On Tuesday, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows (NC) highlighted an exchange between himself and James Comey in which the Trump-fired FBI director repeated a long-debunked claim about the anti-Trump Steele dossier and then admitted he simply didn't care who was behind the salacious and still unverified document that helped spark the FBI's "collusion" investigation.
On Monday, House Republicans held a closed-door meeting with Comey in which they discussed details about the FBI's handling of Trump, the dossier, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. On Tuesday, the GOP released a 173-page transcript of the session. Included in that transcript is an exchange between Meadows and Comey about the infamous Democrat-funded Steele dossier that has caused a stir (h/t Chuck Ross, Twitchy).
Meadows tweeted out an excerpt of the exchange and a summary of its contents: "I asked Director Comey about who paid for the dossier. His response: 1) Republicans paid for it -- (Republicans did not pay for it) 2) 'Who cares?' Yes, this is an FBI Director apparently not caring to know who paid for information used to surveil Americans with a FISA warrant."
Here's the exchange (revised for clarity):
Meadows: You expect us to believe that you got notation that a private client is there and that you didn't -- you weren't inquisitive enough to figure out who the private client was?
Comey: Who cares? It was Republicans opposed to Trump --
Meadows: Well, it makes a big difference.
Comey: Let me finish my answer. It was Republicans opposed to Trump, and then it was Democrats opposed to Trump. There was potential bias in this information. That's really important. Whether it was Sally Smith of Joe Jones, Republican, or Sally Smith, Democrat, to me it didn't matter.
Meadows: Director Comey, it does make a difference. If someone is paying for this, and you're actually using that information to surveil American citizens with a FISA application, it does matter...
Comey's attempt to argue that Republicans partly paid for the dossier is a reference to a long-debunked claim that The Washington Free Beacon, which hired Fusion GPS, the firm behind the dossier, was partly responsible for it. However, the Free Beacon ended its relationship with the oppo-research firm before ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who compiled the dossier, was hired by the firm to conduct research for the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. The Steele dossier was an entirely Democrat-funded project.
Prior to calling him out for peddling the debunked claim, Meadows pointed out that Comey has established himself as someone who was willing to "break protocol" and "bypass" authority while running the FBI.
"A question that needs answering: Why did Director Comey authorize agents to break protocol and bypass White House counsel in interviewing General Michael Flynn? It seems part of a pattern: Director Comey didn’t follow protocol. He treated different people by different rules," Meadows tweeted Monday.
"All you need to know about Dir. Comey's sanctimonious lecture to Americans today is the fact he takes no responsibility for the erosion of trust in the FBI and DOJ," he added. "The rampant process abuses and breaches of protocol occurred on his watch. He refuses to be transparent about it."
Among the other notable exchanges in Comey's "explosive" closed-door meeting with House Republicans Monday is his assertion that he knew what Flynn had said to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the call about Russia's response to U.S. sanctions about which he pleaded guilty to lying to authorities.
"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," said Comey, Fox News reports. "I knew certain classified facts about the nature of [Flynn's] interactions with the Russians" before he sent agents to talk with him, without legal representation.
Asked by Republican Trey Gowdy (SC) if he knew "exactly what General Flynn had said to the Russian Ambassador" before interviewing him, Comey said, "Yes."
"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, adding that they had "clear transcripts of the conversations that we had."