Comey 'queasy' over Lynch's handling of Clinton probe

Former FBI Director James Comey said Thursday he felt “queasy” last year when former Attorney General Loretta Lynch urged him to reword how his agency characterized the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP lawmaker defends Chelsea Clinton after confrontation over New Zealand attacks Klobuchar: Race, gender should not be litmus tests for 2020 Dem nominee Kirsten Gillibrand officially announces White House run MORE email probe, asking that he refer to it as a "matter" rather than an investigation.

Comey said Lynch requested he “just call it a matter,” during his hearing on Russian election meddling before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Comey said her request gave him a “queasy feeling” and also “concerned” him “because that language tracked with how the [Clinton] campaign was talking about how the FBI was doing its work.”

Comey said this gave him the "impression" Lynch was trying to match the wording of the FBI with the Clinton campaign.

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“I don’t know whether it was intentional or not,” Comey added. “But it gave the impression that the attorney general was trying to align how we describe our work with the way it was being described in a political campaign.” 

“It was inaccurate. We had an investigation open for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we had an investigation open at the time. That gave me a queasy feeling,” he continued.

The former FBI director added that he didn’t believe the press would buy the word change and explained he responded “OK” because he decided “this isn’t a hill worth dying on.”

“The press is going to completely ignore it — and that’s what happened,” Comey said, describing his thought process at the time.

The New York Times first reported in April that Comey felt concerned by Lynch’s request.

His comments came during a dramatic hearing dominated by the ousted FBI chief's recalling of his conversations with President Trump, specifically as it relates to the FBI investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the election.  

Lynch has also come under fire for meeting with former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonGOP lawmaker defends Chelsea Clinton after confrontation over New Zealand attacks As global order collapses, American leadership is critical Trump Jr. defends Chelsea Clinton after confrontation at vigil for New Zealand attacks MORE and on an airport tarmac in June, amid both an ongoing investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and while the former secretary of State ran as the Democratic candidate for president. 

Comey said the tarmac meeting influenced his decision to go public with the news of the email probe. He acknowledged that other things "contributed" to this decision, adding that the committee has already been briefed on the one "significant item" that he cannot publicly disclose.

Comey said this meeting pushed him to "step away from the department" and conduct a separate investigation in order to close the case "credibly."

"Yes. In ultimately conclusive way that was the thing that capped it for me, that I had to do something separately to protect the credibility of the investigation, which meant both the FBI and the Justice Department," Comey said.

Lynch said in July she did “regret sitting down and having a conversation with [Bill Clinton], because it did give people concern,” Lynch told CNN at the time, referring to the Justice Department’s conduct of the investigation.