Former FBI Director James Comey said the principal conclusions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation prove the bureau’s probe into President Trump’s ties to Russia was not a partisan witch hunt.
“It establishes, I hope, to all people no matter where they are on the spectrum, that the FBI is not corrupt, not a nest of vipers, of spies, but an honest group of people trying to find out what is true,” Mr. Comey said in an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt airing Wednesday evening.
The investigation spurred blistering criticism against the bureau by Mr. Trump and his Republican allies.
But the FBI also experienced several self-inflicted black eyes during the probe. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired for lying to investigators. FBI employees and anti-Trump lovebirds Peter Strzok and Lisa Page gained national attention for disparaging the president while also praising his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Nonetheless, Mr. Comey said the “damage” to the bureau’s reputation was worth it.
“I don’t think that we’ve seen in the history of our country, the president try to burn down an institution of justice because he saw it as a threat,” Mr. Comey said. “And the lies he told, forget about me, the lies he told about the agents of the FBI ‘storm troopers,’ the lies he told about Bob Mueller was terrible.”
Despite the bad publicity in recent years, Mr. Comey said the bureau will be “fine.”
“I think the people of the United States are going to see what I know about the FBI: These are people who are not in anyone’s tribe, they are trying to find the facts.”
Mr. Comey also defended the Russia probe, despite finding no evidence of Russian collusion, according to a four-page summary drafted by Attorney General William Barr. The onetime FBI director had initiated the investigation prior to Mr. Mueller’s appointment.
“The special counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign,” he wrote.
But Mr. Comey defended the probe anyway in Wednesday’s NBC interview, saying some circumstances looked suspicious and that’s what investigators do.
“There was smoke and enough smoke to justify investigating,” he said.
Yet, he said he was baffled that Mr. Mueller could not reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice. The special counsel probed whether Mr. Comey’s firing was an effort to thwart the Russia probe. Mr. Comey said he believed it could have been.
“I thought that’s potentially obstruction of justice and I hope somebody is gonna look at that,” he said.
Mr. Comey said, on the surface, his firing appears to be obstruction.
“Again, the president appears to be saying — I don’t know what’s in his head, which is why I can’t reach the conclusion — what he appears to be saying is ‘I got rid of this guy to shut down an investigation that threatened me,'” he said.
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