Former FBI Director James Comey on Sunday defended the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election following a report from the department’s inspector general examining the probe’s origins.
The report, released last week, found no evidence that the FBI’s decision to open the investigation was motivated by political bias as Trump has repeatedly claimed. However, FBI attorneys failed to properly vet applications to monitor the communications of a former Trump campaign aide, according to the report.
Comey, during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” defended the overall scope of the investigation but admitted that the FBI acted with “real sloppiness” in securing warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
“The FBI was accused of treason, of illegal spying, of tapping Mr. Trump’s wires illegally, of opening an investigation without justification, of being a criminal conspiracy to defeat and then unseat a president ― all of that was nonsense,” Comey said.
He added: “But [Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz] also found things we were never accused of which was real sloppiness and that’s concerning.”
Host Chris Wallace suggested “sloppiness” is a euphemism for what Horowitz uncovered in his investigation.
“One of his big concerns is the way the FBI handled the FISA applications and warrants that allowed you to surveil Carter Page, who was a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign,” Wallace said.
He then played a clip of Comey saying in December 2018 that he has “total confidence” that the FISA process was followed and that the entire case was handled responsibly followed by a clip of Horowitz testifying before Congress last week that there were “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the applications.
“He’s right. I was wrong,” Comey told Wallace in response to Horowitz’s comments. “I was overconfident in the procedures that the FBI and Justice [Department] had built over 20 years. I thought they were robust enough. ... He’s right. There was real sloppiness.”
Wallace continued to press Comey about the agency’s handling of the investigation under his leadership. Comey signed off on several of the FISA applications in 2016 and led the investigation into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia until the president fired him in May 2017.
“Would you agree that the FISA Court was also given false information by the FBI?” Wallace asked.
“I think that’s fair,” Comey said, adding that the FBI should have supplied the court with additional information.
Asked if he would have resigned over the report if he were still heading the FBI, Comey said he doesn’t think so.
“There were mistakes I consider more consequential than this during my tenure,” he said. “The important thing is to be transparent about it and then look to fix it and explain to the American people how you fixed it.”
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) also appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” where he echoed Comey’s reaction to the report and said he was unaware of FISA abuses at the time.
“They were right to seek a FISA on Carter Page and there wasn’t some ‘deep state’ conspiracy,” Schiff told Wallace. “There was no spying on the Trump campaign.”
“But there were nonetheless serious abuses of FISA, which were not apparent two years ago,” he continued. “The most significant things I think are that corrective steps will be taken in terms of the FISA process and that the IG debunked these claims by the president ... of this ‘deep state’ conspiracy.”
News of Wallace’s interviews with Comey and Schiff drew outrage from the president, who enjoys Fox News’ often friendly coverage of his presidency. He accused the network of “trying sooo hard to be politically correct” by inviting the two on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Both Commiecast MSNBC & Fake News CNN are watching their Ratings TANK,” the president tweeted Saturday. “Don’t know why @FoxNews wants to be more like them? They’ll all die together as other outlets take their place. Only pro Trump Fox shows do well. Rest are nothing.”
Wallace questioned Pam Bondi, a former Florida attorney general who recently joined Trump’s impeachment messaging team, about the president’s recent Twitter rant against Fox News.
“Does the president understand that it’s the duty of a free and fair press to cover both sides of the story?” Wallace asked.
“Of course he does,” Bondi said. “I think he’s so tired of hearing all these lies. And frankly, I’m going to disagree with the president right now, because I’m glad you had James Comey on because you caught him on multiple ... misrepresentations once again.”
Later on Sunday, Trump, citing zero evidence, accused Horowitz of finding “tremendous bias and guilt” during his investigation and essentially covering it up. He also claimed Comey admitted that he was “wrong” only after being “caught red handed.”
“So what are the consequences for his unlawful conduct. Could it be years in jail?” the president tweeted. “Where are the apologies to me and others, Jim?”
This story has been updated with Trump’s tweets.