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Former FBI director James Comey says he doesn't know or can't recall in response to many lawmaker questions, transcript shows

Rehashes much of what was already discussed publicly

ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images

A transcript released Saturday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Judiciary panel shows former FBI Director James Comey repeatedly said "I don't know" or "I don't remember" in response to lawmaker questions earlier this week.

GOP lawmakers were frustrated with Comey's responses during their closed-door interview with him Friday because his attorneys reportedly told him to avoid numerous questions.

Comey claimed to not know, for example, who drafted the FBI's initial document for the July 2016 Russia investigation. He also claimed to not know about agent Peter Strzok's involvement in initiating the probe. Strzok's anti-Trump texts later got him fired from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

The committees' investigations have centered on decisions made by top Justice Department and FBI officials as they looked into the scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton's private email server and the early stages of the Trump-Russia investigation relating to the 2016 presidential election.

What was revealed?

The released transcript of the Comey interview also shows much of the questioning appeared to focus on following up on topics already aired through a Justice Department inspector general report, Comey's book and previous public interviews on Capitol Hill.

An exchange between Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Comey on page 27 of the transcript reads:

Gowdy: "Do you recall your March 2017 testimony in an open setting before the House Intelligence Committee?"
Comey: "In a general way."
Gowdy: "It was when I believe the Bureau first confirmed the existence of a counterintelligence investigation."
Comey: "Okay. I remember that. I remember generally it was in March, but sure. Gowdy: Do you recall in what way you used the word 'criminal' and at what point in your testimony?"
Comey: "Without looking at the testimony, I don't."
Gowdy: "Do you recall Rod Rosenstein's memo appointing special counsel?"
Comey: "No, I don't."
Gowdy: "What is the difference between collusion and conspiracy?"
Comey: "I don't know because I don't know what collusion means. It's a term I haven't heard in my career in the Justice Department, so I don't know."

On on page 104 of the document Gowdy questions Comey about the involvement in Strzok and former FBI attorney Lisa Page.

During questioning, Comey says he cannot recall who drafted the FBI's initiation document for the July 2016 Russia investigation. Gowdy asked Comey if he would "disagree that it was Peter Strzok?" Comey replied: "I don't know one way or the other." He also said he couldn't "remember ever seeing the document."

That exchange reads, in part:

Gowdy: “So, from January 2016 up until your July 5th press statement, it is fair to say that both Special Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Attorney Lisa Page were working on the Clinton Espionage Act or mishandling of classified information investigation?"
Comey: “The reason I'm hesitating, Mr. Gowdy, is I've never applied the label of Espionage Act investigation. It was an investigation into the mishandling of classified information. I don't mean to quibble, but that's how I thought of it and talked about it. Yes, they each participated in some respect in that investigation or in our public statement about the investigation and things like that."
Gowdy: “February of 2016, Lisa Page wrote: Trump simply cannot be President.
February of 2016, Peter Strzok wrote: Trump's abysmal, hoping people will just dump him.
February of 2016, Lisa Page wrote: She might be our next President. The last thing you need us going in there loaded for bear.
March 2016, Lisa Page wrote: Trump is a loathsome human.
March of 2016, Strzok wrote: Trump's an idiot.
March of 2016, Strzok wrote: Hillary should win 100 million to zero."

Anything else?

CNN's Amanda Carpenter wrote a series of tweets Saturday that also noted Comey not being able to recall key topics. They included:

One last thing…
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