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GOP lawmakers grill Comey on leadership of Russia probe

Washington — Former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday as part of the committee's probe into the origins of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Comey, who was fired by President Trump in 2017, oversaw the investigation, called "Crossfire Hurricane," which was eventually taken over by special counsel Robert Mueller.

A report by the inspector general for the Justice Department published in December found 17 "significant inaccuracies and omissions" in the FBI's handling of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) applications to surveil Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide. The report also found, however, the FBI was justified in launching the investigation and showed no political bias.

Comey repeatedly told the committee he had been unaware of major problems with each of four applications the FBI submitted in 2016 to 2017 to eavesdrop on Page. He said he had been overly confident that the surveillance process was working as it should. He noted that Page accounted for just "a slice" of the investigation but that he wouldn't have signed off on the surveillance had he known of the problems.

Comey also acknowledged "concerning" and "embarrassing" problems in the handling of surveillance applications.

"I'm not looking to shirk responsibility," Comey said. "I was the director."

Comey defended the investigation, which examined multiple contacts between Russians and Trump associates during the 2016 campaign and was opened after a campaign adviser boasted in London that that he had heard Russia had damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

"In the main, it was done by the book, it was appropriate and it was essential that it be done," Comey said.

He later added, "The overall investigation was very important. The Page slice of it? Much less so."

Comey told CBS News in August that he is not concerned about an ongoing examination by U.S. Attorney John Durham into the origins of Crossfire Hurricane and "can't imagine" he is a target of the probe.

"Given that I know what happened during 2016, which was a bunch of people trying to do the right thing consistent with the law, I'm not worried at all about that investigation of the investigation," Comey told "Face the Nation."

Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham is a staunch defender of the president, and has criticized the FBI for launching the investigation. Last week, Graham released records showing that the primary "sub-source" for the Steele dossier was the subject of an earlier counterintelligence investigation by the FBI, and those facts were known to the Crossfire Hurricane team as early as December 2016.

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