Former FBI Director James Comey told House lawmakers Friday that he and special counsel Robert Mueller are “not friends in any social sense,” dismissing President Donald Trump’s assertion that the ousted bureau chief is “Best Friends” with the leader of the Russia probe.
Comey appeared on Capitol Hill Friday to testify behind closed doors to members of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, following a legal scuffle over a subpoena from Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) mandating Comey’s hearing be private.
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“Are you best friends with Robert Mueller?” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, asked Comey, according to a transcript of the hearing released Saturday by Goodlatte and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).
“I am not,” Comey said. “I admire the heck out of the man, but I don’t know his phone number, I’ve never been to his house, I don’t know his children’s names.”
Comey added: “I think I had a meal once alone with him in a restaurant. I like him. I am not a — I’m an associate of his who admires him greatly. We’re not friends in any social sense.”
Hours before Comey’s session with members of Congress, Trump tweeted: “Robert Mueller and Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest.” The president went on to call the special counsel’s investigation “A total Witch Hunt” in that same post.
Trump previously referred to Mueller as Comey’s “best friend” in a September interview with The Daily Caller, and claimed to have “100 pictures of him and Comey hugging and kissing each other.”
When the FBI in October was unable to locate any such images in the process of completing a Freedom of Information Act request for BuzzFeed reporter Jason Leopold, Comey quipped on Twitter: “My wife is so relieved.”
“I will not ask whether you’ve ever hugged and kissed [Mueller],” Nadler told Comey on Friday.
“A relief to my wife,” Comey replied.
Comey also told lawmakers he was largely unfamiliar with Mueller’s team of federal prosecutors, whom the president has repeatedly criticized as “12 angry Democrats.”
“I know by name some of them, and I think I’ve met some of them personally, but I don’t know them well,” Comey said.
Asked whether any of Mueller’s lieutenants “are angry,” Comey added: “Not to my knowledge, but I’m sure they’re like all normal humans; sometimes they’re happy, sometimes they’re sad, sometimes they’re angry, but I can’t comment on that characterization beyond that.”
Comey is set to testify before lawmakers again on Dec. 17 regarding the FBI’s handling of its investigations into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of State, as well as its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.