: "You knew exactly what Gen. Flynn had said to the Russian Ambassador before you interviewed him." 

"Yes," Comey replied.

"I'm only hesitating because I don't know what I don't know, but we understood clearly the nature and extent of a variety of communications, telephonic, between Mr. Flynn and the Russian Ambassador," he said.

He added again: "I'm only hesitating because, if there were other communications, other phones, other means of communication, we wouldn't know that. But we had clear transcripts of the conversations that we had."

Comey also pushed back on Republicans' questions as to why the FBI did not warn Flynn he could be prosecuted for lying to them.

"He was an extraordinarily experienced person and so reasonably should be assumed to understand you can't lie to the FBI," Comey said.

"Second, it's not protocol. The FBI does not do that in noncustodial interviews," he added. "And, third, you want to find out what the witness will say to you before you heat up an interview by raising the prospect that the witness might be lying to you."

Separately, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, asked Comey how he informed Trump about the FBI's knowledge of the unverified opposition research dossier compiled by a firm funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee, Fox News reported.

"I was very concerned that he might interpret it as an effort to pull a J. Edgar Hoover on him," Comey said, adding he explained "that it was unverified, that it wasn't something that we were investigating, and then, once the conversation, in my judgment, started to go off the rails, by then telling him we were not investigating him personally."

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Before the FBI interviewed Michael at the White House in 2017, agents knew "exactly" what Flynn said to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to fired FBI Director James Comey in a closed-door session with House lawmakers.
james comey, house, fbi, protocol, transcript
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Tuesday, 18 December 2018 05:41 PM
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