Former FBI director James B. Comey met in camera on Friday with members of two House committees as part of a politically heavy investigation into the conduct of federal agents responsible for law enforcement when investigating the alleged links of the Trump campaign with Russia and the use by Hillary Clinton of a private email. server as secretary of state.
The session, which lasted more than six hours, is expected to continue on December 17, said Comey, although the transcript of his exchanges with the groups of experts is still expected over the weekend.
Legislators of the House's Judiciary and Oversight Committees have gleaned Comey's questions on various topics, including the contents of his memos about his interactions with President Trump, the details of his dismissal and his knowledge of the origins of FBI investigation of Russia.
Comey was also questioned about the conduct of his former FBI subordinates, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who exchanged text messages against Trump as they were investigating alleged Russian connections to the Trump campaign and Clinton's emails. , according to people close to the record who spoke about the situation of anonymity to discuss an in camera hearing.
But Comey emerged from the session complaining that the Russian inquiry's questions were only an "insignificant part" of members' questions, mostly focused on "Hillary Clinton's emails, for the sake of celestial".
"I'm not sure we need to do that at all," he continued, "but I try to respect the institution."
The interview covered many of the same topics as those presented by Comey during several public hearings to date and was subject to many of the same restrictions imposed by the FBI on other witnesses who appeared before the joint panel, notably the obligation not to discuss in progress. investigations, much to the frustration of the Republican members of the committee.
Representative Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), Former president and outgoing member of the Oversight Committee, stated that an FBI attorney in the interview room frequently prevented Comey from answering some questions "at the heart of our investigation ". Comey, Issa added, "never seem to argue or even be a little disappointed when they told him that he did not have to answer anything".
The Democrats rejected this suggestion, saying that Comey was answering most questions – and that the transcript would prove it.
The joint investigation, conducted exclusively by the Republicans, ends at the end of the year. That is when the control of the House committees will be transferred to the Democrats, who are determined to restrict or at least change the purpose of the investigations that they believe were intended to undermine the peacekeeping services. order and the work of the investigation of the special advocate Robert S. Mueller III.
After the hearing, Comey defended the actions of law enforcement officials and rejected Republican lawmakers' suggestions that bias would have contributed to the FBI's decision to seek the oversight of the former police advisor. Trump campaign, Carter Page. Senator Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) said this week that he also intended to verify whether the oversight application process had been properly conducted when he became Chair of the Committee. of the Senate.
Comey stated that he had "full trust" in the FBI "and that the case had been handled in a thoughtful and responsible manner."
"The idea that FISA was mistreated here was nonsense," he said, referring to the law on foreign intelligence surveillance.
Perhaps the testimony of Comey is one of the last testimony heard by the panel. The former director of the FBI had first insisted on making a public testimony, but had accepted the interview behind closed doors and dropped any court challenge of a subpoena of the chairman of the commission Court of Justice, Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). Comey did so on the condition that a transcript of the interview be published within 24 hours of his testimony, announced via a tweet earlier this week.
"It's the closest thing to public testimony," says Comey.
Former Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, whom Goodlatte also cited last month, is scheduled to appear for an in camera interview next week.
The interviews with Comey and Lynch will probably not satisfy many Republican members of groups that are closely linked to Trump. They are much more interested in a new set of questions with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.
Lawmakers such as representatives Mark Meadows (RN.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who is expected to become the Republican ranked on the Oversight Committee next year, wish to ask Rosenstein to "get the job done." explain the comments he would have made to colleagues suggesting that they record conversations with Trump and possibly seek to remove him from office by following the procedures outlined in the 25th Amendment.
Jordan and Meadows also asked for Rosenstein's indictment, accusing him of failing to comply with congressional demands for FBI information and Justice Department investigations into the Trump and Clinton campaign.
But since there is little time before the dissolution of Congress for the current year, it is unclear whether legislators will take any further steps to bring Rosenstein to an interview.