Given that the main topic of discussion–at least up until Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel–was the James Comey memo that no one has seen it seems only fitting to revisit James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3.
The subject of interference in an FBI investigation came up. Senator Mazie Hirono, D-HI, is doing the questioning:
HIRONO: Yes. And so speaking of the independence of not just the judiciary but I’d like you to clarify the FBI’s independence from the DOJ apparatus. Can the FBI conduct an investigation independent from the department of Justice. Or does the FBI have to disclose all it’s investigations to the DOJ? And does it have to get the Attorney General’s consent?
COMEY: Well we work with the Department of Justice, whether that’s main justice or U.S. attorney’s offices on all of our investigations.
And so we work with them and so in a legal sense we’re not independent of the department of justice. We are spiritually, culturally pretty independent group and that’s the way you would want tit. But yes, we work with the Department of Justice on all of our investigations.
HIRONO: So if the Attorney General or senior officials at the Department of Justice opposes a specific investigation, can they halt that FBI investigation?
COMEY: In theory yes.
HIRONO: Has it happened?
COMEY: Not in my experience. Because it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something that — without an appropriate purpose. I mean where oftentimes they give us opinions that we don’t see a case there and so you ought to stop investing resources in it. But I’m talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason, that would be a very big deal. It’s not happened in my experience.
The last paragraph leaves you with one of three choices, it seems–assuming the existence of a memo. Either Trump asked Comey to stop the investigation and Comey mislead the Senate by specifically referring to the actions of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General and hiding from them an attempt by Trump to stop an investigation. Or Trump made no such request. Or, Comey considered that the comment fell into the category of “they give us opinions that we don’t see a case there and so you ought to stop investing resources in it.” In other words, he did not take it as an attempt to interfere in the investigation. Two of these three options explain the skepticism expressed by Senator Burr earlier today on the memo story.