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What the heck was John McCain talking about?

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

During Thursday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, the strangest line of inquiry by far came from Senator John McCain. It was, to say the least, completely bonkers. McCain seemed to confuse two investigations—one into Hillary Clinton’s email server, which was closed and completed and the other the ongoing investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. This was McCain’s exchange with Comey, which McCain delivered in a painfully slow and stuttering manner:

McCain: ....tell me the difference between your conclusion as far as former Secretary Clinton is concerned and Mr. Trump.  

Comey: The Clinton investigation was a completed investigation that the FBI had been deeply involved in and so I had an opportunity to understand all the facts and apply those facts against the laws I understood them. This investigation was underway, still going when I was fired, so it’s nowhere near in the same place. At least it wasn’t when I was—

McCain: But it’s still ongoing?

Comey: Correct. So far as I know. It was when I left.

McCain: That investigation was going on, this investigation was going on, you reached separate conclusions. 

Comey: No that one was done. 

McCain: That investigation of any involvement of Secretary Clinton or any of her associates is completed?

Comey: Yes as of July the fifth the FBI had completed its investigative work and that’s what I was announcing, what we had done and what we had found. 


McCain: Well at least in the minds of this member, there’s a whole lot of questions remaining about what went on...

McCain continued on this ramble for what felt like an eternity. At one point, Comey said, “I’m a little confused, senator.” (Don’t worry, we all were.) Comey then tried to clarify the difference between the two investigations. McCain even slipped once and referred to “President Comey” before saying it would “intensely arouse my curiosity” to know what Trump meant by “that thing.” Hmm.

To be charitable, McCain seemed to be trying to suggest that the investigation into Clinton’s emails was related to Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election (because Clinton was a candidate in that election). Therefore, closing that investigation did not make sense. But that is a very flimsy argument to begin with and McCain did himself no favors with his bewildering and confused questioning.

At one point, McCain got frustrated at Comey’s attempts at clarifications and said, “I understand.” But does he?