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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

Go deeper

Nov 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump pardons Michael Flynn

President Trump with Michael Flynn in 2016. Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

President Trump on Wednesday pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in the Mueller investigation to lying to FBI agents about his conversations with a former Russian ambassador.

Why it matters: It is the first of multiple pardons expected in the coming weeks, as Axios scooped Tuesday night.

Biden's pick for intelligence chief is familiar with cyber challenges

Avril Haines. Photo: Mark Makela via Getty Images

Avril Haines, Biden’s pick for director of national intelligence, has a long history of working on critical cybersecurity and digital challenges facing the intelligence community.

Why it matters: A deep understanding of cyber issues is of great value in the position, including as the Biden administration seeks to restore faith in a role that has faced accusations of politicization in the Trump era.

House passes bill to decriminalize marijuana

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a longtime marijuana legalization advocate and co-sponsor of the bill. Photo: Pete Marovich For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The House on Friday voted 228-164 in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, marking the first time a congressional chamber has voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Why it matters: The Washington Post describes the bill as a "landmark retreat in the nation’s decades-long war on drugs," which has disproportionately affected people of color.