James Comey explains why he didn't illegally leak his Trump memos, and Kellyanne Conway isn't impressed
Former FBI Director James Comey took questions from students at Virginia's College of William & Mary, his alma mater, Wednesday night in an hour-long town hall event broadcast on CNN. One student asked if President Trump has a credible argument that Comey broke the law when he gave his friend Daniel Richman one of his memos recording his encounters with Trump and asked him to disclose its substance to the media. Comey said no, "I think he's just making stuff up," and he explained why. "The bottom line is, I see no credible claim by any serious person that that violated the law," he said.
Former FBI Director James Comey says President Trump is "making stuff up" when he claimed that Comey violated the law by releasing his memos. "I see no credible claim by any serious person that that violated the law," Comey added. #ComeyTownHall https://t.co/sJglXPaWRg
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) April 26, 2018
CNN's Chris Cuomo played that clip for White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and it did not change her opinion of Comey's actions. "He gave memos to his friend Daniel Richman," she said, "with the intent that Richman would leak it to the media and hoping to trigger a special counsel." She had what she portrayed as a bombshell about Richman, but Cuomo did not see why it was relevant and told her so.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on James Comey defending the release of his memos: "He gave memos to his friend Daniel Richman ... with the intent that Richman would leak it to the media and hoping to trigger a special counsel" https://t.co/C63EXXpvgp
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) April 26, 2018
Comey also discussed the idea of a "deep state" with CNN's Anderson Cooper, arguing that "there's no deep state, but there is a deep culture and a commitment to the rule of law" in the military, law enforcement, and intelligence communities.
“There’s no deep state, but there is a deep culture and a commitment to the rule of law,” James Comey says when asked about his confidence in US institutions #ComeyTownHall https://t.co/7NIoJaibIf https://t.co/4khKx9yIh7
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) April 26, 2018
Comey also explained why he was a Republican in the 1980s but is now "embarrassed and ashamed" that the GOP has abandoned "the notion that character matters, and values matter most of all," and he also told a terrifying story of being held hostage as a high schooler by the "Ramsey rapist." Comey said he does not have a nickname for Trump. "I call him the president of the United States, because I respect the office," he explained, and "no matter my concerns about him, I want him to be successful." Watch below. Peter Weber
Comey, who President Trump has called a “slime ball," says he doesn’t have a nickname for Trump: “I call him President of the United States because I respect the office” https://t.co/qcgvVVAEz7 #ComeyTownHall https://t.co/rsDwkZNrc6
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) April 26, 2018
Trump was reportedly furious with Michael Flynn for making Vladimir Putin wait 6 days for a return call
Former FBI Director James Comey's contemporaneous memos of his conversations with President Trump, leaked by Congress on Thursday, less than an hour after the Justice Department handed them over to lawmakers, contain a lot of new details but only a few new revelations. One of those bits of news is that Trump reportedly expressed doubts about short-lived National Security Adviser Michael Flynn during their Jan. 28, 2017, dinner in the White House Green Room. Comey wrote:
[Trump] then went on to explain that he has serious reservations about Mike Flynn's judgment and illustrated with a story from that day in which the president apparently discovered during his toast to Teresa May that [redacted] had called four days ago. Apparently, as the president was toasting [British Prime Minister] May, he was explaining that she had been the first to call him after his inauguration and Flynn interrupted to say that [redacted] had called (first, apparently). It was then that the president learned of [redacted] call and he confronted Flynn about it (not clear whether that was in the moment or after the lunch with PM May). Flynn said the return call was scheduled for Saturday, which prompted a heated reply from the president that six days was not an appropriate period of time to return a call from the [redacted] of a country like [redacted]. ("This isn't [redacted] we are talking about.") He said that if he called [redacted] and didn't get a return call for six days he would be very upset. In telling the story, the president pointed his fingers at his head and said "the guy has serious judgment issues." [James Comey memos]
Putin bragged about Russian prostitutes on TV weeks before Trump told James Comey a similar anecdote
One of the more bizarre and eye-catching parts of the newly released memos former FBI Director James Comey wrote after his conversations with President Trump is a comment Trump reportedly made at a Feb. 8, 2017, meeting in the Oval Office.
"The president brought up the 'Golden Showers thing' and said it really bothered him if wife had any doubt about it," Comey recalled. "He then explained, as he did at our dinner, that he hadn't stayed overnight in Russia during the Miss Universe trip. ... The president said 'the hookers thing' is nonsense but that Putin had told him 'we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.' He did not say when Putin had told him this."
That is a strange thing to say to an FBI director on your third-ever meeting — in their first, Comey had briefed Trump on the Russia dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele, which included the unsubstantiated "golden showers thing" — but it is also odd because officially, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken only once, on a Jan. 28 phone call. Trump claimed to have met Putin several times between 2013 and 2016 — as CNN meticulously documents — including during a 2015 debate, though his story changed in 2016.
On Jan. 17, 2017, however, Putin said on TV: "I don't know Mr. Trump. ... I have never met him and I don't know what he will do on the international arena." And in that same speech, he made light of the Trump-prostitute allegation, saying Trump had met the most beautiful women in the world and so had no need for Moscow prostitutes, adding that "they are also the best in the world."
Comey says that on February 8, 2017, Trump told him that Putin had told him that Russia had the best hookers in the world.
On January 17, 2017, at a press conference, Putin said Russia had the best hookers in the world. pic.twitter.com/xg4XK6Uh75
— Yashar Ali (@yashar) April 20, 2018
So, maybe Putin told Trump the same thing right after his inauguration, in their first conversation, or perhaps Trump saw the quip on TV and thought it was directed at him, or Comey might have misunderstood Trump's comment. The possibilities aren't quite endless, but they are curious. Peter Weber
It took less than an hour from the Justice Department handing Congress former FBI Director James Comey's contemporaneous memos on his interactions with President Trump to The Associated Press and other news organizations starting to release excerpts of the memos, and then the entire 15-page unclassified version. This quick sharing of the documents would not have surprised Comey, apparently.
Before Congress obtained the memos, CNN's Jake Tapper asked Comey on Thursday if he thought the Justice Department was right to turn them over. "I don't know, because I don't know what considerations the department has taken into account — it's fine by me," he said. (In a letter accompanying the memos, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said that after consulting "the relevant parties," the Justice Department had concluded that giving Congress the memos would not adversely affect any ongoing investigation.)
"I'm totally fine with transparency," Comey said. "I've tried to be transparent throughout this, and I think what folks will see, if they get to see the memos, is I've been consistent since the very beginning, right after my encounters with President Trump, and I'm consistent in the book and try to be transparent in the book as well."
Former FBI Director James Comey says if his memos are released to Congress, “I think what folks will see, if they get to see the memos, is that I’ve been consistent since the very beginning” https://t.co/fe3r1pfQZ0 pic.twitter.com/xZ44LJaV7B
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) April 19, 2018
In the CNN interview, Comey also said he "definitely" doesn't hate Trump or even dislike him but "there are things he does that make me uncomfortable and I think are inappropriate," and acknowledged he may be called as a witness if federal prosecutors decide to charge his former deputy, Andrew McCabe, for allegedly lying about talking to The Wall Street Journal about a Clinton Foundation investigation. You can watch the entire interview below. Peter Weber
James Comey tells Stephen Colbert he doesn't think Trump can successfully kill the Russia investigation
Stephen Colbert started off his interview with former FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday's Late Show by jokingly asking for his loyalty, as President Trump allegedly did, and Comey stared him down for a minute. Colbert lightened things up by pouring them paper cups of pinot noir, like Comey drank on the plane ride back to Washington after Trump fired him last year.
Comey explained his comparison of Trump and his entourage to a mafia family. "If you felt like you were working for a mob boss, were you surprised that you got whacked?" Colbert asked. Comey laughed and said no, "because that would be a crazy thing to do — why would you fire the FBI director who's leading the Russia investigation?" "Because you're leading the Russia investigation," Colbert said. "I don't know if you've dealt with mob bosses before, but they don't like to be investigated." Comey told Colbert that yes, he does know classified things about the Russia investigation, but he can't talk about them. "Drink some more wine," Colbert joked.
When Colbert asked Comey how he felt about Trump tweeting mean things about him, Comey joked that he's "like a breakup he can't get over. ... I'm out there living my best life. He wakes up in the morning and tweets at me." He said he wasn't "trying to make fun" or light of Trump with his one paragraph describing Trump's hair, skin, and hands, he was just "trying to observe and report," like an author.
Colbert had some tough questions about Comey's decisions on the Hillary Clinton email investigation, then asked if Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation ends if Trump fires Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein? "I think most likely it goes on. I think you would need to fire everyone in the Justice Department and the FBI to stop that investigation," Comey said. "I could imagine U.S. attorney's offices picking it up, FBI field offices picking it up. I think it would be very hard to shut that down by firing."
Comey ended on a hopeful note, affirming his belief that America will thrive after Trump. "I see all parts of civil society, the media, the courts, even Congress starting to get off its read end — I see parts of this country being energized that haven't been energized, frankly, since the last great forest fire, which was Watergate." Watch below. Peter Weber
Former FBI Director James Comey compared President Trump to a "forest fire" that is going to do "tremendous damage," but he sees a silver lining.
"A forest fire gives healthy things a chance to grow that had no chance before that fire," he told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an interview that aired Sunday night. Comey spoke in-depth about how the forest fire that is Trump is changing the way people look at the presidency, and not for the better. "The foundation of this country is in jeopardy, when we stop measuring our leaders against the central value of the truth," he said. Trump, he added, "must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country. The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president."
— YCryptocurrency (@YCryptos) April 16, 2018
When people lie, "the rule of law breaks down," Comey said. "And there once was a day when people were afraid of going to hell if they took an oath in the name of God and violated it. We've drifted away from that day." It's important to prevent people from becoming "numb to the fact that the truth is being assailed," he said, and "deciding that it's just too much to pay attention to because that's the path to losing truth as the central value in this country." Americans "need to stand up in the public square and in the voting booth and say: 'Look, we disagree about an awful lot. But we have in common something that matters enormously to this country. And our leaders must reflect those values.'" Catherine Garcia
Former FBI Director James Comey, in a wide-ranging interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that aired Sunday night, accused President Trump of treating "women like they're pieces of meat" and lying "constantly about matters big and small and [insisting] the American people believe it."
He scoffed at people who believe Trump must be in the early stages of dementia, saying, "I don't think he's medically unfit to be president. I think he's morally unfit to be president." Comey also said the so-called "Steele dossier," compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, "is coming from a credible source, someone with a track record," and said it's entirely possible the Russian government has material that could be used to blackmail Trump.
Comey discussed his brief working relationship with Trump, which came to an abrupt end when he was fired last May. He recounted a one-on-one dinner he had with Trump, who told him, "I expect loyalty. I need loyalty." Comey said his remarks caught him by "surprise," and he didn't tell him he was wrong to demand this because he needed to "find a way to work with this administration and protect the values of the FBI and so ... I couldn't think of a clever response." This was the first interview Comey conducted as part of a promotional blitz surrounding the publication of his new book A Higher Loyalty, out Tuesday. Catherine Garcia
Former FBI Director James Comey said his assumption that then-candidate Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 election played a role in his decision-making about investigating the private email server she used as secretary of state. Clinton has blamed Comey for her loss.
"Wasn't the decision to reveal [further investigation to Congress shortly before the election] influenced by your assumption that Hillary Clinton was going to win, and your concern that, she wins, this comes out several weeks later and then that's taken by her opponents as a sign that she's an illegitimate president?" host George Stephanopoulos asked Comey.
"It must have been," Comey replied. "I don't remember consciously thinking about that, but it must have been. I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. I'm sure that it was a factor. 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."
Comey's comments come in an interview excerpt released by ABC News on Saturday. The full interview will air Sunday at 10 p.m. Eastern on ABC. Bonnie Kristian