In light of FBI Director James Comey's firing Tuesday night, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is calling on the Bureau to clarify publicly whether President Donald Trump is under criminal investigation.
"The American people deserve to know if senior government officials are under active criminal or intelligence investigation," Grassley said Thursday during an executive business meeting.
In his letter to Comey informing him of his termination, President Trump stated the Director had told him on three separate instances he was not under investigation.
"While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau," Trump wrote.
Comey has never confirmed publicly whether this is the case, sowing much doubt and controversy over the FBI's investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. Comey has confirmed the Bureau is investigating "the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russia government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts."
During sworn testimony in front of the Committee last week, Comey refused to answer questions about whether the President was under investigation by the Bureau, citing confidential information. According to Grassley, during a closed door meeting with Comey he was told nothing different than what President Trump presented in his Tuesday evening letter.
"Mr. Comey did brief Ranking Member Feinstein and me on who the targets of the various investigations are. It would not be appropriate for me to reveal those details before the professionals conducting the investigations are ready. So, I will not answer any questions about who are targets of the ongoing Russia investigations. But I will say this: Shortly after Director Comey briefed us, I tweeted that he should be transparent. I said he should tell the public what he told Senator Feinstein and me about whether the FBI is or is not investigating the President," Grassley said. "On Tuesday, the President’s letter said that Director Comey told him he was not under investigation. Senator Feinstein and I heard nothing that contradicted the President’s statement. Now Mr. Comey is no longer the FBI director. But the FBI should still follow my advice. It should confirm to the public whether it is or is not investigating the President. Because it has failed to make this clear, speculation has run rampant."
"The intelligence community said that one of the Russians’ goals is to undermine the American public’s faith in our democratic institutions. Wild speculation that the FBI is targeting the President in a criminal or intelligence inquiry is not just irresponsible and unfounded. It provides aid and comfort to the Russians and their goal of undermining faith in our democracy," Grassley continued. "So, what I suggest is that before this Committee does anything more on this matter, that all the Members get briefed by the FBI on what is actually going on. Hopefully, that will help temper some of the unsubstantiated statements that have been made."
The FBI is now being led by Acting Director Andrew McCabe. The Justice Department is actively looking for a permanent Director and Vice President Mike Pence was on Capitol Hill earlier this week meeting with lawmakers about the issue.