Fired FBI Director James Comey said he believed Obama Administration Attorney General Loretta Lynch lacked credibility when it come to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails – and so he took it upon himself to announce that he was closing the investigation ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Comey, in an exclusive interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, painted himself as trying to remain above the political fray and guided only by the best interests of the American people and the Federal Bureau of Investigation as he explained his controversial decisions that have earned him bitter scorn from both Clinton and President Donald Trump.
“I actually thought, as bad as this’ll be for me personally, this is my obligation, to protect the F.B.I. and the Justice Department. Given all that had gone on, the attorney general of the United States could not credibly announce this result,” he said. “And if she did, it would do corrosive damage to the institutions of justice.”
Comey’s highly anticipated book, A Higher Loyalty, does not come out until Tuesday – but it has already risen to No. 4 on the list of best-sellers for 2018.
His interview on ABC News Sunday night comes amid repeated verbal attacks by President Donald Trump; in eight tweets over the past week, the president called him a “leaker and liar,” a “slime ball” and “the worst FBI director in history.”
“Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!” Trump tweeted Sunday morning.
The White House and the Republican National Committee have also pushed back hard on Comey’s claims.
Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017, citing a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that criticized Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. However, in an interview with NBC News two days later, the President said “this Russia thing with Trump” was on his mind when he fired the FBI director.Reopening the Clinton investigation days before the election
Comey said he assumed that Clinton would win the 2016 presidential election and that factored into his decision to reopen the FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails just 11 days before the polls.
“I don’t remember spelling it out, but it had to have been, that she’s going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out,” he said.
Comey announced on Oct. 28 that the FBI had reopened its investigation after finding emails forwarded from her account on her close aide Huma Abedin’s laptop, which was seized as part of an investigation into whether her husband Anthony Weiner had sexted a 15-year-old girl. Comey then revealed on Nov. 6 – two days before the election, that he had closed the investigation again after finding no evidence of wrongdoing.
Clinton has explicitly blamed Comey’s decision for her election day loss, saying in her book, “If not for the dramatic intervention of the FBI director in the final days we would have won the White House.” Comey defended reopening the investigation, saying he wouldn’t have done anything differently – even if he knew Trump would have won as a result.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told ABC’s This Week on Sunday that Comey made the decision to announce he was closing the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server to give himself “political cover.”
“He thought that Hillary Clinton would win, and he thought that this would give him some cover. He made these decisions based on the political landscape and not the facts of the case,” she said.
Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe. In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2018
Trump tweeted Sunday, “Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe. In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!”Trump’s focus on prostitute claims in the Steele Dossier
Comey recounted how Trump became fixated on one particular allegation in the Steele Dossier, the unverified report compiled by an ex-British intelligence officer that purports to detail Trump’s ties with the Russians. The dossier – which was paid for by Clinton’s campaign and the DNC – was used as part of the evidence to conduct surveillance on members of the Trump campaign.
Comey said that in a meeting with Trump in January 2017, the President told him he was considering ordering an investigation to disprove the claims that Russian intelligence had a video of Trump with prostitutes. Trump said he was chiefly concerned that there may be a “1% chance” that First Lady Melania could think the allegations are true.
“And I remember thinking, ‘How could your wife think there’s a 1% chance you were with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow?’ ” Comey recounted. “I’m a flawed human being, but there is literally zero chance that my wife would think that was true. So, what kind of marriage to what kind of man does your wife think there’s only a 99% chance you didn’t do that?”
Comey also recounted how he briefed then President-elect Trump about the allegations in the memo during their first meeting at Trump Tower.
Comey said Trump responded by saying, “‘Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?” Comey said he told Trump he wasn’t suggesting the claims had credibility.
In retrospect, Comey told Stephanopoulos, he is less certain.
“I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” he said. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.”