Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today delivered opening remarks on the firing of FBI Director James Comey at a committee markup.
Senator Feinstein’s full remarks follow:
“I would like to make a few remarks about what has transpired in the last few days. And I was so taken aback by the decision as well as the timing.
The president had said he was firing Director Comey based on a recommendation from the attorney general, Mr. Sessions, and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. And he said “the department is a mess.”
However, the White House publicly stated that the president had based his decision on Attorney General Sessions’ personal recommendation and the Rosenstein memo that outlined concerns regarding Director Comey’s handling of Secretary Clinton’s email investigation.
Initially, I was under the impression that the memo would reflect a thorough analysis of Mr. Comey’s leadership of the bureau along with interviews of current and former agents, as well as Department of Justice personnel that work with the FBI. I expected the memo to be a meaningful analysis.
However, it isn’t. I’ve now read it three times. It includes quote after quote of individuals from outside the department, outside the FBI and not at all involved in day-to-day operations or investigations. We have gone through them and annotated them
And let me just give you some of the sources from the quotations on page two of the memo.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed. Number two, Gorelick and Larry Thompson wrote on 10/29/16 a Washington Post op-ed. Mukasey said this to Fox Business 7/6/16. Gonzalez said this on CNN on 10/31/16. Holder wrote this in a 10/30/16 Washington Post op-ed. Gorelick and Thompson 10/29/16 Washington Post op-ed. From a letter signed by 100 former prosecutors and DOJ officials including Ayer, released by Hillary’s campaign on 10/30/16.
That was all of the quotes. They weren’t from working agents. They weren’t from people currently within the department who would be in a position to assess the performance of the FBI Director.
In fact, one of those individuals who I just quoted was Donald Ayer, the former-deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush. He pushed back. He wrote an email on Tuesday explaining that he didn’t believe the reason Director Comey was fired was because of his mistakes in handling the Clinton investigation. Specifically, Ayer wrote that such reasoning is a “sham” and his quote was being used to justify “firing for a different reason.”
Since the release of the memo, however, other explanations have been provided for why Director Comey was fired.
When asked yesterday by the press why he fired Comey, the president stated, “He wasn’t doing a good job. Very simply. He wasn’t not doing a good job.” These are direct quotes. And a bold conclusion with no explanation, no examples, no evidence whatsoever.
Then Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, stated the president had “lost confidence in Director Comey, and frankly, he’d been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected.”
She went on to say that Comey had committed “atrocities—atrocities—inn circumventing the chain of command” at the Justice Department and had thrown a “stick of dynamite” at the department by announcing his recommendation not to bring criminal charges against Secretary Clinton. Now this is incendiary and very unjust language.
The deputy White House secretary then added that “the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.” That’s from CBS News on the 10th.
Yet, for years there had been news reports about the rank-and-file’s broad support for the director.
In fact, on the day of the firing, Thomas O'Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association stated, “I'm here today to just say that, you know, we believed in Director Comey’s leadership and that the membership has told me that over and over.”
And yesterday, the New York Times reported: “Agents said they were stunned that Mr. Trump would fire Mr. Comey ... Some said in interviews that news of the firing felt like a gut punch. One senior FBI official said that the president had severely damaged his standing among agents… and agents flatly rejected the assertion that the FBI’s rank-and-file supported the sudden firing of Mr. Comey.”
Almost immediately, however, reports began to surface that the reason Director Comey was being fired was because of the Russia investigation. On Wednesday, the press reported, “Trump had grown angry with the Russia investigation — particularly Comey admitting in front of the Senate that the FBI was investigating his campaign.”
Then later that day CNN reported they had been told by a source close to Director Comey that there are two reasons why the president fired him: One: Comey never provided the president with any assurance of personal loyalty; And two: the acceleration of the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump team and Russia in the 2016 election.
Late last night, the Washington Post also reported that President Trump “had long questioned Comey’s loyalty and judgement” and by last weekend, the president had decided to fire Director Comey. The Post went on to argue that President Trump gave a directive on Monday to Sessions and Rosenstein “to explain in writing the case against Comey.”
If this president expects to directly control the FBI, what decisions they make, what investigations they conduct, then members we have a real problem. Because the FBI must be independent. It must follow fact and law only.
So, what actually was the real reason for Comey’s removal and why is still, to me, very unclear. However, I believe these questions underline the importance of appointing a special counsel. The counsel should come from outside the Justice Department and ensure a thorough and fair investigation proceeds.
Additionally, it’s my understanding that Mr. Horowitz as IG is also doing an investigation. And I certainly support that and I hope the committee will too.”