Former FBI Director James B. Comey berated Republicans on Monday, saying members of his former political party are embarrassing themselves by failing to defend the bureau or stand up to President Trump.
Emerging from a second day of closed-door testimony to two House committees, Mr. Comey said the president’s “mean tweets” have unfairly fed the public’s dissatisfaction with the FBI and its handling of probes into Russian election meddling and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s secret emails.
He also defended his own decisions as the bureau’s director during those probes, saying he and his agents followed procedures in collecting information and interviewing the president’s aides, including one-time National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
He said Republican members of Congress should cool their criticism, and he repeated chided Fox News, saying it fed the frenzy.
“Republicans used to understand the actions of a president matter, the words of a president matter, the rule of law matters and the truth matters. Where are those Republicans today?” Mr. Comey said.
GOP lawmakers, about to lose the power of the gavel when they slip into the minority next year, had wanted one last crack at Mr. Comey, who they saw as the center of botched decisions at the FBI not to investigate Mrs. Clinton and instead to focus on Mr. Trump.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders slammed Mr. Comey Monday night as a “shameless fraud.”
“Republicans should stand up to Comey and his tremendous corruption – from the fake Hillary Clinton investigation to lying and leaking, to FISA abuse, and a list too long to name,” she tweeted. “The President did the country a service by firing him and exposing him for the shameless fraud he is.”
Monday’s six-hour hearing happened behind closed doors, but Mr. Comey has insisted a transcript be released within 24 hours as one of his conditions for testifying. He said that was intended to prevent Republicans from misconstruing what he said.
He had the same arrangement for a previous day of testimony earlier this month.
Democrats see the grilling as a purely political move by Republicans, after they lost the majority in the midterms.
“Most of his adult life he spent in law enforcement, so that is a resource and knowledge you have to appreciate, and I don’t see much appreciation from the other side,” said Rep. Lacy Clay, Missouri Democrat.
Republicans headed into the meeting with questions about new revelations from Flynn that FBI agents bypassed the White House counsel’s office when they first interviewed him over discrepancies in his accounts about contacts with the Russian government during the presidential transition. The FBI agents also didn’t advise Flynn he could have a lawyer present and did not explicitly warn him against lying.
“Here we have Director Comey, who was suggesting he knows what protocol was, and he violated that protocol by actually going around White House counsel. I think he knew better. I don’t understand why he did it,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican.
Mr. Comey said agents handled the interview properly, and questioned Republicans’ motives.
“They’re up here attacking the reputation of a guy, who pled guilty to lying to the FBI,” Mr. Comey said. “Think of the state of affairs we ended up in — that’s nonsense.”
Republicans have also called for former Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to meet with them behind closed doors to answer similar questions about her actions and decisions regarding the probe into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email account. She’s been sharply criticized for meeting privately on a tarmac with former President Bill Clinton while his wife was under investigation.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.
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