Comey says Nunes demand for classified FBI data is dangerous
By CHRIS STROHM | Bloomberg News | Published: May 12, 2018
WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — A demand by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes for the Justice Department and FBI to turn over classified information about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is extremely dangerous to the U.S., former FBI Director James Comey said.
"You cannot overstate the danger in that kind of behavior to the security of the United States," Comey said at an event in Washington Friday hosted by the Brookings Institution.
Nunes is demanding that the Federal Bureau of Investigation reveal to him details about a U.S. citizen who has served as an intelligence source for the probe into Russia meddling, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
"I thought everyone understood that the absolute core of the intelligence community, including the FBI, is its human sources," Comey said. "That's really all the FBI is, that's really all the CIA is."
Senior Justice, FBI and intelligence officials met Thursday at the Justice Department with Nunes and House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy to discuss the request. Nunes and Gowdy said after the meeting that no agreement was reached and they plan to keep talking.
Nunes issued a subpoena for the information, a move that House Speaker Paul Ryan has defended as appropriate.
Comey called on Republicans, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and congressional leaders, to take a stand in defending the Justice Department against political attacks from President Donald Trump and his allies, including one of his lawyers, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Nunes has threatened to pursue contempt proceedings against Sessions, citing the department's denial of sharing classified information.
Comey said he believes Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is now acting "honorably" – a remarkable statement given that Trump cited a letter from Rosenstein sharply critical of the FBI chief in firing him a year ago this week.
"He has worked very hard to protect the prerogatives of the special counsel and the department," Comey said of Rosenstein. "The deputy attorney general is doing fine. I'd like to see him getting some more top cover from the attorney general."
Comey said his understanding is that FBI agents "feel under siege" by the attacks but believe they'll be OK in the long run.
"The bureau is not politicized," Comey said. "That's a lie. It's being politically attacked."
In another development tied to the Russia probe, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley renewed demands for documents concerning the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, including the transcript of his interview with the committee and a call with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Grassley says Flynn's guilty plea means "the investigation appears concluded," although he has yet to be sentenced.
"Although the case is not yet adjudicated, the committee's oversight interest in the underlying documents requested more than a year ago now outweighs any legitimate executive branch interest in withholding it," according to the letter.
Grassley said the committee wants to compare an FBI interview with Flynn that showed no signs of him lying with contradictory public comments later made by Comey.
With assistance from Anna Edgerton.
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