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Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch Reacts To Former FBI Director James Comey's Testimony


All right. Someone who was in that closed hearing with James Comey joins us now. Florida Congressman Ted Deutch is a Democrat. And he's on the line from his Capitol Hill office. Hello, Congressman.

TED DEUTCH: Good evening. How are you?

CHANG: Good. Thanks for joining us. So...

DEUTCH: My pleasure.

CHANG: ...Can you just describe the mood in that room today? Because James Comey is someone who's angered both Republicans and Democrats in the past. What was it like in there today?

DEUTCH: Sure. What we felt in that room today was the desperation on the part of the Republican majority to try one last time to talk about Hillary Clinton and her emails rather than doing the work that they were sent to Washington to do, which is to defend the Constitution at a time - as Mr. Comey repeatedly talked about, at a time when there's a real national security threat arising out of Russia's attack on our democracy and an investigation into American citizens who may have helped with that attack.

CHANG: There is a question of what additional value today provided. We just heard Republicans who were frustrated that Comey wouldn't answer certain questions on some sensitive issues. What sort of questions did the FBI tell Comey not to answer today? Can you give us some more detail?

DEUTCH: Sure. I - Mr. Issa's quote that you played earlier is - I would just suggest is so off-base. The FBI didn't chime in talking about the vague interest of various elements. The FBI chimed in when there were questions, specific questions, about the investigation into the 2016 election, questions about who was being investigated, questions about the origins of those investigations, all of the type of work that the Mueller investigation is working feverishly to get to the bottom of.

That's why Mr. Comey didn't speak to some of those. And frankly, we wouldn't want him to do anything that would interfere with the ability of the Mueller probe to actually follow through to the end and make sure that we have a thorough report to the American people about exactly what happened in 2016.

CHANG: Well, let me ask you, did you learn anything new from James Comey today that matters, that changes how you think of what happened during the 2016 election?

DEUTCH: I didn't learn anything new, but I was reminded of a number of points. I was reminded by the former director of the FBI the way he felt when the president fired him and then first told the Russians and went on television to explain it was because of the Russian investigation and the concerns about obstruction of justice. I remembered the way that we felt when the president tweeted that there should be an investigation into - that - a political investigation launched against the Obama - the former Obama administration for trying to surveil and...

CHANG: Right.

DEUTCH: ...Work its way into the - that - all of that gets to this fundamental issue that's so problematic, which is the efforts by the Republican majority again and again, starting with the president, to smear the FBI and the Justice Department and the Mueller probe at exactly the time when we need to be standing it up and making sure that it gets to the truth.

CHANG: Very briefly, William Barr has just been named to be the next attorney general, the president's pick. He's someone who has a pretty sweeping view of executive power. Do you have any concerns about how Barr might oversee the Mueller investigation? Briefly.

DEUTCH: Well, it's - sure. It's - well, it's not just - I'm learning more about what Mr. Barr has said and specifically about - investigations general, but specifically about the Mueller investigation. And obviously, we can't do anything. We can't allow the president...


DEUTCH: ...Or anyone in his administration to take action to stop this before it is completed.

CHANG: OK. Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida. Thanks very much.

DEUTCH: No, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.