The One Question Comey Refused To Answer Speaks Volumes

by Morgan Brinlee
Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Consider it the "no comment" heard around the world. In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey said he wouldn't comment in a public setting on whether the agency confirmed "any criminal allegations" in the infamous dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. "At the time of your departure from the FBI," Sen. Richard Burr asked, "was the FBI able to confirm any criminal allegations contained in the Steele document?"

"Mr. Chairman, I don't think that's a question I can answer in an open setting. It goes into the details of the investigation," Comey replied.

However, in refusing to state whether or not the FBI had confirmed any of the allegations detailed within the Steele dossier, Comey appears to leave open the possibility that the report may contain at least some credible information. Moreover, Comey did admit the dossier is still considered to be a part of the FBI's ongoing investigation.

Initially compiled as "opposition research" during the election, the Steele dossier contains a number of salacious but unverified allegations regarding President Trump, including claims that he hired prostitutes while in Moscow, used real estate deals as bribes, and that members of the Trump campaign discussed the hack on the Democratic National Committee with Russian operatives. The report also alleges that Russia sought to gain influence in Washington by potentially blackmailing President Trump.

The president has repeatedly denied the dossier's allegations, denouncing it as a complete fabrication, and has said leaks regarding the report from U.S. intelligence agencies amounted to "something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do."

No U.S. intelligence agency has confirmed the dossier's contents. And while Comey's refusal to confirm "any criminal allegations contained in the Steele document" certainly leaves things open to speculation, it should not be taken as verification of the dossier.

Comey is not the only member of the U.S. intelligence community to refuse to confirm or deny the Steele dossier. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently revealed he "could not and would not" publicly refute the dossier despite having been asked to do so by President Trump.

"He simply asked me to publicly refute the infamous 'dossier,' which I could not and would not do," Clapper said June 7 in an interview with the National Press Club in Australia. Clapper did not elaborate as to why he "could not and would not" go on the record refuting the allegations contained within the dossier.

Comey is set to follow his public testimony with a closed session hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, during which classified or sensitive information like the Steele dossier could be discussed.