Former FBI Director Comey under fire in Senate hearing

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, to examine the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who served in the upper ranks of the Justice Department during the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, told lawmakers former FBI Director James Comey went rogue when he “unilaterally” dispatched agents to interview former national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House in the early days of the Trump administration, according to a report from CBS News.

Yates, in an exchange with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham during a hearing on the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation, was asked whether she authorized the FBI’s January 24, 2017, interview of Flynn.

“I didn’t authorize that interview because I wasn’t told about it in advance,” Yates said.

Yates said that when she heard about the FBI’s interview with Flynn, “I was upset that Director Comey didn’t coordinate this with us and acted unilaterally.” Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, asked whether Comey went “rogue” with sending agents to speak with Flynn, and Yates responded, “You could use that term, yes.”

Yates confirmed that Comey did not tell her that Flynn’s communications with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were being investigated.

A Fox News report from the hearing said Comey has become “radioactive,” according to Graham. “People are running away from him like he’s got the plague,” Graham said in an interview following the hearing.

The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee is investigating the FBI’s handling of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation in 2016 and early 2017. There are also two separate probes, one of which is ongoing, into the origins of the bureau’s investigation, which was ultimately taken over by special counsel Robert Mueller in 2018.

One of the examinations that was conducted by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that there were 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions in” the four applications submitted by the FBI to surveil Carter Page, a Trump campaign aide.

Yates told the Senate Judiciary Committee that had she known the warrant applications submitted to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court contained inaccurate information, “I certainly wouldn’t have signed it.”

“I believe that the Department of Justice and the FBI have a duty of candor with the FISA court that was not met,” she said.

“What’s the takeaway here? That Comey sat on top of one of the most corrupt investigations, Crossfire Hurricane, in the history of the FBI, and the rats are jumping ship. Graham added that there is “no way in hell” that Comey did not know the dossier compiled by ex-MI6 agent Christopher Steele that purported to detail President Trump’s ties to Russia had “basically [been] proved to be unsound by the Russian sub-source interview in January [2017].” 

“My goal was to prove that he did know and he got warrants against Carter Page anyway,” Graham said. “Here’s the point … there will become a time to sell your book, Jim Comey. You can come to the Judiciary Committee and sell your next book because you’ve got a date with the truth, my friend.”

Graham also said Wednesday he’s unsure what steps Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham will take against Comey as Durham wraps up his investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, but for his part, “I’m going to call the intel analyst and the case agent who interviewed the Russian sub-source … and ask them, ‘Once you found out the dossier was a bunch of garbage, did you tell anybody about it?'”

“I don’t know what Durham is going to do, but I know what the hell I’m going to do,” Graham asserted. “We’ll get to the bottom of it, stay tuned … all I can tell you is Jim Comey is about as radioactive as you can get.” 

Yates said at the hearing she favored bringing the information about Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak directly to the White House.

“The conversations themselves were concerning and that was a proper basis to be part of the counterintelligence investigation but you have to balance the investigation also with the need to address the compromise threat that presented itself most urgently,” she said. “In doing that balancing, I thought that we needed to go tell the White House right away so that they could act.”

Graham also pressed Yates on who attended the Jan. 5, 2017 oval office meeting regarding the Flynn interview, asking if former Vice President Joe Biden attended. Graham asked “Was Vice President [Biden] there?”

“Yes he was,” Yates said.