Cummings Calls on FBI Director to Disclose Investigative Steps Taken Against Trump Confidants
Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued the following statement after FBI Director James Comey sent an unprecedented letter to Congress on Friday describing investigative steps the FBI is taking regarding emails that may be “pertinent”—but not necessarily “significant”—to the investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails:
“I have great personal respect for Director Comey, and I sincerely believe that he is a man of integrity, independence, and good intentions, but I have grave concerns that the credibility of the FBI could be damaged in immeasurable ways.”
“If it comes out after the election that the FBI kept secret from the American people the fact that it was investigating former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, or seeking access to his emails, or investigating anyone else associated with Trump, then I have no idea how Director Comey will be able to explain his actions. I do not know how Director Comey will justify his decision to withhold information relating to Trump while publicly announcing ongoing investigative steps against his opponent just days before the election.”
“Director Comey broke with longstanding precedent and testified about Secretary Clinton’s case in the interest of ‘transparency’ even though his ‘all star’ team of FBI investigators and Justice Department prosecutors unanimously agreed there was no criminal case. He then submitted to relentless Republican demands to produce the FBI’s interview notes, internal memos, and other evidence in the case. Now he has gone even further by making public future investigative steps the FBI plans to take.”
“In explaining his actions before the House Judiciary Committee, Director Comey testified that he believed this unprecedented level of transparency was appropriate in light of the ‘exceptional circumstances’ in this case.”
“Yet, Director Comey has declined to discuss any details whatsoever in the reported FBI investigation of Donald Trump’s campaign manager and his ties with Russian interests, he has refused to say whether FBI agents are examining Roger Stone’s advance knowledge of WikiLeaks and illegal Russian hacks, and he has provided no information to the public about the FBI’s role in investigating numerous other troubling connections between Donald Trump, his associates, and Russian interests.”
“U.S. intelligence agencies assess that Russian interests are attempting to interfere with the United States election. It is difficult to imagine more exceptional circumstances than these.”
“I am extremely concerned that if information about the FBI investigating Trump confidants does not become public until after the election, Director Comey will have no way to explain why he withheld it beforehand while at the same time disclosing investigative steps relating to Secretary Clinton. The American people expect fundamental fairness from our law enforcement officials, and that is exactly what they deserve.”
The current FBI inquiry appears to relate to emails belonging to Huma Abedin, the vice chair of Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and a laptop she may have shared with her husband, former Congressman Anthony Weiner.
However, multiple press reports indicate that the FBI is also currently investigating the firm of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and its potentially illegal ties to Russian interests.
To date, Director Comey has declined to confirm publicly the existence of the Manafort investigation or describe any investigative steps the FBI is taking, such as seeking access to emails. Manafort reportedly was forced to resign from the Trump campaign in August in the wake of “revelations about his work on behalf of pro-Russian figures.”
On Sunday, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Director Comey highlighting this double standard:
“In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government—a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information.”
Appearing this morning on CNN, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, was asked about troubling ties between Trump officials and Russian interests. In response, he stated:
“If there are facts available to the FBI that would support an investigation that indicates a violation of the law, then the FBI should follow the truth wherever it leads them.”
On August 30, 2016, Ranking Member Cummings, along with Ranking Members John Conyers, Jr., Elliot L. Engel, and Bennie G. Thompson from the Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, and Homeland Security Committees, sent a detailed letter to Director Comey requesting that the FBI assess whether connections between Trump campaign officials and Russian interests may have contributed to cyber attacks against the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in order to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.
On October 14, 2016, the same four Ranking Members issued the following joint statement:
“Troubling new evidence appears to show that the Trump campaign not only was aware of cyber attacks against Secretary Clinton’s campaign chairman, but was openly bragging about it as far back as August. For months, we have been asking the FBI to examine links between the Trump campaign and illegal Russian efforts to affect our election, including interviewing Trump advisor Roger Stone. In light of this new evidence—and these exceptional circumstances—we call on the FBI to fully investigate and explain to the American people what steps it is taking to disrupt this ongoing criminal activity. Elections are the bedrock of our nation’s democracy and a model we hold out to the world, so we must counter any foreign or domestic efforts to threaten the integrity of our electoral process.”