During a wide-ranging interview with NBC’s Lester Holt on Monday, former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch suggested that former FBI Director James Comey was less than truthful during his Senate testimony last year. The point of contention is Comey’s claim that when Lynch directed him to refer to the Hillary Clinton email probe as a “matter” rather than an “investigation,” it had made him feel “queasy.” According to Lynch, they had discussed the issue fully and Comey, at the time, had no problem with it.
“He said it made him feel strange,” Holt reminded Lynch during the exclusive interview. “He noted it. What did you mean when you said matter instead and not a investigation?”
“I heard about that testimony,” Lynch responded. “I didn’t watch it at the time, but it was brought to my attention later and people were raising it with me.”
“My first response was, ‘where, what is the issue here?’ I remember specifically talking with him — as we talked about sensitive things on a number of occasions,” she continued. “We often would have to discuss sensitive matters, sensitive issues, terrorism and the like, law enforcement policy and the like.”
“This was a very sensitive investigation, as everyone knew,” she continued. “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, when we typically do not confirm or deny investigations into anything, with rare exceptions.”
“I can tell you that it was a meeting like any other that we had had, where we talked about the issues,” Lynch added when Holt asked if Comey questioned her “credibility” with regard to the Clinton investigation. “We had a full and open discussion about it.”
“Concerns were not raised,” she said, contradicting Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June of 2017:
In Comey’s June 2017 Senate testimony, he said: “At one point the attorney general directed me not to call it an ‘investigation’ but instead to call it a ‘matter,’ which confused me and concerned me.”
He told Senator James Lankford (R-OK) he was concerned because although the FBI had refused to acknowledge the existence of an investigation — as he admitted they typically do — the investigation had reached a point where that stance “looked silly.”
He explained that “the Clinton campaign at the time was using all kinds of euphemisms … to explain 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 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,’” Comey recalled.
He added that he didn’t think it was “a hill worth dying on,” so he went along and called it a “matter.” The former FBI director said it was concerning to him because the language lined up with the way “a political campaign” was talking about the investigation. “And it was inaccurate,” he added. “We had a criminal investigation open at the time, so that gave me a queasy feeling,” Comey said.