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James Comey
Former FBI Director James Comey, with his attorney, David Kelley, left, arrive to testify under subpoena behind closed doors before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Comey: House GOP went all 'but her emails' on me again behind closed doors

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Updated December 07, 2018 05:36 PM EST

By MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans interviewed James Comey behind closed doors Friday, hauling the former FBI director to Capitol Hill one final time before they cede power to Democrats in January. GOP lawmakers who stepped outside while the questioning was underway indicated they weren't satisfied and will bring him back later this month.

Comey wasn't pleased either, telling reporters, "We're talking about Hillary Clinton's emails, for heaven's sake, so I'm not sure we needed to do this at all."

A transcript of the interview "will bore you," Comey said after the six-hour interview with two House committees.

President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that Comey was apparently told by Justice Department attorneys not to answer some questions. Trump called that "total bias and corruption at the highest levels of (the) previous Administration," adding that lawmakers should force Comey to answer questions under oath.

Republicans say Comey and other Justice Department officials were biased against Trump as they investigated his campaign's ties with Russia in 2016 and cleared Clinton in a separate probe into her email use.

Comey said he will be back at the Capitol for another closed-door interview the week of Dec. 17.

Steve King, Louie Gohmert
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, right, and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, left, and members of the House Judiciary Committee arrive to hear testimony by former FBI Director James Comey behind closed doors on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Democrats also were unhappy, saying Judiciary Committee Republicans' questions were merely distractions from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

Comey appeared for the interview after unsuccessfully fighting a subpoena in court. It was the first time he answered lawmakers' questions since an explosive June 2017 hearing in which he asserted that Trump fired him to interfere with his FBI investigation of alleged Russia ties to the Trump campaign.

Two GOP-led committees are wrapping up a yearlong investigation into decisions made at the Justice Department during the 2016 presidential election. Republicans argue that department officials were biased against Trump as they started the investigation and cleared Clinton in a separate probe into her email use. Comey was in charge of both investigations.

Democrats have said the investigations by the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees are merely a way to distract from and undermine the special counsel's Russia probe. Mueller took over the department's investigation when he was appointed in May 2017.

Under a deal struck with the Judiciary Committee, Comey was to be free to speak about Friday's questioning afterward and a transcript was to be released. Comey had argued that Republicans would selectively leak details and mischaracterize the proceedings.

Walking into the meeting, Comey said he might answer questions in public after the session. He gave a wry answer when asked if he was "best friends" with Mueller, as Trump has tweeted.

"Note that I smiled," Comey said.

After the questioning was underway, some Republicans signaled they were unhappy with Comey's level of cooperation. California Rep. Darrell Issa said Comey had two lawyers in the room, his personal lawyer and a lawyer from the Justice Department. He said the department lawyer repeatedly instructed Comey not to answer "a great many questions that are clearly items at the core of our investigation."

Issa suggested the committee might bring Comey back because he wasn't answering questions. Two other Republicans, Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mark Meadows of North Carolina, also suggested they might need a second session with Comey if they didn't finish their interview by a late afternoon deadline.

Democrats disagreed that Comey wasn't being cooperative.

"He answered the questions he had to answer," said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. But he added that he was left with the impression that "we got nowhere today."

Florida Rep. Ted Deutsch said the Republican majority "wishes to only ask questions still about Hillary Clinton's emails, all to distract from the big news today, which is what's happening in court."

Mueller was to reveal more details about his Russia investigation in court on Friday as he faced deadlines in the cases of Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Over the past year, Republicans on the two committees have called in a series of officials and suggested after the closed-door meetings that there is evidence of bias. The investigation's most public day was a 10-hour hearing in which former FBI special agent Peter Strzok defended anti-Trump texts he sent to a colleague as he helped lead both investigations. Strzok defiantly fought with angry Republican lawmakers in a riveting hearing that featured Strzok reading aloud from his sometimes-lewd texts, and Democrats and Republicans openly yelling at each other.

Jerrold Nadler
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is met by reporters as her arrives for testimony by former FBI Director James Comey behind closed doors on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. Nadler is the incoming chairman of the Judiciary panel, and he said he wants to end the investigation in January. "This is a waste of time to start with," Nadler said. "The entire purpose of this investigation is to cast aspersions on the real investigation ... There is no evidence whatsoever of bias at the FBI or any of this other nonsense."

New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, said as he walked into the Comey interview that he will end the investigation when Democrats take the House majority in January.

"This is a waste of time to start with," Nadler said. "The entire purpose of this investigation is to cast aspersions on the real investigation ... there is no evidence whatsoever of bias at the FBI or any of this other nonsense."

Comey, who has testified publicly on Capitol Hill about both the Clinton and Russia investigations, balked at the subpoena because he said committees were prone to selectively reveal information for political purposes.

"Don't do it in a dark corner and don't do it in a way where all you do is leak information," said Comey's attorney, David Kelley.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., decried Comey's use of "baseless litigation" and called it an "attempt to run out the clock on this Congress," a reference to the few weeks left before Democrats take control. Both Goodlatte and South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the oversight panel, are also retiring at the end of the year.

Jim Jordan
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, arrives to attend a House Judiciary and Oversight Committee closed-door interview with former FBI Director James Comey on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

After the court fight was resolved, Goodlatte said a transcript will be released "as soon as possible after the interview, in the name of our combined desire for transparency."

A report released this June from the Justice Department's internal watchdog said Comey was "insubordinate" in his handling of the Clinton email investigation in the final months of the 2016 campaign. But it also found there was no evidence that Comey's or the department's final conclusions were motivated by political bias toward either candidate.

The report said the former FBI director, who announced in July 2016 that Clinton had been "extremely careless" with classified material but would not be charged with any crime, repeatedly departed from normal Justice Department protocol. Yet it did not second-guess his conclusion that Clinton should not have been prosecuted, despite assertions by Trump and his supporters that anyone less politically connected would have been charged.

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Associated Press writers Padmananda Rama and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

By MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are interviewing James Comey behind closed doors Friday, hauling the former FBI director to Capitol Hill one final time before they cede power to Democrats in January.

Comey is appearing for the interview after unsuccessfully fighting a subpoena in court. It is the first time he has answered lawmakers' questions since an explosive June 2016 hearing in which he asserted that President Donald Trump fired him to interfere with his investigation of Russia's ties to the Trump campaign.

The interview comes as GOP lawmakers are wrapping up a yearlong investigation into decisions made at the Justice Department during the 2016 presidential election. Republicans argue that department officials were biased against Trump as they started the investigation into his campaign's ties with Russia and cleared Democrat Hillary Clinton in a separate investigation into her email use. Comey was in charge of both of those investigations.

Steve King, Louie Gohmert
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, right, and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, left, and members of the House Judiciary Committee arrive to hear testimony by former FBI Director James Comey behind closed doors on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Democrats, who will also attend the interview, have said the GOP investigation is merely a way to distract from and undermine special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Mueller took over the department's investigation when he was appointed in May 2017.

Under a deal struck with the House Judiciary Committee, Comey will be free to speak about the questioning afterward, and a transcript will be released. He argued that Republicans would selectively leak details from the interview.

The interview is expected to last much of the day. Walking into the meeting, Comey said he might answer questions afterward. He also gave a wry answer when asked if he is "best friends" with Mueller, as Trump has tweeted.

"Note that I smiled," Comey said.

Over the past year, Republicans on the Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform panels have brought in a series of officials and said after the closed-door meetings that there is evidence of bias. The investigation's most public moment was a 10-hour hearing in which former FBI special agent Peter Strzok defended anti-Trump texts he sent to a colleague as he helped lead both investigations. Strzok defiantly fought with angry Republican lawmakers in a riveting hearing that featured Strzok reading aloud from his sometimes-lewd texts, and
Democrats and Republicans openly yelling at each other.

Jerrold Nadler
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is met by reporters as her arrives for testimony by former FBI Director James Comey behind closed doors on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. Nadler is the incoming chairman of the Judiciary panel, and he said he wants to end the investigation in January. "This is a waste of time to start with," Nadler said. "The entire purpose of this investigation is to cast aspersions on the real investigation ... There is no evidence whatsoever of bias at the FBI or any of this other nonsense."

New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, said as he walked into the Comey interview that he will end the investigation when he is expected to take over the panel in January.

"This is a waste of time to start with," Nadler said. "The entire purpose of this investigation is to cast aspersions on the real investigation ... There is no evidence whatsoever of bias at the FBI or any of this other nonsense."

Comey, who has testified publicly on Capitol Hill about both the Clinton and Russia investigations, balked at the subpoena because he said committees were prone to selectively reveal information for political purposes.

"Don't do it in a dark corner, and don't do it in a way where all you do is leak information," said Comey's attorney, David Kelley.

The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Virginia Rep. Robert Goodlatte, decried Comey's use of "baseless litigation" and called it an "attempt to run out the clock on this Congress," a reference to the few weeks left before Democrats take control. Both Goodlatte and South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the oversight panel, are also retiring at the end of the year.

Jim Jordan
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, arrives to attend a House Judiciary and Oversight Committee closed-door interview with former FBI Director James Comey on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

After the court fight was resolved, Goodlatte said a transcript will be released "as soon as possible after the interview, in the name of our combined desire for transparency."

A report released this June from the Justice Department's internal watchdog said Comey was "insubordinate" in his handling of the Clinton email investigation in the final months of the 2016 campaign. But it also found there was no evidence that Comey's or the department's final conclusions were motivated by political bias toward either candidate.

The report said the former FBI director, who announced in July 2016 that Clinton had been "extremely careless" with classified material but would not be charged with any crime, repeatedly departed from normal Justice Department protocol. Yet it did not second-guess his conclusion that Clinton should not have been prosecuted, despite assertions by Trump and his supporters that anyone less politically connected would have been charged.
___
Associated Press writer Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.

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