FBI director briefs top senators on Russia

FBI director briefs top senators on Russia
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

FBI Director James Comey briefed a group of top senators Wednesday amid growing demands that he clarify if the bureau is investigating any contacts between Moscow and the Trump campaign. 

Comey met in a closed-door session with Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Senate Finance leaders in talks on deal to limit drug price increases Million-dollar drugs pose new challenge for Congress MORE (Iowa) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDemocratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Negotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline Young activists press for change in 2020 election MORE (Calif.) — the chairman and top Democrat, respectively, of the Judiciary Committee — as well as Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerPelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July Democrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt Pressure builds to secure health care data MORE (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

Senators were tightlipped leaving the meeting, offering no details on what, if any, answers they received from the FBI director. 

"This briefing was all on sensitive matters and highly classified, and it's really not anything that we can answer any questions about," Feinstein told reporters, noting that she was speaking on behalf of herself and Grassley. 


Feinstein further declined to comment on whether Comey confirmed the FBI is investigating a link between Trump officials and Russia, adding: "I'm sorry, but it's the way life is here." 

When a reporter asked if they were "satisfied" with the answers they got, Grassley turned to Feinstein, asked if she was "ready to go" and the two headed toward the subway that connects the Capitol to the Senate office buildings. 

"If you want to ask me some other time, but not in this environment right here," Grassley told the swarm of reporters and TV cameras.

The closed-door meeting comes after Grassley warned he would block Rod Rosenstein's nomination to serve in the No. 2 role at the Department of Justice (DOJ) until he is briefed on Russia. 

"I will not schedule a hearing on the Deputy Attorney General [Rod Rosenstein] until we get a briefing from Comey," Grassley told reporters, according to Talking Points Memo

Asked if he was prepared to move forward with Rostenstein's nomination after Wednesday's briefings, Grassley appeared to signal that the No. 2 DOJ nominee is still in limbo — at least temporarily.

"I won't answer that until I've gone over all the answers I got," he told reporters Wednesday.

As chairman of the committee, Grassley can effectively hold up the nomination by refusing to schedule a committee vote. 

Grassley and Feinstein requested a briefing last month on circumstances surrounding Michael Flynn's resignation as President Trump's national security adviser, as well as any call transcripts and the FBI's summary of the calls. 

Feinstein credited Grassley's "tough language" in that letter for securing the face-to-face meeting with Comey.

The House and Senate Intelligence committees are also investigating Russia's meddling in the presidential election and any ties between the Trump team and Russia. 

Warner declined to comment on the Wednesday meeting with Comey, but said he expects the Senate Intelligence Committee to start announcing the next steps of its investigation soon. 

"I think we'll have news soon on hearings and … when we're going to start to be interviewing witnesses," he told reporters, indicating an announcement could come in the next few days. 

Comey is expected to testify in a public hearing before the House Intelligence Committee next week.