Lindsey Graham wants former FBI director James Comey to return to Congress because he “smells a rat” in his previous testimony. If so, it’s only the last of a series of them. Last week, a letter to his successor Christopher Wray revealed testimony that Comey had begun drafting his decision to rule out prosecution in the Hillary Clinton e-mail case long before Comey had indicated it in his own testimony. But as far as bread crumbs go, that may have been just one of a series:
Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox News on Thursday that he wants to bring back James Comey to testify on Capitol Hill, citing concerns about his statements on the conclusion of the Hillary Clinton email case.
“This doesn’t add up, and I smell a rat here,” Graham, R-S.C., said in an interview with Fox News’ Catherine Herridge.
The Republican senator, who chairs a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, last week revealed new details they learned about the Clinton case from interview transcripts. According to the senators, the transcripts say Comey began drafting an “exoneration statement” for Clinton weeks before interviewing her – which in turn raised questions about the former FBI director’s testimony in June before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Jazz covered the revelations last week, based on Katie Pavlich’s report for TownHall. Graham and Senate Judiciary chair Chuck Grassley sent the letter to Wray along with some pointed commentary on the significance of the testimony. Two witnesses told the Office of Special Counsel that Comey had already begun drafting his reasoning for this decision no later than early May 2016, in interview transcripts that the Judiciary Committee only received in early August.
Grassley and Graham noted that Comey would have begun drafting that explanation before interviewing over a dozen potential witnesses in the probe:
In one way, this lets then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch off the hook for the tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton, which took place in June 2016. The strange tête-a-tête between the spouse of a target in a DoJ investigation and the department’s top leader during the investigation fueled speculation that the fix was in, especially after Comey later declined to pursue a grand jury. This testimony to the OSC puts that decision point well before the tarmac meeting, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that Lynch had nothing to do with it, either.
But as the letter points out, one could have smelled a rat long before then anyway. “Moreover,” the letter continues, “the Justice Department entered into highly unusual immunity agreements with Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson in June 2016[.]” The DoJ had also granted immunity to Bryan Pagliano in early March — and, according to this timeline, still hadn’t bothered to formally interview him at the time Comey was drafting the exoneration, and almost right up to the infamous tarmac meeting.
So yes, this smells pretty fishy. If Judiciary recalls Comey for more testimony, however, he might just say, Sure I drafted an exoneration — and here’s my draft of a request for a grand jury, too. Drafting either of these letters ahead of sixteen material interviews would seem odd, but perhaps that’s what he did. If Comey didn’t do that, then it looks even odder to assume the exoneration this far in advance, especially since Comey admitted later that laws had been broken but he’d found no intent, which was the basis of that decision to drop the matter. Wouldn’t Pagliano have been a potential witness to intent? Cheryl Mills? “Unnamed State Department Employee”?
Graham and Grassley have the power to compel Comey’s return to the Senate. If they’re serious, then we’ll see the subpoena. If not, then we may end up smelling a mouse instead of a rat.