Lynch: Comey never told me he was uncomfortable with my actions

Oh no? James Comey certainly told Congress that Loretta Lynch’s actions surrounding the Hillary Clinton investigations made him uncomfortable. That was almost a year ago, and the former Attorney General tells NBC’s Lester Holt that she doesn’t know what Comey was talking about. Comey, Lynch insists, never raised those concerns with her:

LESTER HOLT: James Comey was testifying before Congress. I think it was June of last year. And he noted that you had asked him to call the Clinton probe a “matter,” not an, “investigation.” But he said it made him feel, I’m paraphrasing, it made him feel strange. He noted it. What did you mean when you said, “Let’s call it a matter and not an investigation?”

LORETTA LYNCH: Well, you know, I heard about that testimony. I didn’t watch it at the time. But it was brought to my attention later, and people were raising it with me. And my first response was, “What, you know, what, where, what is the issue here?”

You know, I remember specifically talking with him, as we talked about sensitive things on a number of occasions. You know, we often would have to discuss sensitive matters, sensitive issues, terrorism and the like you know, law enforcement policy and the like.

And this was a very sensitive investigation as everyone knew. And the issue when he and I sat down at that time, which I think was early in the fall of 2015, was whether or not we were ready as a department to confirm an investigation going on, when we typically do not confirm or deny investigations into anything with rare exceptions.

LESTER HOLT: But, so Comey says you want to call it, “The Clinton matter.” He wants to call it, “The Clinton investigation.” To the extent, though, that he noted it, that it bothered him did he go to you and question your credibility with regard to the Clinton case?

LORETTA LYNCH: Well, look I can tell you that, you know, it was a meeting like any other that we that we had had where we talked about the issues. And we had a full and open discussion about it.

LESTER HOLT: And he didn’t raise any concerns about?

LORETTA LYNCH: And concerns were not raised.

Apparently Comey never raised a concern over her meeting with Bill Clinton in the middle of a DoJ probe of his wife, either, although Lynch doesn’t directly address that point. She tells Holt in the course of the interview, which will air later this evening, that she and the former president “talked about innocuous things,” but that the conversation also included “issues of the day” such as Brexit.

Now that seems curious. Until now, we’ve mainly heard that the conversation stuck to stories about grandchildren and personal topics. Bear in mind that the issues of the day in June 2016 mainly concerned the election season that was underway. We know by now that the FBI and DoJ had grown concerned over potential Russian interference in the process and had begun a probe into that as well. The news of the DNC hack broke on June 14th; the tarmac meeting took place around two weeks later. Wouldn’t any of that been among the “issues of the day” on the minds of the Clintons? And wouldn’t that have been of much more interest than Brexit?

Still, despite the fact that Lynch now seems to imply that Comey stabbed her in the back in his Congressional testimony, she wants lawmakers to lay off the FBI in general:

The recent wave of harsh attacks on the Justice Department and its law enforcement arm, the FBI, have been “painful,” former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in an exclusive interview set to air Monday.

Lynch, speaking with NBC News’ Lester Holt, defended the tens of thousands of people who work for the Justice Department, saying it is “troubling when people question the motivations of dedicated, committed professionals.”

“I look at the department as a place that I was proud to lead,” said Lynch, an Obama administration appointee. “So watching the attacks on it is painful at times.”

Perhaps, but much of that criticism results from her own actions and Comey’s, too. The issue isn’t the motives of “thousands of professionals,” but the actions and communications of a small number of people who appear to have let their own biases dictate the direction of investigations, including that of Hillary Clinton. Law enforcement agencies cannot be above public scrutiny. It’s important not to go overboard into paranoid conspiracy theories, but that’s also why the FBI and other law enforcement agencies need to be transparent, rather than stonewalling Congress on legitimate demands for internal documents.

Lynch’s successor Jeff Sessions has belatedly begun to fix that problem:

Sessions and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray asked U.S. Attorney John Lausch, whom Trump picked to lead the U.S. attorney’s office in the Northern District of Illinois, over the weekend if he would supervise the Justice Department’s handing over of materials to Congress on the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, the investigation of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the firing of Andrew McCabe from the FBI.

The Justice Department is expected to formally announce the move Monday.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) had issued a subpoena last month for the documents, saying that the Justice Department was taking too long to hand them over.

That’s a good start.