Why Comey never ordered an independent probe into Clinton's emails

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Comey's comments on Lynch regarding the Clinton email probe were overshadowed by his descriptions of meetings with Trump over the FBI's probe of Russia's meddling in the USA presidential election.

"I wanted to know, was she going to authorize us to confirm we had an investigation, and she said, 'Yes, but don't call it that, call it a matter, '" Comey added.

Even before Comey's cryptic reference Thursday, Democratic senators had been raising more questions about Sessions' contacts with Kislyak.

The 80-year-old Arizona Republican jokes that maybe he shouldn't stay up late watching the Arizona Diamondbacks and says he missed an opportunity in Thursday's hearing.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) released a statement that said, "Former FBI Director Comey's testimony today left many questions unanswered".

McCain says he wants Comey to answer whether or not Trump's interactions with Comey constitute obstruction of justice. "Tell me the difference between your conclusion as far as former Secretary Clinton is concerned and Mr. Trump".

During the testimony, Comey said that the Arizona airport tarmac meeting between Lynch and former president Bill Clinton was a "deciding factor" in his decision to update the public on the Hillary Clinton email probe.

But McCain wasn't satisfied.

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"After former President Clinton met on the plane with [then Attorney General Loretta Lynch], I considered whether I should call for the appointment of a special counsel and decided that that would be an unfair thing to do because I knew there was no case there", Comey said in response to a question from Sen.

Comey again tried to explain that he discussed the findings of the Clinton investigation only after it was completed. "I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide, and I anxious that it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach". This investigation was going on. But Lynch's interference at the end of an investigation that had already reached a conclusion is not the same thing as Trump's attempt to kill an investigation that was just beginning.

That's when it got really weird.

"You heard Senator Risch ask about the expression of hope", Cornyn said. "I didn't believe she could credibly decline that investigation", Comey replied. But it boiled down to one point.

"I think that's fair". At the same time, he faulted Clinton for being "extremely careless" in the use of her private email and server.

Information from the Washington Post and Associated Press was used in this report.

Comey said he interpreted that as a direction from the president, though not one which he was willing to obey.