Comey blasts Trump, Republicans after meeting with House lawmakers

A defiant James Comey lambasted congressional Republicans, accusing them of covering for President Trump by refusing to allow the former FBI director to testify publicly about decisions he made during the 2016 presidential election and the first few months of the Trump administration.

“So another day of Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Steele dossier,” Comey told reporters at the conclusion of his closed-door testimony before a House committee, summing up the questions he faced. “This while the president of the United States is lying about the FBI, attacking the FBI and attacking the rule of law in this country. How does that make any sense at all?”

He continued: “Republicans used to understand that the actions of a president matter, that the words of a president matter, the rule of law matters and the truth matters. Where are those Republicans today?”

Former FBI Director James Comey speaks to reporters after testifying a second time before the GOP-led House Judiciary and Oversight committees. (Photo/AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Republicans who control the House Judiciary and Oversight committees compelled Comey to deliver further testimony before Democrats will assume the gavel in the new year, and, according to Comey, used their time to push narratives pushed by the president.

“At some point, someone has to stand up — and in the face of fear of Fox News, fear of their base, fear of mean tweets — stand up for the values of this country and not slink away into retirement, but stand up and speak the truth,” Comey said. “I find it frustrating to be here answering questions about things that are far less important than the values that this country is built upon.”

Asked about the effect of the president’s tweet over the weekend that labeled his former lawyer Michael Cohen a “rat” for cooperating with federal investigators, Comey was adamant.

“It undermines the rule of law. This is the president of the United States calling a witness who has cooperated with his own Justice Department a ‘rat.’ Say that again to yourself at home and remind yourself where we have ended up.”

The president accused the FBI of breaking into Cohen’s office, a portrayal that is at odds with the fact that the bureau first obtained a search warrant from a judge who ruled there was probable cause to  conduct the raids.

For Comey, Trump’s characterization of the FBI was a call to arms.

“This is not about Republicans or Democrats, this is about what does it mean to be an American,” Comey said, adding, “There’s a set of values that represent the glue of this country and they are under attack by things just like that. We have to stop being numb to it.”

Asked whether Monday’s hearing amounted to a partisan exercise, Comey said he couldn’t be sure what the committee was investigating.

“The questions about Hillary Clinton and the Steele dossier strike me as more of the same. I didn’t learn anything new in there, maybe they did.”

Many conservatives have criticized Comey’s answers to the House committee, noting that he failed in testimony last week to recall what they considered key events. Democrats have also railed against Comey over his handling of the investigation during the 2016 presidential campaign into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email address and server when she was the secretary of state.

“They got truthful testimony from me,” Comey said when asked about that criticism. “When you’re the director of an organization of 38,000, sometimes you don’t know what form people filled out. That’s silliness. And as far as hurting the FBI’s reputation, I hope not. We had to make very hard decisions in 2016. I knew we were going to get hurt by it. The question was how do we reduce the damage.”

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