Attorney general nominee William Barr on Tuesday criticized former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, saying that Comey “disregarded the normal procedures” in his handling of the case.
During Barr’s confirmation hearing Tuesday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) asked the nominee if he’d ever “seen a situation where an FBI director would usurp the authority of the Department of Justice to make that charging decision” and subsequently discuss “derogatory information” while also announcing a recommendation against prosecution, as Comey did with Clinton.
“I’ve never seen that, and I thought it was weird at the time,” Barr responded, before saying he assumed at the time that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Comey had agreed ahead of time that Comey would make the announcement.
MSNBC’s Ari Melber noted, however, that at the time of the press conference, Comey made clear that he hadn’t sought Lynch’s authorization.
Barr defends his reversal by claiming he thought DOJ authorized Comey’s July statement on Clinton — but Comey said the *opposite* at the top of that address:
“I have not coordinated or reviewed this statement in any way with the DOJ.. They do not know what I am about to say.”
— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) January 15, 2019
“Later,” Barr added, “it became clearer, to the extent there’s anything clear about it, that I don’t think Attorney General Lynch had essentially delegated that authority to the director.”
Barr called Comey “gifted” but called his announcement of a decision on the Clinton case “wrong,” and said Comey discussing “negative information” about Clinton was “not the way the Department of Justice does business.”
Responding to a question about Comey re-opening (and then closing) the Clinton probe with days left in the 2016 election, Barr said: “The whole sequence was very herky jerky and bizarre.”
“It sort of shows you what happens when you start disregarding the normal procedures and established practice,” he said, “is that you sort of dig yourself into a deeper and deeper hole.”
Barr criticizes Comey's handling of the Clinton email probe. pic.twitter.com/ufV4U44fqm
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) January 15, 2019
This post has been updated.