Comey says he was wrong in numerous public statements about the FBI's surveillance of Trump campaign associate Carter Page, but says it's "nonsense" that the errors were committed in an FBI effort to unseat Trump.
Former FBI Director James Comey repeatedly stated, "I was wrong" when addressing the many inconsistencies between his public statements over the past three years and an Inspector General's findings.
The admissions came in an interview today with Fox News's Chris Wallace after the scathing report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. It criticized the FBI's behavior regarding Trump-related secret surveillance in 2016 and 2017.
But Comey stuck by his insistence that he was correct on what really matters: there was no treasonous behavior on the part of the FBI. That, says Comey, was all "made up" by President Trump and his supporters.
In the interview with Wallace, Comey contradicted comments he made as recently as just a few days ago, in which he incorrectly called the Inspector General's report "vindication."
Wallace played a video clip of Comey making the remark, and then played a video clip of Inspector General Horowitz testifying before Congress last week asking if Comey was right.
"Does your report vindicate Comey?" a Republican Senator asked Horowitz.
"It doesn't vindicate anyone at the FBI who touched this, including the leadership," replied Horowitz.
Comey summed up Horowitz's criticism of FBI practices as "real sloppiness" and told Wallace "that's concerning..." and if he (Comey) were still FBI director, “I’d be very focused on it and dig into it.”
As for Comey originally claiming FBI officials under his oversight had acted in a "thoughtful and inappropriate way," he agreed that Horowitz's criticism to the contrary was right and "I was wrong... I was overconfident... he's right there was real sloppiness...it was not acceptable..he was right, I was wrong...I was wrong... I was overconfident."
But Comey would not give an inch on the apparent contradiction regarding his statements that the political opposition research funded by the Clinton campaign and provided to the FBI, the "Steele Dossier," was only a bit player in the FBI obtaining a wiretap against a Trump campaign associate. The Inspector General found, and FBI officials told him, the discredited research was actually the key "evidence" that led the FBI to seek the wiretap.
Wallace asked Comey repeatedly about the apparent contradiction between what he'd said and what Horowitz found. But Comey appeared to indicate he didn't understand what was contradictory.
"I’m not sure we are saying different things," Comey insisted. "The FBI thought [justification for a wiretap on a Trump-related official] was a close call until they got the Steele report and that tipped it over... [but the wiretap application itself ] includes Steele material and lots of other material."
Wallace pressed Comey saying that what Comey had told the public was entirely different than what Horowitz found.
"You’re saying [the Steele Dossier was] one element in a 'broader mosaic' but Horowitz said it was the centerpiece," Wallace said.
"I don’t understand him to be saying that," said Comey.
Wallace pointed out that Horowitz found the Steele Dossier played "a central and essential role" in the FBI's decision to seek the wiretap.
"I don’t see the disconnect between the two of us," insisted Comey. "I’m sorry that I’m missing it."
Wallace tried again.
"You said it was 'part of a broader mosaic' and Horowitz said it 'played an essential role."
"It was one of a bunch of different facts," said Comey. "It was the one that convinced the [FBI] layers they had enough, now."
Wallace tried yet again.
"It seems you are minimizing the role of Steele Dossier and [Horowitz is] saying it's a lot more important."
"Then I’m sorry that I did that," replied Comey. "But I meant it was one part of the presentation to the court, it wasn’t a huge part of the presentation to the court, but it was the fact that convinced the lawyers to go forward."
Wallace then noted that Comey had briefed President-elect Trump about the salacious and unverified political opposition research in the Steele Dossier on January 20, 2017. The material was then leaked to and published in the press. The FBI quickly learned that “Steele misstated or exaggerated" his main source's statement.
Wallace asked Comey why he failed to go back to President Trump and say the Steele Dossier was "bunk." Not only that, the FBI used it to get the wiretap renewed three more times.
"I think you’re mischaracterizing," Comey said to Wallace. "[The FBI] didn’t conclude the reporting from Steele was bunk. There were significant questions about the reliability of his sub source reporting. That should have bee included in the [wiretap court application] renewals."
Wallace pressed Comey on why he didn't go back to President Trump when the FBI realized the dossier contained weak, unverified and discredited material.
"When I briefed the president, I said I didn’t now if it was true and I didn’t care. I just wanted him to know about it," said Comey. "Steele misstated or exaggerated the sources’s statements in multiple sections...but that doesn’t drive the conclusion that Steele’s reporting is 'bunk.'
"Did you know all of this?" Wallace asked next.
"What?" said Comey.
"That the Steele report was the key for probable cause? That the FBI had talked to [Steele's] Russian [source of the salacious information] and he said not true?"
Comey said, "I don’t think FBI concluded Steele’s reporting was 'bunk,' but, no, I didn’t, as director, you’re not kept informed of details of an investigation...I didn’t know the particulars of the investigation."
Comey also said the most important takeaway is that it's "nonsense" that any of the FBI misbehavior was done "to unseat Trump."
Read more about Comey's interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News and watch the video by clicking the link below: