- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2017

A top Republican took to the Senate floor Thursday to blame fired FBI Director James B. Comey for fanning “conspiracy theories” about the U.S. election that “played right into Russia’s hands.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has oversight of the FBI, also accused Mr. Comey of working to “shade the truth” by agreeing to the Obama administration’s attempt to soft-pedal the criminal probe of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Despite rampant public speculation, Mr. Comey kept hidden the fact that the president wasn’t under investigation — allowing conspiracy theories and speculation to run wild, Mr. Grassley said.

Mr. Grassley said he personally told Mr. Comey to reveal publicly what the FBI director had told top congressional leaders — that the president wasn’t a target of the Russia probe.

But Mr. Comey refused, saying later that he had feared saying something he’d later have to correct.

“None of this fiasco had to happen if Mr. Comey had just been transparent with the public, as I urged him to,” Mr. Grassley said.

“They played right into Russia’s hands,” he added.

The senator’s remarks were striking. A fiercely independent lawmaker, Mr. Grassley has used his office to probe both Democrats and Republicans.

He’s now in charge of one of the probes on Capitol Hill looking into Mr. Comey’s firing and other aspects of the 2016 election brouhaha.

“We’re going to go where the facts take us,” Mr. Grassley said.

He said Democrats ended up fostering the very Russian meddling in American democracy that they decried — and he specifically fingered Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, saying the New York Democrat knew from Mr. Comey that Mr. Trump wasn’t under investigation but told the public differently.

Mr. Grassley said that as a member of the “Gang of Eight” — the four high-ranking lawmakers in each party who get the most thorough intelligence briefing — Mr. Schumer knew Mr. Trump wasn’t being probed. But Mr. Schumer “told the media that the president was under investigation. And, of course, that further helped feed media hysteria,” Mr. Grassley said.

“The minority leader even tried to say the Senate shouldn’t vote on the Supreme Court nomination because the president was under investigation. And the whole time he knew it wasn’t true,” Mr. Grassley said.

He said Mr. Comey told him and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on his committee, about Mr. Trump being in the clear in March.

That’s the same time Mr. Schumer was demanding a vote on Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch be delayed, saying the president was under investigation.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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