Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s line of questioning during former FBI Director James Comey’s Thursday morning testimony struck at the partisan motivation behind many of the intelligence leaks that have plagued the Trump administration.
“Do you ever wonder why, of all the things in this investigation, the only thing that’s never been leaked is the fact that the president was not personally under investigation, despite the fact that both Democrats and Republicans and the leadership of Congress knew that and have known that for weeks?” Rubio asked Comey.
Comey responded “I don’t know,” adding that “matters briefed to the gang of eight are pretty tightly held,” referring to the eight lawmakers who have access to the most highly classified information.
Comey’s testimony and pre-released opening statement didn’t reveal much in the way of new information, but it provided him with the opportunity to say that President Donald Trump was never the subject of an investigation during Comey’s tenure at the FBI.
Trump repeatedly announced that Comey had told him that he was not personally under investigation but, prior to Thursday morning’s testimony, Comey had never confirmed that Trump was being truthful about the lack of an investigation.
In the course of his questioning Rubio also asked Comey why he never decided to publicly confirm Trump’s statements that he was not being personally investigated.
“To be clear, for you to make a public statement that he was not under investigation wouldn’t be illegal but you felt it could potentially create a duty to correct if circumstances changed?” Rubio asked.
“Yes sir,” Comey responded, adding that he was concerned about creating “a slippery slope” forcing him to announce many officials were not being investigated.
Rubio’s curiosity as to why the absence of an investigation into Trump was seemingly the only detail of the FBI’s Russia investigation that wasn’t leaked is especially relevant considering Comey’s admission that he himself was the source of a major leak.
Comey said in the course of his testimony that he gave his notes from a private conversation with Trump to a close friend and professor at Columbia Law School, who then released the memo to the press.
Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch had requested that the information into former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email server be referred to as a “matter,” a significant occurrence because it demonstrates an effort on the part of the Department of Justice to synchronize FBI language with that of Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“At one point the attorney general directed me not to call it an ‘investigation’ but instead to call it a ‘matter,’ which confused me and concerned me,” Comey said. “That was one of the bricks in the load that lead me to conclude I have to step away from the Department if we are to close this case credibly.”
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