Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in an interview before Congress, outright disputed testimony that former FBI Director James Comey gave about her alleged statements to him regarding the Hillary Clinton email investigation, a newly released transcript shows.
That led the President’s son, Donald Trump Jr., to allege on Twitter that one had lied: “Obviously one of them is lying. Would be nice to find out which one. Am I right media??? I would have thought you’d be all over this but it’s been crickets. Huh, I wonder why? ?” The transcript was released by House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins, a Republican from Georgia.
What specifically did Loretta Lynch say about James Comey? What did Comey say about Lynch? See transcripts – and video – below.
Here’s what you need to know:
Lynch Says She Didn’t Direct Comey to Call the Clinton Email Investigation a ‘Matter’
The former AG was interviewed on December 19, 2018 before an executive session of the Committee on the Judiciary, Joint with the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives. You can read the full transcript, which was just released, here. She appeared voluntarily.
According to the transcript, Chairman Bob Goodlatte told Lynch, “Ms. Lynch, you should also understand that although this interview is not under oath, you are required by law to answer questions from Congress truthfully. Do you understand that?” She responded yes. He also explained, “Witnesses who knowingly provide false testimony could be subject to criminal prosecution for perjury or for making false statements.” She responded again that she understood.
Lynch was asked about Comey: “Are you familiar with his–I think he’s testified to this–that you instructed, I believe in September of 2015, Director Comey to call the Midyear Exam investigation a matter?”
Lynch: “I heard his testimony on it and that was the first time that he had ever indicated to me, in my understanding–he may have told others –that he had that impression of our conversation.”
Questioner (Zach Somers): “So you do not believe you ever instructed him to call it a matter?”
I did not. I have never instructed a witness as to what to say specifically. Never have, never will. In the meeting that I had with the Director, we were discussing how best to keep Congress informed of progress and discuss requesting resources for the Department overall. We were going to testify separately. And the concern that both of us had in the meeting that I was having with him in September of 2015 was how to have that discussion without stepping across the Department policy of confirming or denying an investigation, separate policy from testifying. Obviously, we wanted to testify fully, fulsomely, and provide the information that was needed, but we were not at that point, in September of 2015, ready to confirm that there was an investigation into the email matter–or deny it. We were sticking with policy, and that was my position on that. I didn’t direct anyone to use specific phraseology. When the Director asked me how to best to handle that, I said: What I have been saying is we have received a referral and we are working on the matter, working on the issue, or we have all the resources we need to handle the matter, handle the issue. So that was the suggestion that I made to him.
Questioner: “So you were basically surprised when you learned that he had said that you instructed him to call this a matter?”
Lynch: “I was quite surprised that he characterized it in that way. We did have a conversation about it, so I wasn’t surprised that he remembered that we met about it and talked about it. But I was quite surprised that that was his characterization of it, because that was not how it was conveyed to him, certainly not how it was intended.”
(Rep. Jim) Jordan: “Excuse me. Ms. Lynch, so in the meeting with the FBI Director you referred to the Clinton investigation as a matter–I just want to make sure I understand–but you did not instruct the Director when he testified in front of Congress to call it a matter. Is that accurate?”
Lynch: “I said that I had been referring to –I had been using the phraseology: We’ve received a referral. Because we received a public referral, which we were confirming. And that is Department policy, that when we receive a public referral from any agency, that we confirm the referral but we neither confirm nor deny the investigation. That’s actually a standard DOJ policy.”
Comey Had Earlier Testified That Loretta Lynch Directed Him to Refer to the Investigation as a ‘Matter’
What did Comey say, specifically? You can see one comment he made on the situation in this transcript of Comey’s testimony and above.
(John) Ratcliffe: “One of those I believe you’ve testified previously was the fact that the Attorney General had asked you to refer to this investigation as a matter, correct?”
Comey: “That is correct.”
In June 2017, this is what Comey testified: “At one point, the attorney general had directed me not to call it an investigation but instead to call it a matter, which confused me and concerned me. That was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude I have to step away from the department if we’re to close this case credibly.” Comey was under oath at the time.
Comey continued (you can see this comment on the video below): “The Clinton campaign, at the time, was using all kind of euphemisms — security review, matters, things like that, for what was going on. We were getting to a place where the attorney general, and I were both going to have to testify and talk publicly about it. And I wanted to know, was she going to authorize us to confirm we had an investigation? And she said, ‘Yes, but don’t call it that, call it a matter.’ And I said, ‘Why would I do that?’ And she said, ‘Just call it a matter.’”
Added Comey: “Should I have resisted harder? I just said, all right, this isn’t a hill worth dying on. So I just said, OK, the press is going to completely ignore it, and that’s what happened. When I said, ‘We have opened a matter,’ they all reported the FBI has an investigation open. So that concerned me because that language tracked the way the campaign was talking about the FBI’s work. and that’s concerning.” Read a transcript here.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma said, “It gave the impression the campaign was using the same language as the FBI because you were handed the campaign language and told to be able to use the campaign language.”
Comey: “I don’t know whether it was intentional or not. But it gave the impression that the Attorney General was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way a political campaign was describing the same activity. Which was inaccurate. We had a criminal investigation open…and so that gave me a queasy feeling.”
At the time, Lynch’s former spokeswoman Melanie Newman lashed out at Comey for the comments, writing on Twitter, “The irony of him throwing Lynch under the bus but claiming victim with Trump is THICK. He needs to be called on this. #ComeyHearing.”