McCain on His Gaffe at Comey Hearing: 'Colossal Screw-up'

Tells 'Esquire' he miscommunicated Lindsey Graham question from phone
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2017 10:00 AM CDT
John McCain Explains His Gaffe at Comey Hearing
In this June 7, 2015, photo, Sen. John McCain speaks during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

John McCain is shaking his head after admitting he messed up a line of questioning during James Comey's testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. On June 8, the Arizona senator offered what the Arizona Republic called a "distracted and listless line of questioning" toward the ex-FBI director, perplexing viewers with a sudden jump in topic from Comey's interactions with President Trump—all part of a larger probe into whether Russia had interfered with the 2016 elections—to Hillary Clinton's private email server. Some speculated McCain was tired after a long trip from Asia; others wondered later if his Clinton-themed questions were symptoms of the brain tumor he eventually found out he had. However, McCain, his friend Sen. Lindsey Graham, and other sources tell Esquire what really happened that day.

McCain says as he was getting ready to launch into his Comey interrogation, Graham, who was watching the hearing from his Senate office, decided he had his own question to ask—and so, aides say, he sent McCain an email. But as McCain was reading the message on the phone handed to him by an aide, the screen went black. Suddenly his name was being called to begin his questioning. Because of his close friendship with Graham, he "knew that this must be important. So I started out trying to remember what was on the [email], and, anyway, to make a long story short, I f---ed it up." Graham says his original question was making a comparison between Clinton's emails and "something else" he says he now can't recall. It was McCain, though, who failed as the messenger. "It was a colossal screw-up," he says. "That was such an important hearing." (More John McCain stories.)

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