5 political bombshells from James Comey’s exclusive interview with ABC News
The surprise firing of former FBI Director James Comey rocked the political world, and now he’s re-entering the fray with some revelations that could send shockwaves of their own.
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Comey weighed in on some of the most hot-button figures of the moment during an exclusive interview with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos ahead of the April 17 release of his book “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.”
Here are some of the most interesting opinions that Comey shared that could have an impact politically.
1. Rosenstein viewed as ‘dishonorable’
Comey said that his view of deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was colored by the memorandum Rosenstein wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that was cited by the White House as the reasoning for Comey’s firing. The memorandum criticized Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation – specifically, for his July 5, 2016 press conference at which he announced the findings of the FBI investigation and his October 28, 2016 letter to Congress stating that the investigation had been reopened due to the discovery of additional emails.
“The way [Director Comey] handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong, “ Rosenstein wrote. “As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.”
“The deputy attorney general, in my view, had acted dishonorably by putting out this pretext about why I was fired,” Comey told Stephanopoulos.
Comey believed that Trump and his team had acted similarly to mafia families, who, he said, worked to make people feel as if they are part of the family, and in turn, act according to the families’ best interests rather than the greater whole.
“He’s part of the family now. I can’t trust him,” Comey said of Rosenstein.
Rosenstein is the one at the Department of Justice who now has authority over special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and their investigation into Russian interference in the election, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. There has been much speculation as to whether President Donald Trump will decide to fire Mueller. If he does, most legal experts believe that order would have to go through Rosenstein.
When asked by Stephanopoulos is he believes that Rosenstein would carry out such an order, Comey said that he may not in an effort to make up for Comey’s firing.
“I think, given his experience with me, that he has an opportunity in overseeing Bob Mueller to restore some of his professional reputation. And I’m highly confident that he would refuse to abide that order,” Comey said of Rosenstein.
2. Sessions seen as ‘over matched’
Comey told Stephanopoulos that he was unsure of his views on Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“I don’t know what to make of him. I mean, I only worked with him very briefly before I was fired. My sense of him, maybe it’s unfair to him, was that he was over matched for the job. And that the job was much, much bigger than he was. And that he was gonna struggle in it. That’s my sense,” Comey said.
3. Obama’s comments about Clinton’s emails were “inappropriate”
Comey didn’t limit his criticisms to Republicans, saying that some of President Obama’s behavior surrounding the Clinton email scandal baffled him as well.
“We had the problem that President Obama had twice publicly basically said, ‘There’s no there, there’ in an interview with– on Fox, an interview on 60 Minutes I think, both times he said that,” Comey said.
“It really did surprise me. He’s a very smart man and a lawyer. And so it surprised me. He shouldn’t have done it. It was inappropriate,” Comey said.
When asked by Stephanopoulos if Obama was trying to “color the case” against Clinton, Comey said “I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
“He didn’t have any insight into the case, at least as far as I know, more than anybody readin’ the newspaper did, which was zero ’cause there were no leaks,” Comey said. “I think he felt a pressure in the political environment because he wanted Hillary Clinton to be elected, to give her a shot in the arm.”
4. Comey would be fine with Kelly quitting now
In the immediate wake of his sudden firing by Trump, Comey received several concerned phone calls. In addition to receiving a confused call from his wife Patrice, who had heard that he was fired before hearing it from Comey directly, and then getting a call from a different friend, Comey says he also got a call from then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, who now serves as Trump’s chief of staff.
Kelly “was very upset,” Comey said. “He was very emotional and said he had seen the news and that he intended to resign because he wouldn’t work for people who would treat someone like me in such a dishonorable way and that he was gonna quit.”
Comey said he urged Kelly to remain in the administration.
“Please don’t do that, John,” Comey recalled telling Kelly. “And I knew him well and still… thought highly of him then, still think highly of him, and
I said, ‘Please don’t do that. This president needs people of character and principle around him, especially this president. Please don’t do that.’ And I said, ‘We need you to stay and serve for the country.’”
“If he called you today saying he intended to quit, what would you tell him?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“I understand. I think you’ve sacrificed as much as you really can of yourself for the country. And no one would begrudge you leaving. You’ve done your absolute best. It’s come at a cost to you, but that no one can blame you,” Comey said.
The White House referred ABC News to the Republican National Committee for comment from Kelly.
“What’s dishonorable is that James Comey lied about leaking information to the media, consistently contradicted himself in testimony, and made a series of bizarre decisions as FBI director. That’s why Republicans and Democrats alike have said he has no credibility,” RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens said in a statement to ABC News.
5. Talk of obstruction of justice
In talking about the controversial conversation he had with Trump after the president excused everyone else from an Oval Office meeting and spoke solely to Comey, the former FBI director said that a specific part of that conversation could be viewed as a form of obstruction of justice.
On that Feb. 14, 2017, meeting, Trump asked everyone else to leave the room, and Comey says, told Comey “I hope you can let this go.”
Comey interpreted it as a directive to drop the criminal investigation of Michael Flynn, who had just been forced out from his post as National Security Adviser the day before. Trump has since denied asking Comey that, both directly denying it during a June 2017 press conference and then calling it a “Comey lie” in a December 2017 tweet.
When Stephanopoulos asked Comey if he believes Trump’s request constituted an obstruction of justice, Comey replied “possibly.”
“I mean, it’s certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice. It would depend, and I’m just a witness in this case, not the investigator or prosecutor, it would depend upon other things that reflected on his intent,” Comey said.