WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) discussed election security and questioned former FBI Director James Comey in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled “Oversight of the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation: Day 3.”

On mail-in ballots, Senator Coons said, “Current FBI Director Wray has said the FBI has not seen evidence of any coordinated voter fraud effort. Over thirty million people voted by mail or absentee 4 years ago in 2016. In your time as FBI director, did you see any evidence of widespread or coordinated voter fraud?” The former FBI director replied, “No.”

On the business ahead of the Senate and the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Coons concluded,“We’re in the middle of a pandemic, an economic crisis, a time of heightened racial tension and concern about criminal justice. And instead of dedicating the next week or two to finalizing a next round of COVID relief, we're going to be spending our time at least here – not looking at election security for 2020, not dedicating our time to a next round of pandemic relief, but participating in a rushed and partisan process to confirm a next Supreme Court Justice. It is important to remind folks that our elections are being attacked at this very moment, that we know from recent testimony by the current FBI director that there continues to be a foreign interference in our elections.”

On the 2016-7 Crossfire Hurricane investigation, Senator Coons asked Director Comey, “did you believe politics would play a role in the [Michael] Flynn case?” Comey replied, “no, I knew it would play no role.”Senator Coons continued, “So during your time at the FBI, under the previous administration, were you ever pressured to take an investigative step or support a conclusion that was not based on the facts and the law?” Comey replied, “No.”

Full video is available here.  A transcript is provided below.

Sen. Coons: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Comey, for your testimony today and for engaging with us in this vigorous and thorough review of matters that occurred now 4 and 5 years ago, but that remain relevant and important. But I want to remind all of us the context in which this hearing is taking place. We have thirty-four days until our presidential election – more than half the states have already started voting. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, an economic crisis, a time of heightened racial tension and concern about criminal justice. And instead of dedicating the next week or two to finalizing a next round of COVID relief, we're going to be spending our time at least here – not looking at election security for 2020, not dedicating our time to a next round of pandemic relief, but participating in a rushed and partisan process to confirm a next Supreme Court Justice. It is important to remind folks that our elections are being attacked at this very moment, that we know from recent testimony by the current FBI director that there continues to be a foreign interference in our elections. And so I think at some level, there is irony in light of the fact that last night our currently serving president said and did things to undermine some of the legitimacy of our upcoming election. Let me start with just a few questions about that if I might, Mr. Comey. Current FBI Director Wray has said the FBI has not seen evidence of any coordinated voter fraud effort. Over thirty million people voted by mail or absentee 4 years ago in 2016. In your time as FBI director, did you see any evidence of widespread or coordinated voter fraud?

Mr. Comey: No.

Sen. Coons: And last night, repeated allegations were made by President Trump of mail-in voting being subject to widespread fraud. Do comments like this work to undermine democratic legitimacy and in any way serve the interests of our opponents who are seeking to spread disinformation and attack mail-in voting?   

Mr. Comey: Well, I don't think I'm qualified to respond on the particular comment. Obviously our adversaries, especially Russia, have as their primary goal dividing us and dirtying up the democratic enterprise.

Sen. Coons: Let me just say to the core issues that have been discussed and debated here. I've joined Senators Leahy and Lee in an amendment to try and promote FISA reform. I agree that we need our FISA process to be sound, to be transparent, to be something the American people can believe in. And I think the Inspector General's recommendations address some of these key issues and give us a road map for a number of the things that have to be addressed. But I also frankly am concerned about the way in which the current FBI director has been under relentless criticism and assault, and there seems to me to be, from our president, a politicization, a backwards looking series of attacks. Let me just ask you a few questions about that if I might. President Trump has repeatedly referred to something he calls Obamagate. He has said it is worse than Watergate. Are you aware of any evidence that President Obama or former Vice President Biden has committed any federal crime?

Mr. Comey: No.

Sen. Coons: Did you ever see any evidence that President Obama or Vice President Biden targeted any individual for investigation based on politics or their political views?

Mr. Comey: Never.

Sen. Coons: There was a January 5th, 2017 meeting at the White House. Was Peter Strzok at that meeting in the Oval Office?

Mr. Comey: No.

Sen. Coons: And at the meeting, did either President Obama or Vice President Biden suggest prosecuting Lieutenant General Flynn under the Logan Act? Would you remember that if that suggestion had been made to you?

Mr. Comey: I would remember it because it would be highly inappropriate for a president or vice president to suggest prosecution or investigation of anyone, and it did not happen.

Sen. Coons: At that meeting on January 5th at the White House in 2017, did President Obama give any indication that he wanted to direct the course of a criminal investigation into General Flynn's comment?

Mr. Comey: No.

Sen. Coons: And when you left the meeting, did you believe politics would play a role in the Flynn case? 

Mr. Comey: No, I knew it would play no role.

Sen. Coons: So during your time at the FBI under the previous administration, were you ever pressured to take an investigative step or support a conclusion that was not based on the facts and the law?

Mr. Comey: No.

Sen. Coons: But only weeks after his inauguration, my recollection is President Trump asked you to drop the investigation into Lieutenant General Flynn and to let this go. Is that accurate?

Mr. Comey: Yes, February 14th.

Sen. Coons: So my concern, broadly speaking, is that we have seen politics injected into our justice system countless times over the last four years. Is there any doubt in your mind that Lieutenant General Flynn lied to the FBI about his conversations with the Russians?

Mr. Comey: None. I saw publicly he pled guilty to it twice.

Sen. Coons: Can you explain why lying to the FBI strikes at the heart of our criminal justice system? 

Mr. Comey: Because the FBI's ability to figure out what's going on in a criminal investigation or counterintelligence investigation is at the core of our ability to protect the American people. If we don't hear the truth, see the truth, gather the truth – we can't achieve the mission.

Sen. Coons: There's been a lot of discussion today about the so-called Steele dossier. Did the Crossfire Hurricane team rely on information from that dossier in its decision to open the investigation? 

Mr. Comey: No, not at all.

Sen. Coons: Was the team even aware of the information when they opened the investigation?

Mr. Comey: No, I think it was two months later that the Steele information came to the crossfire hurricane team.

Sen. Coons: So when you said earlier that this was an appropriately predicated and opened investigation, it’s because of that difference in time and sources, and the basis on which those decisions were made?

Mr. Comey: Correct. As the Inspector General found, in opening it, we complied with the policies and regulations that govern the opening of a counterintelligence investigation. We should have been fired - there ought to have been a hearing if we didn't investigate given the evidence that we were given by a foreign – friendly foreign government. 

Sen. Coons: And last when he testified to this committee in June, Rod Rosenstein suggested he did not  believe that any of the 199 criminal counts that resulted from the Mueller investigation relied on information provided by Steele. Do you have any reason to doubt that assessment?

Mr. Comey: I have no reason to doubt that.

Sen. Coons: I just want to thank you for your appearance before us today. There are many urgent things we could and should be working on together. It is my hope we will get back to them. I do agree the FISA process requires transparency and improvement, but frankly I think there's a connect the dots game going on here that doesn't connect, and I am gravely concerned about ongoing efforts to denigrate and politicize the FBI today. Thank you, Mr. Comey, for your testimony.

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