SOTU LYNCH Bill Clinton_00000000
Lynch on Bill Clinton meeting: 'He's a talker'
03:58 - Source: CNN

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FBI Director James Comey testified Wednesday before a Senate committee

Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton met on the tarmac last June

Washington CNN  — 

Last year’s now-infamous airport tarmac meeting between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton was a crucial moment for FBI Director James Comey, he said Wednesday, marking the moment he decided that the Department of Justice was not capable of an independent investigation into Hillary Clinton.

“A number of things had gone on which I can’t talk about yet, that made me worry that the department leadership could not credibly complete the investigation and decline prosecution without grievous damage to the American people’s confidence in the justice system,” Comey said, testifying before the Senate judiciary committee.

“And then the capper was – and I’m not picking on the attorney general, Loretta Lynch, who I like very much – but her meeting with President Clinton on that airplane was the capper for me, and I then said, you know what, the department cannot, by itself, credibly end this,” he added.

Comey indicated that he was already moving towards a decision to announce the investigation’s conclusion on his own because he believed top DOJ officials couldn’t do it and be viewed as impartial.

For Comey, Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton was the last straw.

Lynch and Bill Clinton met privately in Phoenix in June 2016 after the two realized they were on the same tarmac, an aide to the former president told CNN at the time.

The criticism of the meeting prompted Lynch to say that she would accept the determinations and findings of the FBI and career prosecutors who were investigating the Democratic presidential candidate over her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

RELATED: James Comey explains why he alerted Congress right before the election on Clinton’s emails

A spokesman for President Bill Clinton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Comey has faced fierce criticism – including during Wednesday’s hearing – for his alerting Congress just before the election of the FBI search of Anthony Weiner’s computer because it might have relevant information to the Clinton investigation. The emails found on the computer did not change the determination of the FBI’s probe, and Clinton went on to lose the election to Donald Trump.