FBI Advised Comey to Consult with Mueller’s Office Prior to June 2017 Senate Testimony, Emails Show
A government watchdog group may have finally unearthed evidence of collusion in the Russia investigation -- but not on the part of the Trump campaign. The collusion would be on the part of special counsel Robert Mueller and fired FBI director James Comey.
According to new Department of Justice (DOJ) emails obtained by Judicial Watch, Comey -- a key witness in the investigation -- was advised by FBI officials in May 2017 to consult with Mueller for advice prior to testifying before “any congressional committee” about the investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with Russia. Judicial Watch obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the DOJ.
The emails also show that Comey was advised to seek Mueller's advice regarding the circumstances surrounding his firing before providing testimony to Congress.
According to numerous news reports, Comey met directly with Mueller previous to his June 8, 2017, testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sources said that Comey’s opening statement and subsequent testimony were coordinated with Mueller.
During that June 8, 2017, hearing, Comey assailed Trump, calling him dishonest, and revealed that he leaked content from his memo to spur the appointment of the special counsel.
"I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter," Comey said at the time. "Didn’t do it myself, for a variety of reasons. But I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel."
Both the DOJ and FBI have stated that Department of Justice leaks were unauthorized and comparable to WikiLeaks' disclosures.
Comey received notices to testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee on May 17, 2017. An email chain started the very next day with the subject line “Future testimony.” On the chain were then-FBI Chief of Staff James Rybicki, then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Assistant Director Gregory Brower, Comey, and others discussing Comey’s upcoming testimony.
The email chain begins on May 18 at 6:30 pm, with Comey writing to Rybicki to confirm that he had accepted the invitation to testify before the (deep state-friendly) Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) but declined the invitations from the less-friendly Senate Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee.
An email from a redacted sender, apparently Comey, to Rybicki dated May 19 at 11:49 am reads:
I just got off a call with Senators Burr and Warner. They would like to have a hearing next Wednesday at which I testify, first in open session and then in closed, if necessary. I asked them not to announce it until I check with FBI/DOJ to see if you want to discuss anything before they do that. I told them I had asked for guidance on any institutional prerogatives and for the opportunity to review any documents FBI has produced that relate to me. I told them I would communicate with them by the end of the day to either ask them to hold announcing the Wednesday hearing or go ahead.
On May 19 at 2:10 pm, Rybicki writes back:
Director: We just met to discuss the requests outlined in the two emails below. Before responding the General Counsel has asked me to confirm that you have discussed with the attorneys representing you, and that you are comfortable discussing these issues with us rather than communicating through your counsel.
On May 19 at 3:02 pm, a redacted sender, likely Comey, responds to Rybicki: “Yes and yes.”
Also in this chain, on May 19 at 4:11 pm, Rybicki writes to McCabe, FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich, former FBI General Counsel James A. Baker, Brower, Elizabeth Beers and other redacted names:
Please see a DRAFT response to Director Comey (below). I will hold pending further direction….
In response to your emails below we have consulted with executive management here, including the General Counsel, and recommend the following:
That your counsel convey any acceptance or declinations to invitations to testify directly to the Committees.
That your counsel consult with Special Counsel Mueller to determine the timing of any such testimony and,
The Office of General Counsel stands ready to discuss with you in consultation with the Department of Justice and the Special Counsel, institutional privileges or prerogatives that may be presented by any such testimony.