Several Democratic lawmakers have expressed outrage after emerging from a classified briefing with FBI Director James Comey. The details of the meeting have not been disclosed, but were reportedly in relation to the accusations that the Russian government had interfered in the 2016 election.
On Jan. 13, Comey briefed members of the House on Capitol Hill about the alleged Russian hacking and leaking of data from Democratic organizations and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's campaign. House Democrats left the meeting almost unanimously upset.
"I'm disappointed, outraged -- many of us are right now," Democratic Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota told The Hill. "I'll wait to pass judgment, but the exchange that just happened in the final minutes gives me no reason to have confidence."
Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, stated that the meeting had left him "extremely concerned -- extremely."
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Democratic Rep. Mark Takano of California exited the briefing telling reporters: "I'm very angry."
The meeting occurred a day after the Department of Justice inspector general Michael E. Horowitz opened up a review of Comey's conduct during the 2016 presidential election.
The investigation will focus on the FBI director's decision to publicly comment on his bureau's investigation into Clinton's use of a private server in July 2016 and his controversial letter to Congress in October 2016, The New York Times reports.
When Comey announced in July that he would not recommend charges against Clinton for her use of a private server while at the State Department, he sharply criticized her decision, a break from usual FBI protocol on investigations. In October, just 11 days before the election, Comey informed Congress of emails possibly related to Clinton's server that had yet to be investigated. Those emails ultimately proved to be irrelevant to the FBI's probe of the Clinton server.
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On Jan. 10, CNN reported that both Trump and President Barack Obama had been briefed on a unverified intelligence dossier alleging that the Russian government had compromising intelligence on the president-elect. The unverified report also alleged that the Trump campaign had been in communication with Russian intelligence and had known of their efforts to hack and damage the Clinton campaign.
That same day, Comey testified before Congress about the alleged Russian hack. Democratic lawmakers pressed the FBI director on whether or not his bureau had investigated the Trump campaign for possible contacts with Russia.
"I would never comment on investigations -- whether we have one or not -- in an open forum like this so I can't answer one way or another," Comey responded, according to the Associated Press.
It is unclear whether these events played any role in Democrats' outrage following their meeting with Comey. The House Minority Leader, Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, stated that she had not lost faith in the FBI but was curious to see what the DOJ investigation would turn up.
Meanwhile, Walz asserted that he had lost confidence in Comey's fitness to head the FBI.
"I was nonjudgmental until the last 15 minutes," Walz said. "I no longer have that confidence in him. Some of the things that were revealed in this classified briefing -- my confidence has been shook."