June 12, 2017 05:51 PM EDT
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WATCH | Ex-FBI Director James Comey had a frosty exchange with Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
UPDATE June 13, 8:50 a.m. EST: Trump chimed in on Twitter.
ORIGINAL STORY: Ex-FBI Director James Comey has privately told members of Congress that he had a frosty exchange with Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch last year when he confronted her about possible political interference in the Hillary Clinton email investigation after showing Lynch a sensitive document she was unaware the FBI possessed, according to sources who were directly briefed on the matter.
During his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last Thursday, Comey alluded to the exchange after publicly discussing an encounter with Lynch, where she ordered him not to refer to the criminal probe of Clinton’ handling of classified emails not as an “investigation” but rather as a “matter.” He suggested it smacked of political spin rather than the way professional law enforcement officers talk.
“That concerned me because that language tracked the way the campaign was talking about the FBI’s work and that’s concerning,” Comey testified.
Comey said the conversation occurred well before the email probe was shut down and shortly before both Comey and Lynch were expected to testify in Congress and possibly field questions about candidate Clinton’s email issues. He said her request gave him a “queasy feeling.”
On CNN Sunday, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said, “I would have a queasy feeling too, though, to be candid with you I think we need to know more about that and there’s only one way to know about it and that’s to have the Judiciary Committee take a look at that.”
In multiple private sessions over the last few months, Comey has told lawmakers about a second, later confrontation with Lynch shortly before the email probe was shut down.
Comey told lawmakers in the close door session that he raised his concern with the attorney general that she had created a conflict of interest by meeting with Clinton’s husband, the former President Bill Clinton, on an airport tarmac while the investigation was ongoing.
During the conversation, Comey told lawmakers he confronted Lynch with a highly sensitive piece of evidence, a communication between two political figures that suggested Lynch had agreed to put the kibosh on any prosecution of Clinton.
Comey said “the attorney general looked at the document then looked up with a steely silence that lasted for some time, then asked him if he had any other business with her and if not that he should leave her office,” said one source who was briefed.
Comey “took that interaction and the fact she had met with Bill Clinton as enough reason to decide he would not allow the Justice Department to decide the fate of the case and instead would go public” with his own assessment that the FBI could not prove Mrs. Clinton intended to violate the law when she transmitted classified information through her private email and therefore should not be criminally charged. Another source said the “tarmac meeting was the public excuse for not going to Lynch when all along there was other evidence that was more concerning to Comey.”
Comey announced his assessment that while Clinton had been reckless he did not believe he could prove intent to commit a crime on July 5, 2016, a decision that has been criticized by some lawmakers and resulted in discord among the bureau’s agents who investigated Clinton.
The FBI declined to comment when contacted by Circa for comment. Lynch could not be reached for comment.
The sources also said that Comey’s testimony in private conflicted with recent reports in the news media suggesting the FBI had intercepted an email between Congresswoman Debbie
Wasserman Schultz, who at the time was the Democratic Party chairwoman, and a third party. Those media reports suggested that the information about the email was more than likely fake and a ruse possibly planted by the Russians. The Washington Post story suggested the dubious email is what motivated Comey, who still was not sure of the intelligence, to come forward with his findings in the Clinton investigation and shut down the case.
“Comey’s account to Congress does not sync with those media reports,” one source said, declining to be more specific. In public, Comey also seemed to suggest as much, saying some of the reports about why he went public with the email case findings were “nonsense.”