Senator Harris on NBC's Today Show, Questions Comey on Sessions’ Role in Russia Probe, Requests AG Rosenstein for Full Independence to Special Counsel
Senator Harris on NBC's Today Show,Questions Comey on Sessions’ Role in Russia Probe, Requests AG Rosenstein for Full Independence to Special Counsel
Today, Senator Kamala D. Harris, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, appeared on NBC’s Today Show for an interview with Savannah Guthrie to discuss today’s hearing with former FBI Director James Comey.
During the interview, Senator Harris stated: “There is no question we have to get to the truth of what's going on. There are more questions to ask. The written statement validates some of the reports that we've been hearing that have led us to this point of even questioning whether there's been obstruction of justice. He outlines clearly there have been conversations initiated by the president that seem to be intended to interfere with the investigation at least at relates to Flynn. His letter in terms of his written statement validates that he was asked to take a loyalty oath. When I think about that, I was a District Attorney of San Francisco, the Attorney General of California, and now a United States Senator. I've taken the oath many times. The oath was to the constitution of the United States, not an individual. It's inappropriate.”
Regarding the questions that Senator Harris has for Comey, she stated: “I have lots of questions including whether he spoke with Jeff Sessions about the investigation. Was that before or after Jeff sessions recusal? I have questions about what conversations were initiated by any other member of the staff around what was going on with the investigation. I have questions about whether there were any other conversations with anyone else initiated by those people with Comey about the nature of the investigation or asking him to slow down or stop”
At the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing, Senator Harris questioned former FBI Director James Comey about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ continued involvement in the Russia probe despite having recused himself from the investigation. This included Sessions’ recommendation that the President fire Director Comey as head of the FBI, even though Comey was leading that exact investigation in which Sessions recused himself from participating.
Harris sought assurances from Comey that safeguards were put in place to ensure that Sessions was indeed abiding by his recusal. Harris asked, “aside from any notice or memorandum that was not sent or was, what mechanism or processes were in place to ensure that the Attorney General would not have any connection with the investigation to your knowledge?” Comey replied by saying he didn’t “know for sure.”
Harris’ questioning of Comey came on the heels of yesterday’s Intelligence hearing where she pressed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to grant Special Counsel Robert Mueller full independence. Harris asked Comey whether Director Mueller should have “full independence,” and Comey agreed.
In his prepared testimony, Comey said Trump told him, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.” During the hearing, Comey said he interpreted that as an order for the probe to be dropped. Senator Harris opened by comparing this to her time as a career prosecutor, stating, “in my experience of prosecuting cases, when a robber held a gun to somebody’s head and said, ‘I hope you will give me your wallet, the word ‘hope’ was not the most operative word at that moment.”
Yesterday, Senator Harris pressed U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on whether he would provide full independence to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the FBI’s Russia investigation.
“[T]he greater assurance is not that you and I believe in Director Mueller’s integrity, which I have no question about Mr. Mueller's integrity”, Harris said. “It is that you would put in writing an indication based on your authority as the Acting Attorney General that he has full independence in regards to the investigations that are before him. Are you willing or are you not willing to give him the authority to be fully independent of your ability, statutorily and legally, to fire him?”
Previously, Rosenstein wrote a memo that was used by the White House as justification for firing former FBI Director James Comey, a decision that has come under scrutiny. Rosenstein appointed Mueller as Special Counsel on May 17th and retains the authority to override Mueller’s decisions and to order his dismissal. In the hearing, Rosenstein refused to commit in writing to grant Mueller full independence from any officer at the Department of Justice.
Harris noted that precedent had been established when in 2003, then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey appointed a special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, to oversee the investigation into the leak that led to the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA officer. Comey granted Fitzgerald full independence from the supervision or control of any officer at the Department of Justice.