Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch says former FBI Director James Comey didn’t appear concerned by the decision to call an inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s private email server a “matter” rather than an “investigation.”
Lynch’s comments in an interview with NBC News on Monday are in contrast to congressional testimony Comey gave last June, when he said her handling of the probe gave him a “queasy feeling.”
Lynch said that her meeting with Comey about the probe “was a meeting like any other we had where we talked about the issues. We had a full and open discussion about it.”
“Concerns were not raised,” she added.
When asked if Comey was wrong when he announced the findings of the probe, Lynch called his public announcement “an unusual move.” “It was a different way to deliver a recommendation to the attorney general,” she said.
She also said she did not think Comey should have been fired, saying the FBI and Justice Department had carried out their “tremendous responsibilities under a great deal of pressure.” She said was “surprised as any American” at the news of Comey’s dismissal.
Last year, after being fired by President Donald Trump, Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee and said that Lynch, an appointee of Democratic former President Barack Obama, directed him to not call the probe into Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state an “investigation.”
“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,” he said, adding that it gave him a “queasy feeling.”
Lynch told NBC her first response to the testimony was: “What is the issue here?”
“This was a very sensitive investigation, as everyone knew. And the issue when he and I sat down at that time, which I think was early in the fall of 2015, was whether or not we were ready as a department to confirm an investigation going on,” Lynch said. “We typically do not confirm or deny investigations into anything, with rare exceptions.”
Comey said during his 2017 testimony that the denial of an investigation for so long “was getting to a place where it started to look silly because the campaigns were talking about interacting with FBI.”
“That language tracked the way the (Clinton) campaign was talking about the FBI’s work and that’s concerning,” Comey said, adding that although he didn’t know if it was intentional, it gave the impression that Lynch was trying to align the Justice Department’s language with the Clinton campaign’s best interests.
The handling of the Clinton investigation has been the subject of much debate, with House Republicans calling for investigations into the Justice Department and FBI’s conduct.
Last month, Trump accused the Justice Department of “slow walking” the delivery of subpoenaed documents related to Republicans’ probe. Over the weekend, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked the US attorney in Chicago, John Lausch, to oversee the document production process.
Lynch’s interview came one week before Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies & Leadership,” is released.
Comey is expected to address the issues that plagued his tenure leading the FBI in his book and during a promotional press circuit later this month. On April 15, Comey will give his first interview since being fired with ABC News. CNN’s Jake Tapper will interview Comey on April 19 and on April 25 Anderson Cooper will host a town hall with the former FBI director.
CNN’s Laura Jarrett, Jeremy Herb, Manu Raju and David Shortell contributed to this report.