Comey: Hillary Clinton’s claim of plotted Russia scandal ‘doesn’t ring a bell’

Former FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday said he doesn’t recall hearing that Hillary Clinton conjured a campaign to smear President Trump as a Russian colluder — but he does recall a discredited claim Trump viewed a “golden shower” in a Moscow hotel.

Comey pleaded ignorance of Clinton’s alleged role in stirring the Russia controversy while testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying he doesn’t remember a Sept. 7, 2016, “investigative referral” to him that was revealed Tuesday.

“I do not” remember the referral, Comey told the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) during the hearing.

“That doesn’t ring a bell with me,” Comey confirmed when Graham read aloud from a document drafted by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe.

Ratcliffe wrote that US intelligence officials “forwarded an investigative referral to FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok regarding ‘U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server.’”

Handwritten notes from then-CIA Director John Brennan — also disclosed by Ratcliffe — say Brennan briefed then-President Barack Obama on “alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016 of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.”

The FBI opened its investigation of possible Trump-Russia collusion on July 31, 2016 — five days after Clinton allegedly hatched the plan — premised on Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos allegedly telling an Australian diplomat that Russia had damaging information on Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.

Sources told Politico that members of both parties on the Senate Intelligence Committee previously discounted the claim that Clinton cooked up a scandal about Trump and Russia as Russian disinformation.

Comey told Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont on Wednesday, “I don’t understand Mr. Ratcliffe’s letter well enough to comment. It’s confusing, it contains within it a statement, I think, that its unverified information. I really don’t know what he’s doing.”

Comey was fired by Trump in 2017 after presiding over the FBI’s early investigation of possible Trump campaign links to Russia. He presided over controversial elements of the probe such as use of a disputed and partially discredited dossier financed by Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee to secure surveillance warrants against Trump adviser Carter Page.

“Remember the episode with Trump in the hotel with the hookers, and the dossier?” Graham inquired of Comey.

“Yes, I remember that portion,” Comey said — before Graham launched into an extended accounting of how “the dossier’s description of a sexual escapade was actually a Russian disinformation campaign.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible Trump-Russia collusion concluded last year without evidence of a criminal conspiracy involving the Trump campaign and Russia.

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