Lawmakers from two House committees interviewed former FBI Director James Comey behind closed doors Friday, likely the last time they will do so before Republicans in the chamber cede power to Democrats in January.
House Republicans indicated they were not satisfied with Comey's answers and said they might try to bring him back another day. House Democrats accused the Republicans of asking politically motivated questions.
By tapping former Attorney General William Barr to head the Justice Department again, U.S. President Donald Trump has picked a highly experienced Republican lawyer who is not known as a partisan in the same vein as ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Barr, 68, served as first deputy attorney general and then as attorney general from 1989 to 1993 under the late President George H.W. Bush.
Comey spoke to reporters after the conclusion of the interview, criticizing both the content of the questions and the fact that the hearing was behind closed doors.
"After a full day of questioning, two things are clear to me: One, we could have done this in open setting, and two, when you read the transcript, you will see that we're talking again about Hillary Clinton's emails for heaven's sakes," Comey said.
Comey was subpoenaed last month to testify about investigations into the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia and the emails of then-candidate Donald Trump's rival, Clinton.
California Congressman Darrell Issa said Comey had two lawyers during Friday's interview and said they repeatedly instructed Comey not to answer "a great many questions that are clearly items at the core of our investigation."
President Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was in touch as far back as 2015 with a Russian who offered "political synergy'' with the Trump election campaign, the federal special counsel said Friday in a court filing.
Filings by prosecutors from both New York and the Trump-Russia special counsel's office laid out for the first time details of the cooperation of Cohen, a vital witness who once said he'd "take a bullet'' for the president but who in recent months has become a prime antagonist and pledged to come clean with the government.
Federal prosecutors said Friday that Cohen
President Trump echoed that criticism in a tweet Friday: "It is being reported that Leakin' James Comey was told by Department of Justice attorneys not to answer the most important questions. Total bias and corruption at the highest levels of previous Administration. Force him to answer the questions under oath!"
Democrats disagreed that Comey wasn't being cooperative and complained that the session was not public.
"This was, again, a frivolous attempt by Republicans to drag old investigations into the limelight," said Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. She said Comey "asked for this to be a public hearing, which we believe it should. And so in 24 hours, the full transcript should be released to the press."
Comey initially resisted appearing before the House committees, arguing the GOP-led investigation in the decision-making by the FBI and the Justice Department in 2016 and 2017 was politically motivated. He also called for the hearing to be held in public.
However, he later agreed to the closed-door interviews after gaining a promise that a transcript of the session with the House Judiciary as well as the House Oversight committees would be released to the public after 24 hours.
Trump has repeatedly called the Russia probe a "witch hunt" and accused Comey and his close colleagues of being corrupt.
In one of a series of tweets early Friday, the president criticized Comey and the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russia's hacking of the 2016 U.S. national election.
U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to federal investigators about a payment and contacts with Trump administration officials, the U.S. special counsel investigating whether Trump's 2016 campaign colluded with Russia said in a court filing on Friday.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office submitted the filing to a U.S.
"Robert Mueller and Leakin' Lyin' James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest...," the president tweeted.
Robert Mueller and Leakin%27 Lyin%27 James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest. And bye the way, wasn%27t the woman in charge of prosecuting Jerome Corsi (who I do not know) in charge of "legal" at the corrupt Clinton Foundation? A total Witch Hunt...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018
Democrats say Republicans are trying to fuel a conspiracy theory to protect Trump from the ongoing Russia probe led by Mueller.
Democrats say they will scrutinize Trump's attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department when they assume control of the House of Representatives in January. They have also urged their Republican counterparts to shield Mueller from any attempts by Trump or his acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, to impede the investigation.