James Comey, the former FBI director fired by President Trump after he botched the handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation, testified in a closed-door meeting Friday in front of congressional leaders, and some of his responses, including his repeated claims of lack of knowledge or recall, have caused a stir. Perhaps most notable of his comments is his admission that FBI officials had not verified the information in the notorious Democrat-funded Steele dossier when they used it to obtain a FISA warrant for a Trump associate.
On Friday, Comey acknowledged under oath that the FBI used an uncorroborated document funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC as "evidence" in officials' request for a FISA warrant to surveil Trump adviser Carter Page, a key step in the Russia collusion "witch hunt," as Trump calls it. Not only was the dossier, produced by ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, not verified when it was used in the Carter request, Comey admitted, it was still unverified when he was fired six months later.
The Hill's John Solomon, who has been closely following the developments in the Russia probe, highlights the "enormity" of Comey's bombshell acknowledgment that his "investigative team (in the form of the Steele dossier) and his general counsel James Baker (in the form of evidence from a Democratic Party lawyer) accepted politically tainted evidence to further the probe of Trump."
"Everyday Americans now know that the FISA court process is an honor system and that the FBI may only submit evidence it has verified to the judges," he writes. "Comey now has confirmed what Republican lawmakers like Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Rep. Mark Meadows(R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have warned about for months – that the FBI used an unverified dossier, paid for by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party as political opposition research, to justify spying on the duly nominated GOP candidate for president just weeks before Election Day."
Hoover Institution fellow Paul Sperry has also been closely tracking Comey's testimony and has been highlighting key takeaways, many of them damning for Comey specifically and the Russia probe generally. Not only has Comey testified that the FBI was unable to independently corroborate claims in the Steele dossier used to obtain the wiretap on Page, Comey also swore that "he had no idea dossier author Steele was terminated by FBI for violating confidential source rules," notes Perry, even though "Comey knew Steele had been compensated by FBI [and] he'd read the April FISA [application] in which FBI first disclosed Steele had been closed as source."
Comey also said that the FBI investigation began with four Americans tied to Trump, which conflicts with claims that the Papadolpoulos investigation triggered the Russia probe. "We opened investigations on four Americans to see if there was any connection between those four Americans and the Russian interference effort," Comey said. "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."
As for Comey's handling of the Clinton investigation, Perry reports that Comey's general counsel at the FBI, James Baker, "testified privately that he originally believed it was appropriate to charge Hillary Clinton with mishandling classified information, but he said it was Comey who persuaded him that Clinton should not be charged."
Comey also admitted to committee members that he never bothered to direct FBI agents to ask Hillary Clinton about the infamous tarmac meeting between Bill and Attorney General Loretta Lynch despite stating publicly that the meeting "bothered him so much he made insubordinate move to cut Lynch out of plans to clear Hillary," Perry notes.
Trump has responded to Comey's testimony by slamming him for "leakin,'" "lyin'" and sidestepping.
"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," Trump wrote Sunday. "Opened investigations on 4 Americans (not 2) - didn’t know who signed off and didn’t know Christopher Steele. All lies!"