Aug 23, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Comey claims Senate Russia report "blows up" Barr's narrative about FBI probe

Former FBI director James Comey argued on Sunday that the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on 2016 Russian interference "blows up" President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr's claims that the FBI's Russia investigation was unjustified and a "hoax."

Why it matters: The 966-page bipartisan report, which goes into more detail than the Mueller report, found that Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort passed sensitive internal polling data and strategy to a Russian intelligence officer who may have been involved in the hacking of Democratic emails.

The big picture: Barr has tapped veteran prosecutor John Durham to conduct a sweeping investigation into the origins of the FBI's Russia probe, which Trump and his allies have long claimed was a political hit job engineered by Comey and other Obama-era officials.

  • That investigation netted its first criminal charge last week from Kevin Clinesmith, a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to altering an email used to obtain a surveillance warrant for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
  • Former CIA director John Brennan was interviewed by Durham on Friday and informed that he was neither a subject nor a target of the investigation, according to a spokesperson. Comey said on Sunday that he has had "no contact" with Durham and "can't imagine" that he is a target of the probe.

What he's saying: "The Senate Intelligence Committee was looking at all information they could gather. Mueller was approaching it as a prosecutor, trying to see what evidence he could bring into court to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt," Comey said on CBS News' "Face the Nation.

  • "So the Senate Intelligence Committee could look much more broadly, and as you said, came to this conclusion that the head of Trump's campaign was funneling information to a Russian intelligence officer — someone he likely knew was a Russian intelligence officer."
  • "Let that sink in, and ask yourself: So there was nothing to investigate here, as Bill Barr said? It was a hoax? The Republicans have exploded that nonsense."

Between the lines: The Senate report was also critical of the FBI and its failures to alert the Democratic National Committee of the full threat of the Russian interference effort. Comey acknowledged that this is "fair criticism."

  • Asked why he never considered the scenario of Russian interference as FBI director, Comey responded, "I don't know why. It didn't occur to us that the Russians were doing something they had never done before, which is to weaponize and actually fire stolen material at our democratic process."
  • "Looking back in hindsight, it seems obvious. I don't know the answer as to why nobody in the intelligence community, none of the analysts, saw this coming."

Go deeper: Top Democrat says Senate Intel Committee voted 14-1 to pass Russia report

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