Debbie Wasserman Schultz confronts FBI director James Comey

Posted at 8:23 PM, Jan 13, 2017

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz confronted FBI Director James Comey Friday in a contentious closed-door exchange, a lawmaker in the room told CNN.

Wasserman Schultz, who was forced to resign her post atop the DNC over the summer following a steady release of hacked DNC emails, challenged Comey during a classified briefing for House lawmakers about the intelligence assessment that Russians meddled in the U.S. election.

Her questions, which were described by the lawmaker to CNN as "confrontational," focused on why the FBI didn't reach out directly to her, or any of the committee's senior leadership, when it became aware of the hacks.

Wasserman Schultz repeatedly accused Comey of failing to take the proper steps to inform her team of what happened and failing to underscore the importance of the event in the limited contact that did occur.

The lawmaker told CNN that Comey pushed back in an exchange that lasted nearly 10 minutes and defended the FBI's response. It was clear to Democratic lawmakers, many of whom chided Comey at various points of the closed-door briefing for his role in investigating Hillary Clinton's emails, that Comey never reached out to Wasserman Schultz, the lawmaker said.




Wasserman Schultz later said in a statement to CNN that she wouldn't compromise any information said in the meeting but that Comey should clarify the agency's policies when investigating the hacking by foreign governments.

"There are further questions that must be answered by Director Comey, who must provide more clarity on this and other questions that have arisen surrounding the FBI's handling of Russian hacking during the 2016 election cycle," she said in the statement.

A message left with the FBI seeking comment Friday night was not immediately returned.

Wasserman Schultz wasn't the only one disappointed with Comey.

Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters emphatically told CNN after the meeting that Comey has "no credibility."

"It's classified and we can't tell you anything. All I can tell you is the FBI director has no credibility. That's it," she said.

And another source told CNN that New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler pressed Comey on his decision to investigate the Clinton emails, and Comey defended his decision and explained why he took his course of action.

Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings told CNN he was "willing to give" Comey "the benefit of the doubt" about the whole issue.




"I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt with regard to initially coming out. As a lawyer, I can tell you I've never heard of the FBI -- if they were going to drop the case, telling you why or giving an explanation -- so I thought that was unusual," he said. "But I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But there's been a lot that has happened since then. Today, I must tell you, when I left the hearing, I felt a great sense of disappointment."

The meeting comes after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced Thursday that he is probing the FBI's handling of the investigation into Clinton's private email server during the 2016 presidential election.

The decision revived Democrats' arguments that Comey helped swing the election in President-elect Donald Trump's favor.

When asked, Cummings said he has faith with how Horowitz will handle the investigation.

"I think Horowitz will turn over every stone. I hope he will get the cooperation he needs," he said, later adding, "We have a duty and the IG has a duty to try and look at this, figure out where we are, what we're doing and move on from there. I think this is a point in the FBI's history where we've gotta have a mirror put up to make sure it maintains its credibility."

Wasserman Schultz stepped down in July after hacked emails appeared to show DNC workers showing favoritism toward Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders, who mounted an insurgent campaign against her.