The House Oversight and Judiciary Committees released a transcript Dec. 18 of former FBI Director James Comey’s closed-door testimony from the day before. The transcript reveals House Republicans’ attempts to paint the FBI’s questioning of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn as some form of entrapment.
Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy peppered Comey with questions about how the FBI arranged its time with Flynn, why the agency didn’t tell Flynn that lying to the FBI was a crime, and whether it was normal and customary for the FBI to investigate a statement made by one member of the administration to another—referring to Flynn’s denials to Vice President Mike Pence about Russian contacts in late 2016.
In his testimony, Comey replied that Flynn “was an extraordinarily experienced person and so reasonably should be assumed to understand you can’t lie to the FBI,” and that the FBI only makes such disclosures when they conduct an interview with someone held in custody.
He also noted that you don’t give a witness the impression that you expect they are lying—especially when you know they have lied. Gowdy asked Comey, “You knew exactly what General Flynn had said to the Russian Ambassador before you interviewed him.” Comey replied, “Yes.” The FBI had intercepted calls, and had transcripts and other details of Flynn’s conversations.
Comey said that FBI agents looked into Pence’s statements that relied on Flynn’s denials “to try and understand why it appeared to be the case that the National Security Advisor was making false statements about his conversations with the Russians to the Vice President of the United States.”
Comey clarified to Gowdy a statement that he’d recently made that such an interview wouldn’t been scheduled directly with Flynn in a “more organized administration,” because in other administrations, the FBI and White House use the executive’s counsel to handle this kind of coordination.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his interactions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. On Dec. 18, his sentencing was delayed. President Donald Trump, leading Republicans, and Flynn’s defense team said or hinted in advance of the sentencing hearing that Flynn never lied or was entrapped into telling lies. But at the hearing, Flynn and his lawyers agreed that Flynn accepted responsibility for his crime and knew it was illegal.
Following his testimony on Dec. 17, Comey told reporters that Republicans had failed in not standing up for the FBI. He said, “The FBI’s reputation has taken a big hit because the President of the United States has lied about it constantly.”