Posted: 9:04 pm Saturday, February 18th, 2017
By Jamie Dupree
A surprise meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday with the FBI Director yielded an unusual reaction from Senators, as normally chatty lawmakers said next to nothing about their closed door meeting, raising eyebrows about that discussion and the panel’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Usually, the appearance of someone as senior as FBI Director James Comey would have been on the schedule and known about it advance; instead reporters just happened to run into him on Friday afternoon in the Capitol, as intelligence committee members scampered down to their secure meeting room.
Spotted walking through the Senate Subway: FBI Dir James Comey
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) February 17, 2017
Several hours later, Comey went out a back door and eluded cameras, and no Senator had much to say about what went on inside their closed door meeting.
“I really have to go,” said Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), who hustled toward his office.
Sen. Angus King (I-ME) brushed off questions, as did Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) emerged with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and playfully suggested that we ask Cotton about the meeting; he headed to his office without stopping.
Rubio, Udall, Risch, Cornyn, Schumer, King all with zero comment emerging from closed Intel meeting ostensibly with Comey…
— Todd Zwillich (@toddzwillich) February 17, 2017
One of the few lawmakers to stop and take some questions was Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who said he hoped any probe of Russia would be bipartisan.
“I think it will be very important to have a public final report,” Lankford said, before hopping on the Senate subway.
But Lankford wasn’t shedding any light about what was discussed with the FBI Director.
Now, I know that many will say – well, of course they’re not going to say anything concrete about what was discussed in an intelligence committee meeting.
Reporters waiting on Senators meeting with FBI Director; so far, all "no comment" pic.twitter.com/taP0xPl7Ki
— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) February 17, 2017
Yes, that’s true – but from many years of experience of standing in stakeouts in the hallways of the Capitol when members of the Congressional intelligence committees meet, usually you at least get a little banter that chews around the edges of the issue.
But not this time.
A few hours later, we did get a Tweet that seemed significant, from Sen. Rubio.
I am now very confident Senate Intel Comm I serve on will conduct thorough bipartisan investigation of #Putin interference and influence
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 17, 2017
While it didn’t say anything about the FBI Director, it sure seemed like it was a tweet that was meant to send a message about a review of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, coming a few days after the resignation of President Trump’s National Security Advisor, and renewed questions about ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
On Saturday, Reuters reported that the FBI is “pursuing at least three separate probes relating to alleged Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential elections,” but it wasn’t clear if any of that had been discussed by the FBI chief and Senators.
The Associated Press reported Saturday that the top members of each party on the Senate Intelligence Committee had sent out letters to the White House and other agencies to preserve any investigative material that might be related to Russian activity in 2016.
Was this just a regular briefing from Comey? Or something bigger?
The silence of Senators makes me wonder.