WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters today that President Trump’s meetings and phone calls with James Comey that the former FBI director said made him feel uncomfortable occurred because Trump is “just new to this.”
“I think people now realize why the president is so frustrated. When the FBI director tells him on three different occasions he’s not under investigation, yet the speculation swirls around the political system that he is, that’s frustrating,” Ryan said at his weekly press conference as Comey was testifying in the Senate.
“Of course, the president’s frustrated. And I think the American people now know why he was so frustrated: Because this speculation was allowed to swirl when he was being directly told by the FBI director he wasn’t under investigation.”
Comey said that he told Trump he was not, at the time Comey was in office, a target of the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into Russia’s campaign influence operation. He testified today that one senior FBI leader disagreed with Comey’s decision to tell Trump on the basis that “it could be misleading, because the nature of the investigation was such that it might well touch — obviously, it would touch the campaign, and the person at the head of the campaign would be the candidate.”
Comey outlined his conversations with Trump, after which he took memos, in a seven-page opening statement released Wednesday.
“Look, as far as the conversations and all of that, I’m not going to speculate on any of this,” Ryan said. “I would just add that of course there needs to be a degree of independence between DOJ, FBI and a White House and a line of communications established.”
Comey said that after an Oval Office meeting at which Attorney General Jeff Sessions and all other administration officials left the room, leaving Trump to allegedly tell Comey that he hoped the FBI could let go of the investigation into former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, he went to speak with Sessions. “I told the AG that what had just happened – him being asked to leave while the FBI director, who reports to the AG, remained behind – was inappropriate and should never happen,” Comey said. “He did not reply.”
Ryan explained today, “The president’s new at this. He’s new to government. And so, he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White House. He’s just new to this.” Under later questioning about that statement, he said, “I’m not saying it’s an acceptable excuse. It’s just my observation. It’s just my observation.”
The Speaker reiterated that on the Russia probes he’s “not going to pre-judge this stuff.”
“Because what I won’t want to do is in the middle of a House Intelligence Committee investigation, a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, now an independent counsel, is to speculate on the day-to-day intrigue of all of these issues,” he said.