In a closed-door meeting with members of two congressional committees, former FBI Director James Comey was grilled on his handling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal and the beginning days of the Russia investigation.
While Comey dodged questions pertaining to the ongoing Russia investigation that special counsel Robert Mueller now oversees, he did provide new insight into the origins of the probe, according to a transcript of his Friday appearance that was released Saturday.
Comey said the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia originated with four Americans who were thought to be potentially helping the Kremlin in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.
Comey didn’t identify the Americans, explaining to lawmakers the individuals had not been named by the FBI publicly. But he said they were “four Americans who had some connection to Mr. Trump during the summer of 2016” and were tied to “the Russian interference effort.”
The former FBI director, who oversaw the probe and was fired by Trump last year, said that the investigation was started toward the end of July 2016 and was not examining the Trump campaign or Trump himself, but rather four Americans.
Comey said before July 2016, the FBI was examining a broader effort into Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. elections but was not aware of Americans helping in their effort. He told lawmakers he was first made aware of the broader Russian effort in June with the hacking and release of emails from the Democratic National Committee.
He also fought back on criticism about the start of the FBI’s investigation. Comey argued that the controversial dossier by British spy Christopher Steele was not what spurred the investigation or the crux of what led agents to request a surveillance warrant for Carter Page, who at the time worked as a foreign policy aide on Trump’s campaign.