Meanwhile over on the domestic side of things, it's not turning out to be a good day for FBI Director James Comey as intelligence officials briefed the House on Russian interference in November's election, and suddenly quite a lot of House Democrats want his head on a pike.
A number of House Democrats left Friday's confidential briefing on Russian hacking fuming over the actions of FBI Director James Comey and convinced he's unfit to lead the agency.
"I was nonjudgmental until the last 15 minutes. I no longer have that confidence in him," Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, said as he left the meeting in the Capitol.
"Some of the things that were revealed in this classified briefing — my confidence has been shook."
Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, delivered a similar condemnation.
"I'm extremely concerned — extremely," he said.
"I'll just — I'm very angry," echoed Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.).
Ahh, but it gets worse for Comey as now he's being investigated by the Justice Department.
The Justice Department inspector general on Thursday announced that it will launch an investigation into the FBI’s conduct leading up to the 2016 elections.
The probe, which comes in response to requests from numerous chairmen and ranking members of congressional oversight committees, will look into allegations that Director James Comey broke bureau policy with his various public disclosures regarding the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
The FBI’s role in Clinton’s unexpected defeat in November has remained a subject of fierce debate — with Comey himself in the middle of the controversy. Clinton's campaign has blamed Comey and the FBI for her loss to President-elect Donald Trump.
Eleven days before Election Day, Comey sent a letter to lawmakers telling them investigators had uncovered emails that appeared to be pertinent to the bureau’s probe, considered completed at the time, of Clinton's private email server and her handling of classified material while secretary of State.
The announcement exploded in the final days of the campaign. And with a subsequent missive from Comey, a Republican nominated by Obama to his position, saying the emails had turned up no new evidence did little to quell the storm.
“In the matter of the email investigation, it was our my judgment — my judgment, the rest of the FBI’s judgment — that those were exceptional circumstances where the public needed information,” Comey told the House Judiciary Committee in September.
But critics have called the disclosure an unprecedented break with bureau policy. The FBI typically does not comment publicly on ongoing investigations.
The internal review will not change the outcome of the FBI’s findings in the probe against Clinton, Justice Department Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz told lawmakers in his announcement of the probe.
Further details of todays briefing meant things just kept getting worse for him.
One source in the meeting said Comey would not answer “basic questions” about the FBI’s current investigative activities. The FBI chief was grilled “over and over again,” according to the source, about his standards for acknowledging FBI investigations, with legislators repeatedly bringing up Comey’s dramatic public confirmation that the bureau was revisiting classification issues with Hillary Clinton’s private email server days before the election, as well as his summer press conference announcing that he would not seek indictment.
Clinton is said to blame Comey’s intervention, which contravened longstanding justice department rules, for her electoral defeat.
Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who had pressed Comey during a September hearing about his criteria for acknowledging an investigation, sharply asked Comey if the director was applying a double standard to Trump.
Comey had said in September testimony that his standard was a “a need for public to be reassured, [and] when it’s obvious, it’s apparent, given our activities, public activities that the investigation is ongoing”.
Nadler, according to a different source, then asked Comey in the Friday meeting: “Do you believe that standard has been met with reference to the possible investigation of the Trump campaign’s possible connections to the Russian government? And if not, why not?”
Comey dodged the question, sparking anger amongst attendees.
A spokesman for Nadler confirmed the congressman pressed Comey on the issue.
So we'll see where things end up. But between this and Mike Flynn, things just got brutal a week before Trump takes office. We've got a FBI chief who and an incoming National Security Adviser who are both looking more and more like co-conspirators with our president-elect.
Again, I expect things will move very quickly now.