Stefanik, Schiff disagree over timeline of Comey briefings
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik is still pushing for mandated congressional oversight of any future FBI counterintelligence investigation into a candidate for federal office.
Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, has repeatedly said that the decision by former FBI director James Comey not to brief even the bipartisan Gang of Eight, congressional intelligence leaders, on the investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign was a mistake, and in April introduced legislation to require the FBI to notify Congress.
On Wednesday during a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing, Chairman Adam Schiff disagreed with Stefanik over the timeline of Comey’s statements, prompting a brief disagreement over the date of the briefing.
“Yep, I’m correct,” Stefanik told the Times on Thursday. “If Chairman Schiff got a separate briefing, he should tell his colleagues that.”
Schiff’s office said it had no additional comment beyond the hearing.
The disagreement came after Stefanik questioned Andrew McCarthy III, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York and current National Review columnist.
“We know now that the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign in July 2016, but they did not brief the Gang of Eight until March of 2017, just days before former FBI director Comey publicly announced the investigation during a March 20, 2017 open hearing before this committee,” Stefanik said during the hearing.
She then asked McCarthy whether it was the role of the director to decide what is too sensitive to brief Congress on.
“I don’t think the FBI should do that because then you don’t have congressional oversight,” McCarthy said.
After Stefanik finished her line of questioning, Schiff disagreed with her assertion on the briefing of Congress.
“The timeline you’ve set out is not correct,” he said. “I can tell you that when James Comey was fired we no longer continued to get Gang of Eight briefings.”
“Director Comey testified that he chose not to brief the Gang of Eight on the opening of the counterintelligence investigations,” she told Schiff. “This has been widely reported, this was an open hearing, and we’ve worked across the aisle on language to be included in the Intel Authorization Act to ensure that any counterintelligence investigation into a presidential campaign is briefed, so I hope you would agree based upon the testimony of Director Comey that he circumvented the process in our oversight capacity. I agree with you, I think we need an update to make sure they’re following those procedures, but I think we need to strengthen not just the typical ways of doing things, but put it in law so that they are required to brief us.”
Schiff replied, “Ms. Stefanik, all I would say is that is not his testimony.”
Stefanik’s office later posted a video to Twitter of her comments intercut with Stefanik’s questioning of Comey in March 2017.
“Broadly, when the FBI has any open counterintelligence investigation open, what are the typical protocols or procedures for notifying the DNI, the White House and Congressional Leadership?” Stefanik asked Comey.
“There is a practice of quarterly briefings on sensitive cases to the chair and ranking of the House and Senate intelligence committees,” Comey replied. “That’s by practice, not by rule or policy.”
Comey said the investigation began in July of 2016 but congressional leadership was briefed shortly before the hearing in the spring of 2017. Stefanik asked about the cause of the delay.
“I think our decision was it was a matter of such sensitivity that we wouldn’t include it in the quarterly briefings,” Comey said.
Stefanik reiterated that her timeline was correct, based on this 2017 hearing.
“There were huge concerns raised by the way Chairman Schiff conducted himself,” she told the Times.