James Comey HJC Testimony Liveblog Two
The tone of this is odd. Comey is very respectful of DOJ and was not involved in a lot of these activities, so the bulk of questions establish that he did not hear any complaints about any of the people who were fired.
Cannon has just tried to use Comey's commitment to DOJ to argue that they should just move on. Otherwise, the Republicans aren't really asking questions. Dems have just started a second round of questions.
Sanchez: Raises McKay's refusal to bring vote fraud case in WA. Now moves on to Charlton (Comey says that Charlton is one of the best USAs).
Sanchez now asking about one case where Charlton argued against a death penalty case.
Comey: I remember a case where Charlton called to give information that was not in the file. I think it was a case where we had sought the death penalty, in the first case we had rejected that, Charlton made a very convincing case to turn it around. His concern was for the victim's family. They wanted to resolve this on a life plea. I changed my recommendation. I think I convinced John Ashcroft on it. I would never, not only discourage it, but I would encourage it. I wouldn't know about the victim's family, he would.
Sanchez now asking about the Renzi case. Comey only knows from reading the newspaper.
Sanchez now asking about Bogden.
Congressman Johnson now picking up questions about Bogden.
Comey: He was fired up USA. We were looking for a USA to do the Violent Crime program.
Congressman Johnson: Do you agree that Iglesias is one of the good USA.
Comey: Sort of the Bogden of NM. Very straight, very good.
Comey: Contact with the violent crime initiative, Albequerque had a significant drop in crime because of the program.
I used to tease Iglesias about being the model for Tom Cruise. I'd tease him that he wasn't as cute as Tom Cruise.
If a USA was away to serve his country as a Navy JAG, it's not something I'd hold against him.
I used to have a very competent FAUSA. I used to give David Kelley all the hard stuff to do. (Hey, folks, why don't you ask why Kelley got fired??? Hint hint)
Cannon: I wanted to point out that you worked with USAs a significant time earlier than they got fired. My experience with Mr. Iglesias was startling. When I asked Iglesias about his contacts, he said he had reported those contacts, I said when, he said by talking to the press. He made a distinction between announcing indictments and announcing that there would be action. I think that what I've said is a fair characterization of the record before us.
[Cannon trying to rebut Comey's presentation of the USAs as very competent.]
It sounds like he screwed up and should have made the call. It doesn't change my experience that he was competent guy and good USA.
Cannon: Would that cause you to question his judgment?
Comey: It strikes me as curious.
Cannon: the point is that people change and there's a time lag.
Cannon: This is a rethinking, a grasping at straws. This has shown itself to be a thoughtful, competent process.
Sanchez. This is an investigation where we're trying to find out the circumstances of why these USAs were fired. No one at DOJ seems to know who made the list, or why these people were fired.
Cannon: we've been through the issue about performance. McNulty was careful that it meant meeting the criteria of the Administration.
Comey looks like he's not having fun.
Cannon: what we've heard so far, he wasn't involved in that. He believes there's a process that was a significant process.
Will someone ask whether Comey believes there was a process if he, the DAG, was not part of it? Does he believe that having Ryan on the list, as laudable, when he had said he was weak, was a sound process?
Watt: Were any USAs asked to resign.
Comey: I remember 2 occasions on which USAs were asked to resign. One was when Ashcroft was AG. One was Gonzales was AG. I got his approval to have my senior staff member place a call and suggest that he resign. I talked to my staff, I had Margolis make a call, that it was time to leave, given the conduct that was discovered, it was not appropriate. One resigned, the other insisted on being fired by the President, so the President fired him by letter. In both the cases where I was involved with terminating a USA, the two were not close calls. As soon as you read about it, you said, this guy has got to go. We explained it to the person, Mr. Margolis explained it to them.
Sanchez: If a USA was fired for not following Administration priorities, would you expect that that would change the priorities in that office? if there was no discussion about what priorities were not discussed, would you expect there'd be any change of priority?
Sanchez: You had discussions with Ashcroft and Gonzales about underperforming USAs, right?
Comey: No, that was a bit of a garble by the reporter.
Sampson asked Comey about the weakest USA's "almost using the same words."
Sanchez: Is it proper to seek removal of US to influence bringing of cases?
Comey: It ought not to be done, I have no reason to believe it happened here.
Sanchez: Were there valid, performance-based reasons to fire these USAs. It's been reported that Pat Fitz was reported as in the middle category. What do you think of that?
Comey: I've never thought much of him. No. He's a very close friend of mine. I think he's one of the best USAs that is, or that has been. It would not be where I would put him on the list.
Comey: I think very highly of Stephen Biskupic.
Comey: It's a time of uncertainty and pain for people in the Department.
Comey: All that's necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to be silent.
Cannon: I appreciate your humor there. I'm going to read some of the things Margolis has said recently. About Iglesias, about Comey. Him is very fair, very decent. He's softer than I am on personnel judgments, but he had a better basis to make a judgment than I did. [Still trying to diss Iglesias as improper.]
Congressman Johnson for final questions.
Johnson: DOJ has confirmed that there is an investigation into loyalty oaths on hiring of career professionals.
Comey: if that was going on, that strikes at the core of what DOJ is. You cannot do that, you cannot fired AUSAs bc of political affiliation. That is the most serious thing I've heard. I hope it didn't happen, but that is a very serious thing. USAs can be terminated for any reason.
Johnson: if it is determinated that AUSAs have been hired on a political basis, what remedies would you suggest.
Comey: I don't know how you'd put that genie back in the bottle.
Johnson: Has any USA expressed concerns to you about this.
Comey: A couple have said they heard second-hand that this is going on.
Johnson: Care to identify those who you've had those discussions with.
Comey: I'd prefer not to.
Johnson: I'm sure that can be handled in more sensitive way. What kind of leadership will have to take place to ensure that future prosecutions are not tainted.
Comey: It's already starting, with Steve Biskupic, people are questioning his prosecutions.
Cannon: You've put perfect balance on the DOJ, the effect of this inquiry on the morale at DOJ, I'd like to point out that we haven't made any progress on WH role. We have a consensus process that happened over a period of time, I suspect that if there's a fair reporting of that, that's the meaning of this. I hope press picks up your loyalty, but also import of what DOJ does, and why it's important to get beyond this.
Sanchez: Thank you for your testimony. Your understanding the USAs and how it conflicts with the testimony of those who have come before the Committee.