McCain: I Fumbled My Inquiry During Comey Hearing Because Of Graham

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., walks from his Senate office as Congress returns from the August recess to face work on immigration, the debt limit, funding the government, and help for victims of Hurricane Harvey, in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017.  Earlier, McCain declared President Donald Trump’s decision to phase out an Obama administration program that has protected hundreds of thousands of young immigrants “the wrong approach” at a time when Republicans and Democrats need to work together.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Calling his line of questioning during former FBI Director James Comey’s June 8 testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee “a colossal screw-up,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said he got distracted by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) just minutes before it was his turn to question Comey.

During an interview with Esquire last week, McCain said his staff had meticulously prepared for the hearing, but he messed up by asking questions about why the FBI was still pursuing the investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election when it had already ended the probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, even though those are two separate investigations that had nothing to do with each other.

McCain told Esquire that a staffer had given him an iPhone with an email from Graham displayed on it, asking McCain to ask Comey some additional questions. McCain didn’t have the password for the iPhone and claimed that after the phone went black he couldn’t unlock it to keep reading.

“I was looking at it and, naturally, the message fades,” McCain told Esquire. “I think, ‘What the fuck am I going to do here?’”

He said he wanted to make sure he asked the questions Graham had sent him because he values their relationship.

“I can’t tell you how important our relationship is, and I knew that this must be important. So I started out trying to remember what was on the app, and, anyway, to make a long story short, I fucked it up,” he said.

McCain said later that he was attempting to ask Comey about his willingness to step beyond his role and publicly state his beliefs about Clinton’s emails and whether he would make the same type of statements about whether President Donald Trump attempted to obstruct justice.

“It was a colossal screw-up. That was such an important hearing. That wasn’t just an ordinary Senate hearing,” McCain said.

McCain originally had another explanation for his line of questioning. Shortly after the hearing he suggested that he was tired after staying up late to watch an Arizona Diamondbacks game.

“Maybe going forward I shouldn’t stay up late watching the Diamondbacks night games.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.
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