Disgraced FBI Director James Comey on Friday told a House joint committee that the bureau's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election targeted just "four Americans" — but not then-GOP nominee Donald Trump or his campaign.
The former director, fired by Trump in May 2017, sat for six hours of questioning in a closed-door session with members of the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Comey said that "some" of the initial targets were connected to the Trump campaign, but the campaign itself and the party's nominee were not targets.
“We opened investigations on four Americans to see if there was any connection between those four Americans and the Russian interference effort,” Comey told House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC). “And those four Americans did not include the candidate. At least some of them were. The FBI and the Department of Justice have not confirmed the names of those folks publicly, which is why I'm not going into the specifics.”
President Trump on Sunday accused Comey of lying.
"Leakin’ James Comey must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day. His Friday testimony was so untruthful! This whole deal is a Rigged Fraud headed up by dishonest people who would do anything so that I could not become President. They are now exposed!" Trump wrote on Twitter.
While Comey wouldn't name names, it is known that ex-Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos was prosecuted by special counsel Robert Mueller and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, along with Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to lying. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has also reportedly been part of the special counsel's probe.
Comey was not under oath, but was warned that lying to the joint House committee could have severe consequences. Throughout the "interview," Comey said "I don't know" 167 times and "I don't remember" 71 times, according to a 235-page transcript.
Trump mocked Comey's memory.
"On 245 occasions, former FBI Director James Comey told House investigators he didn’t know, didn’t recall, or couldn’t remember things when asked. Opened investigations on 4 Americans (not 2) - didn’t know who signed off and didn’t know Christopher Steele. All lies!" Trump tweeted.
At one point in his interview, Comey defended Peter Strzok, a former FBI agent who helped lead the bureau’s investigation until it was revealed that Strzok expressed hatred for Trump in messages he sent to his mistress. Strzok also worked on the Hillary Clinton probe into her secret email server and the destruction of some 30,000 government emails.
Comey said Strzok edited a letter sent to Congress days before the election disclosing the reopening of the Clinton probe, "So it's hard for me to see how he was on Team Clinton secretly at that point in time. If you're going to have a conspiracy theory, you've got to explain all the facts. And it's hard to reconcile his not leaking that Trump associates were under investigation and his drafting of a letter to Congress on October 28th that Secretary Clinton believed hurt her chances of being elected," he said.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) asked Comey, "Is there any need to further investigate Hillary Clinton's emails based upon the decision that you made not to prosecute?"
"Not that I can possibly see," Comey said. "There's no serious person who thinks there's a prosecutable case there. And so, not that can I see."
Asked if he had confidence in Mueller, Comey said: “There are not many things I would bet my life on. I would bet my life that Bob Mueller will do things the right way, the way we would all want, whether we're Republicans or Democrats, the way Americans should want.”
"Are you best friends with Robert Mueller?" Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, asked Comey.
"I am not. I admire the heck out of the man, but I don't know his phone number, I've never been to his house, I don't know his children's names," Comey said. "I think I had a meal once alone with him in a restaurant. I like him. I am not a — I'm an associate of his who admires him greatly. We're not friends in any social sense."