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Ex-FBI director defends Trump-Russia probe amid harsh Republican criticism

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies during a U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on June 8, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Former FBI Director James Comey defended his leadership of the bureau amid persistent criticism from Republican senators who attacked the bureau’s Russia investigation into U.S. President Donald Trump.

The September 30 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing produced no new disclosures about the investigation, which culminated in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report in March 2019.

But it allowed Senate Republicans to repeat criticisms of Comey, who was fired by Trump in 2017, and highlight documented problems with the FBI investigations.

Senate Republicans say the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation was intended to undermine Trump.

An internal Justice Department watchdog later found evidence of errors in the FBI’s work but no political bias.

Comey said he was proud of the FBI’s work. But he also suggested he was not wholly responsible for ensuring the integrity of various legal filings that he signed off on.

That includes an application to the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap a Trump campaign aide named Carter Page. The court is a special judicial body that oversees secret government requests for surveillance of spies or law enforcement targets.

The Justice Department was highly critical of the FBI’s handling of the Page wiretap.

Comey was fired by Trump in May 2017, five months after Trump took office. Comey asserted he was fired because Trump asked him to be lenient in the FBI’s investigation of Trump’s first national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Comey declined to.

Mueller’s final report reaffirmed U.S. intelligence findings that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election to boost Trump’s candidacy.

The report found Trump campaign officials had numerous contacts with Russians, but it also concluded that the evidence did not prove collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.