May 10, 2017

Feinstein Discusses Comey Firing at Judiciary Committee Hearing

Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today discussed the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Excerpt 1 [video link]: “As I reflect on the decision to dismiss Director Comey, I become incredulous thinking about the ongoing FBI investigation into Russia’s interference with our presidential election and possible connections to associates of the Trump campaign and administration.”

Excerpt 2 [video link]: “At a minimum, the decision to fire Comey raises questions about the appropriateness and timing of firing the person in charge of an investigation that could — I won’t say would, but could — implicate the administration. To have this happen, and happen now, is beyond surprising.”

 Senator Feinstein’s full remarks follow:

“Last night, at approximately 5:30 p.m., President Trump called to say he would be removing Director Comey from his leadership position at the FBI.

President Trump specifically stated that the recommendation was provided by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Attorney General Sessions. He said the reason was because the ‘department is a mess.’

I was obviously surprised and taken aback. Then, when the official announcement was released, the White House provided three documents.

One, a letter from the president firing Director Comey.

Two, a letter from Attorney General Sessions recommending Comey be removed on the basis of his personal evaluation that ‘a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI.’

And three, a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein outlining serious concerns about Director Comey’s handling of Secretary Clinton’s email investigation.

These letters and memo raise additional questions, Mr. Chairman.

Why did the president make reference to the Russia investigation in his letter dismissing Director Comey?

Was the reason for his dismissal because the department was a mess and lacked leadership, or not?

If the reason for firing Comey was because of his handling of the Clinton investigation, why now?

As the night went on, more and more stories began to unfold about the events surrounding Director Comey’s dismissal. The press reported that Director Comey found out about the firing through television news coverage that broke while he was speaking to FBI agents in Los Angeles.

He wasn’t told directly and reportedly believed, at first, that it was a prank. Apparently, the president’s letter hadn’t yet been delivered to FBI headquarters before the news had become public.

Several news outlets also began reporting that the administration had been considering firing Comey for some time and charged with building a case against Director Comey for at least a week.

Specifically, the New York Times reported that Attorney General Sessions had been charged with the responsibility of coming up with reasons to fire Director Comey.

This morning, Politico is reporting that ‘Trump had grown angry with the Russia investigation — particularly Comey admitting in front of the Senate that the FBI was investigating his campaign — and that the FBI director wouldn’t support his claims that President Barack Obama had tapped his phones in Trump Tower.’

As I reflect on the decision to dismiss Director Comey, I become incredulous thinking about the ongoing FBI investigation into Russia’s interference with our presidential election and possible connections to associates of the Trump campaign and administration.

One thing, Mr. Chairman, that sticks in my mind is the classified briefing that you and I had from Director Comey on March 15. At this briefing, Director Comey outlined the counterintelligence and criminal investigations the FBI is conducting involving Russia’s covert action to influence the presidential election.

I can’t go into the specifics, but you and I know that it was rather comprehensive for this kind of briefing. The FBI director was precise and he presented us with substantial information.

It was clear the FBI was taking its job seriously and that a substantial investigation was underway.

In addition, just last week, on May 3, Director Comey came before the Judiciary Committee and promised to update the committee and provide briefings on the Russia investigation in a classified setting as necessary.

Then, last night, CNN reported that federal prosecutors have begun taking additional steps in the Russia investigation in the past few weeks — including issuing grand jury subpoenas to associates of Michael Flynn seeking business records as part of the Russia investigation.

In fact, reporters learned that prosecutors were issuing subpoenas as part of the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the election just hours before Director Comey was fired.

 At a minimum, the decision to fire Comey raises questions about the appropriateness and timing of firing the person in charge of an investigation that could — I won’t say would, but could — implicate the administration. To have this happen, and happen now, is beyond surprising.

I believe it’s important to have Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Deputy Director McCabe come before the Judiciary Committee and brief members on the reasons and the timing of the firing, as well as what steps are being taken to ensure this action will have no impact on the work of the FBI on the ongoing investigation. 

I also plan to work with Senator Blumenthal on legislation to ensure that a truly independent prosecutor can be appointed. However, while we work on that legislation I want to renew my call to have a special prosecutor appointed to oversee the Russia investigation."

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