Criminal Justice

Senate Judiciary Committee to probe circumstances of Comey's firing from the FBI

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Screengrab of former FBI director James Comey speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will investigate the circumstances of President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey as it probes attempts to influence the agency’s investigations over the course of two administrations.

Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, revealed the committee’s plans in a letter (PDF) released Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports.

The probe “could examine the thorny question of whether Mr. Trump improperly interfered in an ongoing investigation” by firing Comey, according to the newspaper. The Hill and the Washington Examiner also have stories.

Grassley’s letter was in response to a request by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, also the top Democrat on the committee. Feinstein has asked the committee to investigate Trump’s interactions with Comey. In a television interview, she also said the committee should investigate actions by former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Grassley said Comey’s firing and Lynch’s actions should both be investigated.

“The Judiciary Committee has an obligation to fully investigate any alleged improper partisan interference in law enforcement investigations,” Grassley wrote. “It is my view that fully investigating the facts, circumstances, and rationale for Mr. Comey’s removal will provide us the opportunity to do that on a cooperative, bipartisan basis.”

Comey had said in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last Thursday that Lynch directed him to refer to the agency’s probe of Clinton’s server as “a matter” rather than an investigation. Grassley also cited congressional testimony indicating that Comey appeared to question the whether leadership of the Justice Department had, in Grassley’s words, “independence from political motivations.”

In a tweet on Tuesday, Trump said Lynch gave Hillary Clinton “a free pass” and “made law enforcement decisions for political purposes.”

Grassley said investigations of Comey’s firing and Lynch’s actions should be intertwined because Trump had initially cited Comey’s handling of the Clinton probe as one reason for his firing.

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