HH: Joined by United States Senator Tom Cotton of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Armed Services Committee. Good morning, Senator Cotton, good to speak with you.
TC: Good morning, Hugh, good to be on with you.
HH: Are you a participant in Thursday’s hearings as I think you are?
TC: Yes, sir. There are 15 members of the Intelligence Committee for the public hearing Thursday morning, and for a classified hearing Thursday afternoon. And I suspect all will be there to participate.
HH: And how much time will you get, Senator?
TC: I believe they’re going to do extended time, so maybe 10 or 15 minutes for Chairman Burr and Mark Warner, the senior Democrat, and 7 or 8 minutes for each member.
HH: Now Senator, you unfortunately are a graduate of Harvard Law School. I’m not sure you’ve actually been trained in cross-examination, and so I’d like to offer up that you check with Kurt Schlichter and myself. But there is one question I wonder if you think is going to come up, which is just asking the former FBI director if everything he previously testified to remains his testimony, because to me, there is a predicate that he’s got to talk about when he talked about the Department of Justice not interfering with his investigation. Do you expect he’ll be asked about that?
TC: I do, Hugh. Jim Comey obviously testified in front of Congress many times on many topics, but in particular, over the last 11 months since he gave the press conference about his conclusions in the Clinton email investigation, he testified repeatedly about his conclusions there, what went into his thinking to have that press conference, to reopen the investigation in October, to close it a week later, as well as his testimony a couple months ago about the investigation into allegations of improper contacts between Russian officials and campaign operatives in last year’s campaign. So I would assume that all of his statements in that, those testimony before Congress remains his best and fullest knowledge, and that if anything he says tomorrow contradicts it, someone will ask him to explain that contradiction.
HH: The, and I, by the way, I have no idea what he’s going to testify to. He could very well end up supporting President Trump. He could end up being a critic of the President. It doesn’t matter to me. I just want it to be consistent.
TC: That’s all we ask. I mean, Hugh, that’s exactly right. Almost everything that we’ve read in the news about Mr. Comey’s statements, his perceptions, his feelings, is based on very thin sourcing. It’s not the kind of sourcing that you’d take as credible in the intelligence world, certainly not in a legal world. For instance, the accounts of these memos he allegedly wrote would be at least triple hearsay, what Donald Trump said according to Jim Comey according to someone who saw the memo, according to the New York Times’ reporter who had it read to him, didn’t even read it. So I don’t know what Mr. Comey will say on any of these matters beyond what he said to Congress in the past, which again, I take to still be his best and fullest knowledge. But I think anybody speculating about what Jim Comey will say on Thursday is putting the cart before the horse, and that we should just allow him to come in and tell his story and answer the questions of the members of the committee.
HH: Now I must say, I’m rather impressed and surprised that you know the term triple hearsay, coming from Harvard Law School. So that’s very good. I think that’s a hopeful sign for the committee hearing on Thursday. Let me ask you about one other question, which I’ll just put in your question pile. Yesterday, an NSA leaker was discovered within six hours of the leak being published, and has been arrested – six hours by the acting director of the FBI conducting the investigation. Why is it that we’ve had no other leakers found in all the years that Director Comey was running the Bureau, but we found this one in six hours? Have they not been looking, Senator Cotton?
TC: Hugh, and I ought not comment on that particular case, nor any other particular leak investigation other than to say that we should take any leak of classified information by those unauthorized to disclose it very seriously, and it should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Any person in our government who thinks he or she perceives wrongdoing has many legal avenues to elevate that wrongdoing – their immediate supervisors. If they think their supervisors or chain of command are involved, they can go to the inspector general. They can come to the Congressional Oversight committees. One authorized avenue is not going to the media.
TC: It is not to serve our public, it does not serve the public interest and our national security to go to the media with this kind of information. Any person who thinks they see wrongdoing should go through the proper legal secure channels.
HH: Amen. Then back to the Comey hearings, these memos that you just referenced, will there be a request of the Director for all such memos, both from the administration previous and current regarding contacts with the President?
TC: I’m quite sure there will be, Hugh.
HH: And have you received any indication that such memos exist, I mean, beyond the hearsay, the triple hearsay that you mentioned, is there any evidence it’s been turned over to the Intelligence Committee that it exists?
TC: I have not personally, Hugh.
HH: Okay. Last question, we have a minute, Jeremy Corbyn could be the prime minister on Friday morning. Would that, in your view, undermine the Five Eyes agreement because of the nature of the Labour Party government he would bring in with him?
TC: I wouldn’t expect the Five Eyes intelligence sharing agreement to be impacted by any change in administration in any one of the Five Eyes partners, Hugh. And I don’t want to predict what’s going to happen in the election. The British people have their own choice to make, so we’ll judge what happens once they make that choice on Thursday.
HH: Senator Cotton, we’ll talk again in a couple of weeks when I am back from Normandy. Thank you for what I think is going to be a fascinating day of commentary on Thursday, Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas, a member of the Intelligence Committee.
End of interview.