During a Senate Intel hearing Thursday, former FBI director James Comey revealed that during the 2016 election, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch ordered him to downplay the investigation into Hillary Clinton by calling it a "matter" instead of a criminal investigation. During this segment of questioning from Oklahoma Republican James Lankford, Comey also reveals important evidence about his interactions with President Trump, Attorney General Lynch, and the Clinton campaign:
FLASHBACK, May 3, 2017: Comey: Loretta Lynch's Tarmac Meeting With Bill Clinton Forced Me To Go Public About Clinton Investigation
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): You mentioned before some news stories and news accounts, without having to go into the specific times... have there been news accounts about the Russia investigation, about 'collusion,' about this whole event, or accusations, that as you read the story, you were stunned about how wrong they got the facts?
JAMES COMEY: Yes, there have been many, many stories reportedly based on classified information about a lot of stuff, but specifically about Russia, that are just dead wrong.
LANKFORD: I was interested in your comment that if there were some satellite associates of his that did something wrong, it would be good to find that out. That the president seemed to talk to you specifically on March 30 and said he is frustrated that the word is not getting out that I am not under investigation, but if there are people that are in my circle that are, let's finish the investigation. Is that how you took it as well?
COMEY: Yes, sir. Yes.
LANKFORD: And then you made a comment earlier about the Attorney General, previous AG [Lynch] asking you about the investigation on the Clinton emails, saying that you were asked not to call it an 'Investigation' anymore, but to call it a 'Matter.' And you said that confused you. Can you give us additional details on that?
COMEY: Well, it concerned me, because we were at the point where we refused to confirm the existence of an investigation --as we usually do-- for months,. And it was getting to a place where that looked silly, because the campaigns were talking about interacting with the FBI in the course of our work.
The Clinton campaign at the time was using all kinds of euphemisms, 'security review,' 'matter.' Things like that.
For what was going on. We were getting to a place where the Attorney General and I were going to have to testify and talk publicly about it, and I wanted to know if she would authorize us to confirm we had an investigation. And she said yes, but don't call it that, call it a 'Matter.' And I said why would I do that? And [Lynch] said just call it a 'Matter.'
And again, you look back in hindsight, should I have resisted more? I just said this wasn't a hill worth dying on, so I said, okay, the press is going to completely ignore it, and that is what happened. When I said we opened a matter, they all reported the FBI had an investigation open. And that concerned me because the language tracked the way the campaign was talking about the FBI's work, and that is concerning... It gave the impression that the Attorney General was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way a political campaign was describing the same activity, which was inaccurate. We had a criminal investigation open... And so that gave me a queasy feeling.