Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch said during closed-door testimony on December 19, 2018, that she did not instruct former FBI Director James Comey to refer to the investigation in Hillary Clinton’s emails as a “matter,” contrary to what Comey said during public testimony in 2017.
Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, 2017 that Lynch specifically directed him to call the investigation a “matter,” and not an investigation.
“At one point, the Attorney General [Lynch] told me not to call it an investigation but instead to call it a ‘matter,’ which confused and concerned me,” Comey said during testimony. “But that was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude I have to step away from the [Justice] Department if we’re to close this case credibly.”
This revelation came about a month after Comey testified that the tarmac meeting between Lynch and former President Bill Clinton was one of “a number of things” that concerned him about the Justice Department’s ability to “credibly complete the investigation and decline prosecution without grievous damage to the American people’s confidence in the justice system.”
In newly released testimony from Lynch from December 2018, the former attorney general denied ever telling Comey to change how he spoke about the investigation. Zach Somers, a House Judiciary majority staffer, asked Lynch about whether she instructed Comey to use the term “matter” when referring to the Clinton email investigation. Lynch said Comey’s testimony “was the first time that he had ever indicated … that he had that impression of our conversation.”
Somers asked Lynch directly if she ever asked him to call it a “matter.” Lynch replied: “I did not. I have never instructed a witness as to what to say specifically. Never have, never will.”
When Lynch explained the background of the conversation that led Comey to claim he was instructed to call the investigation a “matter,” Lynch repeatedly used the word.
“Obviously, we wanted to testify fully, fulsomely, and provide the information that was needed, but we were not at that point, in September of 2015, ready to confirm that there was an investigation into the email matter — or deny it. We were sticking with policy, and that was my position on that,” Lynch said. “I didn’t direct anyone to use specific phraseology. When the Director asked me how to best to handle that, I said: What I have been saying is we have received a referral and we are working on the matter, working on the issue, or we have all the resources we need to handle the matter, handle the issue. So that was the suggestion that I made to him.”
Lynch further said that she was “surprised” at the way Comey characterized their September 2015 conversation and again insisted she did not directly tell him to use the term.
“I was quite surprised that he characterized it in that way. We did have a conversation about it, so I wasn’t surprised that he remembered that we met about it and talked about it. But I was quite surprised that that was his characterization of it, because that was not how it was conveyed to him, certainly not how it was intended,” she said.