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The FBI had not verified any of the claims in a dossier alleging there were connections between the Trump campaign and Russia before it began investigating the campaign, former FBI Director James Comey admitted Friday.
Comey was questioned Friday behind closed doors by the House Judiciary Committee and House Government Oversight Committee. A transcript of the session was released Saturday.
The dossier was used by the FBI as its evidence that it needed to conduct surveillance on former Trump adviser Carter Page.
However, in response to a question from Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, Comey said that as of the time the FBI received permission to conduct surveillance on Page, the dossier had not been verified and that any effort to verify the dossier was still being conducted several months after surveillance began.
Mostly, Comey said he could not remember key details. For example, according to the transcript, Comey could not recall how Christopher Steele, who compiled the dossier, gave it to the FBI.
“I have some recollection that he passed it to an agent that he knew and that that agent sent it on to headquarters. I think that’s the way in which it reached the Counterintelligence Division, but I don’t remember the specifics of that,” he said.
When asked what was done to verify the information, he was also vague.
— Benjamin Weingarten (@bhweingarten) December 8, 2018
“I don’t know in particular. I know that the Counterintelligence Division was investigating various aspects of the reports he had supplied, and that investigation was ongoing when I was fired,” he said.
As Gowdy repeatedly asked for specifics, Comey repeatedly turned the questions aside by saying he could not recall details.
Gowdy asked how Steele dossier was corroborated. COMEY: "an effort was under way to try to replicate, either rule in or rule out, as much of that collection of reports that's commonly now called the Steele dossier as possible, and that that work was ongoing when I was fired."
— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) December 8, 2018
“My understanding is that that effort — that an effort was under way to try to replicate, either rule in or rule out, as much of that collection of reports that’s commonly now called the Steele dossier as possible, and that that work was ongoing when I was fired,” Comey said, later adding, “I have some recollection, vague, of being told we’re trying to assess this to understand what we can make of it, what parts we can rely on, what parts we can’t. But I don’t — I don’t remember more than that.”
The transcript shows that Gowdy became increasingly frustrated with Comey’s responses, finally asking, “I’m going to ask you whether hearsay is ordinarily admissible in court or not.”
“Is this a quiz?” Comey replied.
“No. Well, if I didn’t think you could answer it, I wouldn’t have asked you. I know you know the answer,” Gowdy said.
After objections from Comey’s lawyer, Gowdy said the question about hearsay was relevant to the FBI using unverified information to begin surveillance, saying, “the reason that I want to ask about hearsay is the ability to rely upon information that cannot be cross-examined.”