Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and the committee's ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speak on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, as FBI Director James Comey testified before the committee's hearing: "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and the committee's ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speak on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, as FBI Director James Comey testified before the committee's hearing: "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Grassley holds Comey’s feet to fire

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By Maria Curi | maria-curi@uiowa.edu

While FBI Director James Comey confirmed the agency is still investigating ties between the Russian government and President Trump’s administration as well as continued Russian involvement in U.S. politics at a Wednesday Senate panel hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, focused on his issues with the agency.

“A cloud of doubt hangs over the FBI’s objectivity,” Grassley said, kicking off the four-hour hearing.

Grassley began by saying it is “frustrating” when members of the FBI do not answer the committee’s questions but give information to the media.

“If I, Chuck Grassley, as a private citizen, file a Freedom of Information Act and you give me more information than you give Sen. Chuck Grassley, how do you justify that,” Grassley asked Comey.

The director denied being an anonymous source in news reports or authorizing any FBI members to be an anonymous source in news reports as well as sharing classified information relating Trump’s administration to the media.

In regard to the WikiLeaks spread of classified documents, Grassley questioned how the Justice Department could rule out FBI officials in its investigation of the leaks.

“There are several senior FBI officials who would’ve had access to the classified information that was leaked, including yourself and the deputy director,” Grassley said. “So how can the Justice Department guarantee the integrity of the investigations without designating an agency, other than the FBI, to gather the facts and eliminate senior FBI officials as suspects?”

Comey responded by saying in instances where FBI leadership are suspects, a third investigative agency steps in led by federal prosecutors, as seen before.

Later in the hearing, Comey referred to WikiLeaks as “intelligence porn” and not journalism.

“To my mind, it crosses a line when it moves from being about trying to educate a public and instead just becomes about intelligence porn, frankly,”  Comey said. “Just pushing out information about sources and methods without regard to interest, without regard to the First Amendment values that normally underlie press reporting, and simply becomes a conduit for the Russian intelligence services or some other adversary of the United States.”

In October 2016, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that Russia hacked and the Democratic National Committee’s email server and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential-campaign Chairman John Podesta’s personal email and gave the results to WikiLeaks. In 2017, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified that Russian meddling also included the spread of disinformation on social media. At Wednesday’s hearing, Comey confirmed that the FBI’s investigation into Russian ties with Trump’s campaign is ongoing.

“Do you stand by your testimony that there is an active … counterintelligence investigation regarding Trump campaign individuals in the Russian government as to whether not to collaborate?” asked Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “Is that still going on?”

“Yes,” Comey responded.