Former FBI Director James Comey on Friday could not describe to the House lawmakers what the crime of collusion entailed, referencing the Trump-Russia investigations.
House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy asked Comey Friday afternoon during a closed-door hearing, “Some of our friends in the media use the word ‘collusion’ from time to time. What is the crime of collusion?” (RELATED: House Committee Releases James Comey Transcript)
Comey responded, “What is the crime of collusion? I do not know. I’ve never heard the term ‘collusion’ used in the way it’s been used in our world over the last couple [sic] years before that.” He continued, “I don’t know of a crime that involves collusion. I think in terms of conspiracy or aiding and abetting.”
Gowdy later asked Comey what he thought the difference was between “collusion” and “conspiracy.”
“I don’t know because I don’t know what collusion means. It’s a term I haven’t heard in my career in the Justice Department, so I don’t know,” said Comey.
Gowdy pressed, “Let’s assume that collusion and conspiracy are synonyms, and we’ll just use the word ‘conspiracy’ because the word ‘collusion,’ despite its nonstop use, has no criminal consequences. Would it be a crime to access the DNC server or Podesta’s email without permission or in an unlawful way?”
Comey responded, “That’s a hard one to answer in the abstract. It’s potentially a crime whenever someone either, without authorization, enters a computer system or conspires to enter a computer system without authorization.”
Florida Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch later asked Comey, “You said that there’s no crime of collusion as it’s used, I think, in terms of conspiracy or aiding and abetting. I haven’t heard the term collusion in my years at Justice. This investigation or I would say just to try to make this easier for you to answer, given your description of collusion, collusion would not be the basis for an investigation conducted by the FBI?”
The former FBI director confirmed, saying, “Right, because it’s not a thing in the criminal statutes, that I understand at least. It would be investigating where anyone conspired with the Russians or aided and abetted the Russians.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Trump’s campaign and transition teams reportedly looked into charges that individuals associated with Trump “colluded” with Russian agents to help him during the 2016 election. (RELATED: Michael Flynn Is Helping The Government On Several Cases. Which Ones?)
Mueller released a sentencing recommendation Friday afternoon in the U.S. District Court in New York City related to former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. Mueller asked the court for a “substantial term of imprisonment” against Cohen of around four to five years.
Comey’s response to Gowdy’s question surfaced hours after President Trump tweeted the latest legal filing of the Mueller investigation, which he said shows there was “no Russian collusion” going on in his campaign or immediate post-election activities.
“This is collusion illusion, there is no smoking gun here. At this late date, after all that we have gone through, after millions have been spent, we have no Russian Collusion. There is nothing impeachable here.” @GeraldoRivera Time for the Witch Hunt to END!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2018
Conversely, during his testimony, Comey did not want to refer to the Clinton-email investigation as being under the “Espionage Act.”
“So, from January 2016 up until your July 5th press statement, it is fair to say that both Special Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Attorney Lisa Page were working on the Clinton Espionage Act or mishandling of classified information investigation,” Chairman Gowdy asked.
Comey responded, “The reason I’m hesitating, Mr. Gowdy, is I’ve never applied the label of Espionage Act investigation. It was an investigation into the mishandling of classified information. I don’t mean to quibble, but that’s how I thought of it and talked about it.”
Comey is expected to continue his on Capitol Hill on December 17.