James Comey’s hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday ended on a bizarre note, with Sen. John McCain asking the former FBI director a confusing set of questions that left journalists and pundits scratching their heads.
During his six-minute line of questioning, McCain referred to Comey as “President Comey” and seemed to conflate the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election with an unrelated investigation into former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email practices that ended last year.
“I’m glad you concluded that part of the investigation, but I think that the American people have a whole lot of questions out there,” McCain said to Comey.
“You’re going to have to help me out here,” he continued. “In other words, we’re complete – the investigation of anything that Secretary Clinton had to do with the campaign is over and we don’t have to worry about it any more?”
Comey attempted to clarify the two investigations – the Clinton email investigation ended last summer with Comey’s recommendation that the former secretary of state not be charged with criminal wrongdoing for her use of a private email server.
“I’m a little confused, senator,” Comey said. “With respect to Secretary Clinton, we investigated, criminal investigation, in connection with her use of a personal email server. And that’s the investigation I announced the conclusion of on July 5.”
But McCain continued to suggest a link between the investigations, at one point seeming to imply that Clinton’s campaign had also been involved with the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“Both President Trump and former candidate Clinton are both involved in the investigation, yet one of them you said there would be no charges and the other one you say the investigation continues,” McCain said. “Well, I think there’s a double standard there to tell you the truth.”
Committee Chairman Richard Burr eventually gaveled McCain’s questioning to an end, but not before Twitter users started commenting on the senator’s questions:
I think senators were a bit perplexed by the questioning from Sen. McCain.
— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) June 8, 2017
As I understand it, McCain seems confused about how different FBI investigations can have different results.
— Dante Atkins (@DanteAtkins) June 8, 2017
McCain seems genuinely unclear on the point that the email investigation and the Russia investigation are two separate investigations.
— Ned Resnikoff (@resnikoff) June 8, 2017
I’m jealous of John McCain because he seems to be the only person unaware that the 2016 election already happened.
— Josh Gondelman (@joshgondelman) June 8, 2017
I don’t know what was up with John McCain but I’m pretty sure Hillary Clinton didn’t collude with the Russians to hack herself & elect Trump
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) June 8, 2017
I’m honestly confused with McCain’s line of questioning. McCain wants to know if the Clinton camp colluded w/ Russians so they could lose?
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 8, 2017
Trump watching McCain: “Finally someone’s making some sense!”
— rob delaney (@robdelaney) June 8, 2017
And Burr cuts in to say McCain’s time is up. Didn’t do that with any other senator today. https://t.co/VYXD79x8bi
— Adam Wollner (@AdamWollner) June 8, 2017
Even fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was puzzled by McCain’s questions.
“I didn’t follow that line of questioning very well,” he told reporters after the hearing.
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 8, 2017