Tour De Force: FNC’s Baier Grills Comey Over Dossier, E-Mail, Leaks in Epic Interview [UPDATED]

Editor's Note, April 27, 11:20 a.m. Eastern: This piece has been updated to add the entire transcript of the Baier-Comey interview. It can be found by clicking "expand" at the bottom of the post.

Former FBI Director and new author James Comey has spent the past 12 days on his book tour promoting A Higher Loyalty, the supposed greatness of Comey himself and the lack thereof on the part of President Trump. 

However, no prior interview compared to his Thursday hit on the Fox News Channel’s Special Report as host Bret Baier offered a masterfully tough tour de force akin to interviews of yesteryear by the late Tim Russert.

 

 

The interview got a late start with Baier telling viewers in a “Fox News Alert” at the top of the program that Comey was “in traffic” and that he would be kept updated with Comey’s whereabouts. Eventually, Comey arrived at the Fox News D.C. bureau near Union Station and the interview started at the 6:15 p.m. Eastern mark.

The questioning began with the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe and if it was “true that you and your FBI colleagues made the decision to exonerate Secretary Clinton well before she was interviewed.” 

Comey denied that despite having written a memo exonerating her and emphasized that it’s crucial for investigators to have an idea of where a probe that ended up lasting almost a year.

It was soon after that Baier showed his mettle, telling Comey that “you already knew that she had been telling, whatever you want to say, lies, mistruths about this investigation of what — and how she handled those emails” and played a clip of Comey stating just that in congressional testimony in July 2016. 

Here’s more of that exchange, including a question about why Cheryl Mills was allowed to sit in on Clinton’s FBI interview (as always, click “expand” for more):

BAIER: You go back to intent a lot, but actually the statute, as it's written handling, classified information grossly negligent doesn't deal with intent. 

COMEY: Well, grossly negligent is express pressure of kind of intent. How were you acting? What was your mental state at the time?

BAIER: You were careful to call it extremely careless, not grossly negligent. 

COMEY: Right. I was struggling with the fact we thought it was not mere sloppiness but didn't rise to the level of criminal misconduct that the Justice Department prosecutes. How do you describe that? I probably should have said really sloppy, but I wanted to be honest and say it's above sloppy. It doesn't add up to the what the 1917 statute meant when it said grossly negligent is a felony. 

BAIER: So, why did you allow Cheryl Mills, Secretary Clinton's chief of staff, to sit in on that interview? She was potentially a subject or a target in the investigation. She was a government employee. She wasn't Clinton's attorney, but, yet, she sits in there and talks with her throughout the interview. 

COMEY: Yeah. My understanding was, at that time, she was one of Clinton's attorneys. She was no longer a subject in our investigation. The agents had scrubbed her conduct very carefully by that point and she was no longer a subject. But that, again, that's a reasonable question. But the facts are not a subject, one of Clinton's lawyers. She is entitled to be in the interview. 

What made Baier’s interview successful but damaging for Comey was his short but pointed questions that didn’t come across as attitudinal or snarky. One such moment was when Baier broached the subject of the Steele dossier. 

Baier would tell his panel following the interview that this portion surprised him because Comey showed a false understanding of who funded the final dossier (which included the “pee tape” allegation): 

BAIER: When did you learn that the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign had funded Christopher Steele's work? 

COMEY: Yeah. I still don't know that for a fact. 

BAIER: What do you mean? 

COMEY: I’ve only seen it in the media. I never knew exactly which Democrats had funded. I knew it was funded first by Republicans. 

BAIER: But that's not true. 

COMEY: I'm sorry? 

BAIER: That's not true that the dossier that Christopher Steele worked on was funded by Republicans? 

COMEY: My understanding his work started funded as opo-research funded by Republicans after —

BAIER: So Free Beacon had said that they had Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS on a kind of retainer they did not fund the Christopher Steele memo or the dossier. That was initiated by Democrats. 

COMEY: Okay. My understanding was the activity was begun, that Steele was hired to look into first funded by Republicans. Then picked up — the important thing was picked up by Democrats opposed to Donald Trump. 

BAIER: So is that why — did you tell President Obama that the dossier was who it was funded by? 

COMEY: No, not to my recollection. 

BAIER: Did he want to know who it was funded by? 

COMEY: I wanted to know what I knew which is it was funded by people politically opposed by Donald Trump. 

BAIER: Okay.

COMEY: Which particular opponents wasn’t that important to me. 

BAIER: So, you still to this day don't know it was funded by the DNC. 

COMEY: I have read that in the media but didn't know for a fact and didn't know while I was at the FBI who — which exact opponent of the president's funded that. 

BAIER: Okay. So, how many times and to what extent did you brief president Obama on the dossier? 

COMEY: I didn't ever brief President Obama on the dossier. I was present during a conversation where Director of National Intelligence briefed it to him as we did to the gang of eight and to the President-elect the first week of January. 

Baier then held Comey’s feet to the fire over the leak of the Trump Tower meeting between Comey and Trump over the dossier. The FNC host ran through the gambit of possible leakers and Comey denied all of them. Comey added that he made no attempt to find out who did it because the dossier was an “unclassified, public document.”

Without a doubt, the most devastating exchange focused on Comey’s leaking of his memos to friend, former FBI employee, and law professor Daniel Richman. The FNC host marvelously exposed Comey’s refusal to inform lawmakers that Richman was anything but a private citizen and instead a former “FBI special government employee.”

Comey tried to argue that “it wasn’t relevant” but the damage was done. With Comey on the ropes, Baier led Comey as he were the former law enforcement official by getting him to admit to leaking the classified memos to not just Richman. 

For full transparency, here’s the entire exchange.:

COMEY: Two things. His primary focus was our Going Dark Challenge. Helping us think through and articulate and fight for access to encrypted communications and then law enforcement data was a big part of his responsibilities. 

BAIER: So, did you leak other things through Mr. Richman? 

COMEY: Yeah. The only reason I'm smiling, I don't consider what I shared Mr. Richman a leak. I told him about an unclassified conversation with the President. I gave him — 

BAIER: Okay, but the FBI protocol —

COMEY: Let me answer your question. 

BAIER: — you went through this with Anderson last night.

COMEY: I gave him nothing else ever to share with the media. 

BAIER: FBI protocol says your own employment agreement with the FBI prohibits “the unauthorized disclosure of any information or material from or related to FBI files or any information acquired by virtue of my official employment without prior written permission from the FBI.” Did have you written permission? 

COMEY: No and I didn't consider it part of an FBI file. All the things that I talked about with Anderson.

BAIER: You wrote it as FBI director. It was work product. 

COMEY: No. It was not. It was my personal aide-mémoire.. 

BAIER: You were talking to the President. 

COMEY: Sure I carried two copies of it. One to keep in my personal safe at home and I left another one at the FBI so the Bureau could always have access to it, but I always thought of it as mine like a diary. 

BAIER: Who else did you give, leak, whatever you want to call it?

COMEY: Use is what I prefer. 

BAIER: Yeah. The memos to. 

COMEY: I gave the memos to my legal team after I gave them to Dan Richman after I gave them to the media. I'm sorry, gave four memos to my legal team. 

BAIER: Which included Patrick Fitzgerald. 

COMEY: Patrick Fitzgerald. 

BAIER: He was a legal team at that time?

COMEY: Correct, sure. 

BAIER: And Dan —

COMEY: David Kelly and Dan Richman. 

BAIER: — David Kelly and — okay. You said in the memos I said I don't do sneaky things, I don't leak. I don't do weasel moves. But, I mean, we can argue what a leak is but that's a leak, isn't it? 

COMEY: It's not. 

BAIER: Okay. Here's what you told Chuck Grassley about leaking. 

REPUBLICAN SENATOR CHUCK GRASSLEY (Iowa) [on 05/03/17]: Director Comey, have you ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation? 

COMEY [on 05/03/17]: Never. 

GRASSLEY [on 05/03/17]: Has any classified information relating to President Trump or his association — associates been declassified or — and shared with the media? 

COMEY [on 05/03/17]: Not to my knowledge. 

BAIER: So at what point were you made aware that some of the information was classified by the FBI? 

COMEY: Which information? 

BAIER: In the memos? 

COMEY: Oh, yeah. I don't know, some time after I was fired the FBI apparently made a decision that there were some words in at least two of the memos, maybe one, I think two, that were diplomatically sensitive and so my lawyers returned them to the FBI. But my testimony was truthful and I stand by it. I was hoping you were going to ask me that. 

BAIER: I am. I was. 

COMEY: It was truthful. 

Absolutely catastrophic and master’s class in conducting a long interview.

Following a commercial break, Comey tried to play dumb when it came to interpreting the Peter Strzok and Lisa Page texts concerning the two lovers and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. 

But prior to that act, Baier pressured him about the prospect of McCabe facing criminal charges and the work of Strzok and Page being questioned with the Clinton and Trump probes based on their behavior.

BAIER: Should he be prosecuted? 

COMEY: That's not for me to say. As a — 

BAIER: Well, wait. You said it in the Clinton case. 

COMEY: Well, I was then the director of the FBI. 

BAIER: Which was not your role at that moment.

COMEY: I'm a private citizen. Private citizens should not be calling for the prosecution of people in a case they are not involved in. But, I do believe, as it routinely happens, the IG will likely refer or has referred it to a U.S. Attorney's office to look at it. 

BAIER: So, did you — you see the disparity here where people look at how the Clinton case was handled and how the Trump case is handled. Did you tell lawmakers — 

COMEY: I don’t I don't see disparity though. 

BAIER: — did you tell lawmakers that FBI agents didn't believe former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was lying intentionally to investigators? 

COMEY: No. 

BAIER: You did not tell that?

COMEY: And I saw that in the media. I don’t know what — maybe someone misunderstood something I said. I didn't believe that and didn't say that. 

BAIER: About the controversial text messages, we just received a lot more up on Capitol Hill today. If you knew back then when you were in charge of the investigation, and you saw those texts between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the level of animus they had against President Trump, what would have you done?

COMEY: I would have removed both of them from any contact with significant investigations. 

BAIER: So shouldn't their work from — 

COMEY: — including those involving anybody connected to president trump but beyond that. It’s just such poor judgment. 

BAIER: — should their work product then be questioned?

COMEY: Sure. It's a reasonable question to ask. 

BAIER: Okay. So, then Peter Strzok —

COMEY: They were bad mouthing everybody, including the candidate Trump. 

BAIER: — so, Peter Strzok interviews Hillary Clinton. Deals with the bleach bit and the server and Cheryl Mills, all of that, interviews Michael Flynn, and is integral in this whole case. 

COMEY: But he’s one of many other people involved in all the things you just ticked off. It's a reasonable question to ask and I can tell you this. When I saw the texts, I was deeply disappointed in them, but I never saw any bias any reflection of any kind of animus towards anybody. Including me. I'm sure I'm bad mouthing those texts. I'm just not going to read them never saw it, but that's why we have such a big team of people — 

BAIER: But you were in charge.

COMEY: — to bang on each other.

BAIER: So, the buck stops with you. 

COMEY: Of course. 

BAIER: Okay. 

COMEY; Of course. Of course I’m responsible.

The final excerpt worth highlighting was Baier pointing out that Comey has stated he would still be on the job if he weren’t fired despite the fact that he finds Trump unfit for office and akin to a mob boss.

Speaking for most viewers, Baier expressed an astonishment that Comey seemed to have zero problem with that:

BAIER: You told CNN last night that you didn't think you’d be fired. That, you know, had you not been fired, you would still be working as FBI director tonight. 

COMEY: Yeah. In fact, that was my intention to serve another six years. 

BAIER: So, despite the fact that now you say that this President is morally unfit, that you say impeachment is too good of a remedy on the book tour —

COMEY: That's not what I said. I said in a way I hope not because I think the voters need to speak.

BAIER: Exactly and on the media tour and the blitz, you are basically encouraging voters to vote Trump out of office because he doesn't line up with your values. 

COMEY: I'm asking them to vote their values and what I believe your viewers would agree are America's values. 

BAIER: Okay and but as of tonight, had you not been fired, you’d still be working for this guy that you say is like a crime boss, who is morally unfit, who you just don't agree with on principle and values. You would still have that job tonight? 

COMEY: Absolutely to be protect — and my goal would to be protect the FBI and serve the President of the United States. 

BAIER: So, when you say Republicans —

COMEY: I respect that office tremendously. 

BAIER: — when you say to Republicans why do you work with this President and then sit there and say you would still have this job tonight, isn't there a disconnect there?

COMEY: No because elected officials in Congress have a public platform and are responsible for communicating with the voters in a way the FBI director is not. My job would be to protect the independence of the institution. Their job should to be represent the people who elected them. 

This was far from the first instance in which Baier grilled high-profile figures in the news. In March and August 2016, he grilled Hillary Clinton during the height of the campaign in ways that put his competitors to shame. He also hammered then-Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon on Mary 25, 2016 in a similar fashion that you can read about here.

To see the relevant transcript from FNC’s Special Report with Bret Baier on April 26, click “expand.”

FNC’s Special Report with Bret Baier
April 26, 2018
6:15 p.m. Eastern

BRET BAIER: Welcome back to Special Report. Joining me live in studio, former FBI director James Comey. A little tougher to get across town without a motorcade.

JAMES COMEY: Oh, it’s tough for everybody today.

BAIER: I understand. You have a new book out. 

COMEY: I sure — I’ve have heard that yeah. 

BAIER: Thanks for being here. The book is A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership. Big sales in its first week. I have read the book. I’ve seen or read every interview that you have done on this media tour. A lot of people have focused on President Trump and your interactions. I want to get to that but I want to start chronologically with the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe and the decisions you made there. Is it true that you and your FBI colleagues made the decision to exonerate Secretary Clinton well before she was interviewed?

COMEY: No. 

BAIER: So why wait until the end and why write up the memo that you eventually bring forward first? 

COMEY: Yeah. That's a good question. Come May, after we had been doing it for about 10 months, I started to, as part of my regular briefing from the investigators, see that their view was it was unlikely to end in a case that the prosecutors at DOJ would bring. 

BAIER: Before the interview?

COMEY: Sure, yeah, because they had spent 10 months digging around, reading all her emails, putting everything together, interviewing everybody who set up her system. They weren't certain of this result. But they said look, boss on the current course and speed it looks like it's not going to get to a place where the prosecutors will bring it. So, then in May, I started thinking okay, if it continues that way and it may not, if it continues that way, so how do we end this thing in a credible way. 

BAIER: But what, if anything, could she have said in that interview that would have changed your mind and somehow changed what you eventually decided to do? 

COMEY: Well, two ways. First, by lying in a way that we could prove in the interview or giving us a hook to continue the investigation to see if we could prove a lie or admitting something that would surprise us about her intent. Now, a lot of folks have asked good question about why to do the interview at the end. That's fairly typical for a subject interview in a white collar investigation. I think you see Special Counsel Mueller taking exactly that approach with the President. 

BAIER: But you already knew that she had been telling, whatever you want to say, lies, mistruths about this investigation of what — and how she handled those emails. Take a listen. 

REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN TREY GOWDY (S.C.) [on 07/07/16]: Secretary Clinton said there was nothing marked classified on her emails either sent or received. Was that true? 

COMEY [on 07/07/16]: That's not true. 

GOWDY [on 07/07/16]: Secretary Clinton said I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material. Was that true? 

COMEY: No. There was classified material emailed. 

GOWDY [on 07/07/16]: Secretary Clinton said all work-related e-mails were returned to the State Department. Was that true? 

COMEY: No. We found work-related e-mails, thousands that were not returned. 

BAIER: So it went on. I mean, there were clearly a pattern there. And had you already made your decision. 

COMEY: No. I had not made my decision, but I could see what the investigators saw after 10 months. If you don't have a general sense of where you are headed after 10 months of that kind of work, you’re not competent. They could see it was unlikely, although not certain, unlikely to get us to a place where they would prosecute it at the Justice Department. And the question was would she lie to us? What people say in the public forum, in a debate or, you know, in a political campaign is not our business. Our business is are you going to lie to us and if you are and we can prove it, then we’re going to prosecute you for it. 

BAIER: You go back to intent a lot, but actually the statute, as it's written handling, classified information grossly negligent doesn't deal with intent. 

COMEY: Well, grossly negligent is express pressure of kind of intent. How were you acting? What was your mental state at the time?

BAIER: You were careful to call it extremely careless, not grossly negligent. 

COMEY: Right. I was struggling with the fact we thought it was not mere sloppiness but didn't rise to the level of criminal misconduct that the Justice Department prosecutes. How do you describe that? I probably should have said really sloppy, but I wanted to be honest and say it's above sloppy. It doesn't add up to the what the 1917 statute meant when it said grossly negligent is a felony. 

BAIER: So, why did you allow Cheryl Mills, Secretary Clinton's chief of staff, to sit in on that interview? She was potentially a subject or a target in the investigation. She was a government employee. She wasn't Clinton's attorney, but, yet, she sits in there and talks with her throughout the interview. 

COMEY: Yeah. My understanding was, at that time, she was one of Clinton's attorneys. She was no longer a subject in our investigation. The agents had scrubbed her conduct very carefully by that point and she was no longer a subject. But that, again, that's a reasonable question. But the facts are not a subject, one of Clinton's lawyers. She is entitled to be in the interview. 

BAIER: Alright. We asked people to tweet in or write in. We have one from Jay Harper Wilson: “I am a retired FBI agent serving almost 25 years retiring in 1995 as senior executive special agent. [Please] ask on [Thursday] why a grand jury was not used in the [Hillary Clinton] investigation as would be normal & why was it run out of HQ. Book did not address.”

COMEY: Yeah. The second one I will take first. It was run out of HQ because it was a case of intense interest. Outside to the media, and so to keep it tight, it was worked in the counter intelligence division at headquarters. You can reasonably disagree with that if you’re an FBI person. Could have put it in Washington field office, could have put it in New York, but the decision that counter intention made it will be kept tighter and leak-proof which it was in the criminal intelligence division. 

BAIER: And no grand jury. 

COMEY: I'm not allowed to comment on the way in which the grand jury was used. I can say this though. She was not interviewed in front of a grand jury which is another judgment call that prosecutors and investigators make all the time. 

BAIER: You thought Attorney General Loretta Lynch was compromised that you had to do something different because of that tarmac meeting with former President Clinton and because she had wanted to call it a matter, correct? 

COMEY: And other things. 

BAIER: And other things in this classified thing that ends up leaking to The New York Times, but She denies. This she writes: “If he had any concerns regarding email investigation, classified or not, he had ample opportunities to raise them with me both privately and in meetings. He never did.” So, someone is not telling the truth here. Is it the former attorney general or you? 

COMEY: No. Actually, I think we are both telling the truth. I never went to her and said Loretta, I think you should recuse yourself. My problem was she had already announced it publicly that she wouldn't and that she would accept my recommendation and so at that point what do I do? And I decided at that point I have got to step away from her. 

BAIER: Alright. Fast forward a lot of people are upset how it comes out, how you take control. It actually leads to Rod Rosenstein. He cites this in what you did as a reason for recommending your firing. You go on after that recommendation, you write a letter to Congress to announce the case is reopened because more classified emails had been found on Anthony Weiner's computer. You said it was, last night, a tough choice between concealing or coming forward, a really tough choice. But there are authorities in New York who are saying FBI HQ was slow-walking that case and weeks went by without any action. Did you know that Andrew McCabe, your deputy, had sat on that revelation about the e-mails? 

COMEY: Yeah, I don't know that. I don't know that to be the case. I do know that New York and FBI headquarters became aware that there may be some connection between Weiner's laptop and the Clinton investigation weeks before it was brought to me for a decision and as I write in the book, I don't know whether they could have moved faster and why the delay. 

BAIER: So, was it the threat that the New York agents were going to leak that it existed really what drove you to the not conceal part?

COMEY: I don't think so. I think actually what drove it was the prosecutors in New York who were working the criminal case against Weiner called down to headquarters and said are we getting a search warrant or not for this? That caused — I'm sorry Justice Department headquarters to then call across the street to the FBI and poke the organization and they started to move much more quickly. I don't know why there was, if there was slow activity why it was slow for those first couple weeks. 

BAIER: I want it move onto the Trump investigation. We are told after this Australian diplomat reports his conversation with George Papadopoulos, talking about plans to get Russia info or e-mails about Hillary Clinton that the FBI is notified through the State Department about this in early may, true? 

COMEY: No. 

BAIER: When were they notified?

COMEY: First of all, I'm not confirming what the source was from it. The FBI learned the information about Papadopoulos in late July and opened a counter intelligence investigation at that point. The meeting that you are talking about occurred in the spring. 

BAIER: April. 

COMEY: Before there were any public revelation of Russian hacked e-mails. But the FBI didn't learn about it in late July. 

BAIER: Okay. So what is the crime or the collusion that launches the investigation? 

COMEY: Yeah. Collusion is not a word that I'm familiar with. 

BAIER: Understand. What is the crime? What is the evidence basically that launches? 

COMEY: The question is you open a counter intelligence investigation to understand are any Americans in cahoots with the foreign intelligence activities of an adversary nation? 

BAIER: When the Steele dossier comes out, some time early July, when did you personally learn about the memos and the dossier? 

COMEY: Some time in the fall. I don't remember exactly when. 

BAIER: You are talking fall of —

COMEY: I'm sorry, fall of '16. 

BAIER: — right. Who so who telling you about them. 

COMEY: I don't remember. Someone on my senior staff. 

BAIER: Do you remember how they were described. 

COMEY: I remember they briefed me about it, explained that they came from a reliable source. Former allied intelligence officer. I remember being given a copy of it. I don't know whether it was September, October. Some time in that period of time. 

BAIER: When did you learn that the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign had funded Christopher Steele's work? 

COMEY: Yeah. I still don't know that for a fact. 

BAIER: What do you mean? 

COMEY: I’ve only seen it in the media. I never knew exactly which Democrats had funded. I knew it was funded first by Republicans. 

BAIER: But that's not true. 

COMEY: I'm sorry? 

BAIER: That's not true that the dossier that Christopher Steele worked on was funded by Republicans? 

COMEY: My understanding his work started funded as opo-research funded by Republicans after —

BAIER: So Free Beacon had said that they had Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS on a kind of retainer they did not fund the Christopher Steele memo or the dossier. That was initiated by Democrats. 

COMEY: Okay. My understanding was the activity was begun, that Steele was hired to look into first funded by Republicans. Then picked up — the important thing was picked up by Democrats opposed to Donald Trump. 

BAIER: So is that why — did you tell President Obama that the dossier was who it was funded by? 

COMEY: No, not to my recollection. 

BAIER: Did he want to know who it was funded by? 

COMEY: I wanted to know what I knew which is it was funded by people politically opposed by Donald Trump. 

BAIER: Okay.

COMEY: Which particular opponents wasn’t that important to me. 

BAIER: So, you still to this day don't know it was funded by the DNC. 

COMEY: I have read that in the media but didn't know for a fact and didn't know while I was at the FBI who — which exact opponent of the president's funded that. 

BAIER: Okay. So, how many times and to what extent did you brief president Obama on the dossier? 

COMEY: I didn't ever brief President Obama on the dossier. I was present during a conversation where Director of National Intelligence briefed it to him as we did to the gang of eight and to the President-elect the first week of January. 

BAIER: You called the dossier unverified, salacious. Why did you use that to the FISA court to ask for surveillance for Carter not only use it but you led with it a bulk of that FISA application deals with that dossier. Why? 

COMEY: Yeah. That's not my recollection, Bret and I don't know that the FISA application has been released. My recollection was it was part of a broader mosaic of facts that were laid before the FISA judge to obtain a FISA warrant. 

BAIER: There was a lot more than the dossier in the FISA application? 

COMEY: My recollection was there was a significant amount of additional material about Page and why there was probable cause to believe he was an agent of a foreign power and the dossier was part of that but was not all of it or a critical part of it. So, my recollection —

BAIER: So after this intel briefing at Trump Tower you briefed the President-Elect on the sliver of the dossier, the really the salacious part about the prostitutes in Moscow and that allegation. 

COMEY: Correct. 

BAIER:  Didn't include anything broader than that, correct? 

COMEY: Correct. My — my — my mission this that private briefing was just to tell him about that slice of it. 

BAIER: And who suggested you brief that? 

COMEY: I think the Director of National Intelligence did and explained the logic of why it made sense for me to do it, which I agreed with. 

BAIER: So, that briefing was just oral. It was just talking to the President.

COMEY: Right. Just the two of us talking to each other. 

BAIER: And CNN reported, at the time, that you handed two page summary of the dossier over to him. 

COMEY: I did not. 

BAIER: Did not. Speaking of CNN, you write in the memos of that meeting you write: “I said to [President-elect Trump] media like CNN had [the dossier] and were looking for a news I said it was inflammatory stuff.” So, the story of that briefing leaks out almost immediately after you do it. CNN and others run the story of this unverified dossier. Did you or your subordinates leak that?

COMEY: No. 

BAIER: Did James Clapper? 

COMEY: No. Not to my knowledge, no. 

BAIER: John Brennan?

COMEY: I — I don't know who leaked it. I had no part in leaking any of it. 

BAIER: Did you ever —

COMEY: It was four or five days later that it leaked, but I remember it because the President-elect called me about it. 

BAIER: Did you ever try to find out?

COMEY: Who leaked unclassified, public document? No. 

BAIER:  Did you inform the President-elect at the time what you knew about how it was funded or who was behind it?

COMEY: No, I did not. 

BAIER: Did you inform him that Christopher Steele had been fired by the FBI? 

COMEY: No. 

BAIER: Or that he had lied?

COMEY: No and I didn't know those things at that time anyway. 

BAIER: Or had abused at least in part to get this FISA application to spy on somebody in his campaign?

COMEY: No. Didn't come up. 

BAIER: Is it fair to say that President Obama —

COMEY: I knew that Carter Page was in his campaign when the FISA order was. 

BAIER: — no, but tied to it, tangentially. 

COMEY: At one point, correct. 

BAIER: Okay, Is it fair to is a President Obama in his inner circle knew a lot more about the dossier and scope of the investigation than President-elect and his team. 

COMEY: No. I don't think that's fair at all. 

BAIER: You think that they were equal as far as the briefing? 

COMEY: As far as I know they knew — they knew the same set of facts as did the leaders of Congress. 

BAIER: There was no difference between what the FBI told the FISA court and what the Trump — about the Trump-Russia investigation and what you told the new President of the United States? 

COMEY: What the FBI and the FISA application said in October of 2016? I don't remember clear enough all that's in the FISA application but we sure didn't lay that out for anybody, President Obama, President-elect Trump, or the leaders of Congress.

BAIER: Okay. A lot of questions about the interactions with President Trump and your memos memorializing that. After you're fired on Capitol Hill, we learned this:

COMEY [on 06/08/18]: I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn't do it myself for a variety of reasons but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel and so I asked a close friend of mine to do it. 

REPUBLICAN SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (ME) [on 06/08/18]: Who was that? 

COMEY [on 06/08/18]: A good friend of mine who is a professor at Columbia law school. 

BAIER: So what specifically did you leak to Mr. Richman? 

COMEY: I sent Mr. Richman a copy of a two-page, unclassified memo and asked him to get the substance of it out to the media. 

BAIER: You call him a good friend and professor but you didn't reveal that you had hired him as a special government employee for the FBI to work on special projects. Why? 

COMEY: Cause it wasn't relevant. He was FBI special government employee until February of 2017 —

BAIER: Did you have other special advisors like that?

COMEY: No, huh-uh. 

BAIER: So, what exactly was his job? 

COMEY: Two things. His primary focus was our Going Dark Challenge. Helping us think through and articulate and fight for access to encrypted communications and then law enforcement data was a big part of his responsibilities. 

BAIER: So, did you leak other things through Mr. Richman? 

COMEY: Yeah. The only reason I'm smiling, I don't consider what I shared Mr. Richman a leak. I told him about an unclassified conversation with the President. I gave him — 

BAIER: Okay, but the FBI protocol —

COMEY: Let me answer your question. 

BAIER: — you went through this with Anderson last night.

COMEY: I gave him nothing else ever to share with the media. 

BAIER: FBI protocol says your own employment agreement with the FBI prohibits “the unauthorized disclosure of any information or material from or related to FBI files or any information acquired by virtue of my official employment without prior written permission from the FBI.” Did have you written permission? 

COMEY: No and I didn't consider it part of an FBI file. All the things that I talked about with Anderson.

BAIER: You wrote it as FBI director. It was work product. 

COMEY: No. It was not. It was my personal aide-mémoire.. 

BAIER: You were talking to the President. 

COMEY: Sure I carried two copies of it. One to keep in my personal safe at home and I left another one at the FBI so the Bureau could always have access to it, but I always thought of it as mine like a diary. 

BAIER: Who else did you give, leak, whatever you want to call it?

COMEY: Use is what I prefer. 

BAIER: Yeah. The memos to. 

COMEY: I gave the memos to my legal team after I gave them to Dan Richman after I gave them to the media. I'm sorry, gave four memos to my legal team. 

BAIER: Which included Patrick Fitzgerald. 

COMEY: Patrick Fitzgerald. 

BAIER: He was a legal team at that time?

COMEY: Correct, sure. 

BAIER: And Dan —

COMEY: David Kelly and Dan Richman. 

BAIER: — David Kelly and — okay. You said in the memos I said I don't do sneaky things, I don't leak. I don't do weasel moves. But, I mean, we can argue what a leak is but that's a leak, isn't it? 

COMEY: It's not. 

BAIER: Okay. Here's what you told Chuck Grassley about leaking. 

REPUBLICAN SENATOR CHUCK GRASSLEY (Iowa) [on 05/03/17]: Director Comey, have you ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation? 

COMEY [on 05/03/17]: Never. 

GRASSLEY [on 05/03/17]: Has any classified information relating to President Trump or his association — associates been declassified or — and shared with the media? 

COMEY [on 05/03/17]: Not to my knowledge. 

BAIER: So at what point were you made aware that some of the information was classified by the FBI? 

COMEY: Which information? 

BAIER: In the memos? 

COMEY: Oh, yeah. I don't know, some time after I was fired the FBI apparently made a decision that there were some words in at least two of the memos, maybe one, I think two, that were diplomatically sensitive and so my lawyers returned them to the FBI. But my testimony was truthful and I stand by it. I was hoping you were going to ask me that. 

BAIER: I am. I was. 

COMEY: It was truthful. 

BAIER: But I want to play what the President said today about you on this channel. 

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP [on FNC’s Fox & Friends, 04/26/18]: Look, Comey is a leaker and he's a liar. And not only on this stuff, he's been leaking for years. He's probably been using his friend, the so-called professor, who now turns out to have FBI clearance, which he never said. He even lied about that because he never said that in congress. He said he gave it to a friend and he gave it to a friend to leak classified information. It's all classified. It was totally classified. So illegally — he did an illegal act and he said it himself in order to get a special counsel against me. 

BAIER: Reaction to that? 

COMEY: He’s just wrong. Facts really do matter, which is why I'm on the show to answer your questions. That memo was unclassified then and it's still unclassified. It's in my book. The FBI cleared that book before it could be published. That's a false statement. 

BAIER: What about not telling Congress that he was an agent for you or worked at the FBI or somehow was some employee that had you 35,000 FBI employees. 

COMEY: But none of that was true at the — I mean, I described you him I hope, in a good way, as a good friend to expose bias connection to the guy, he had left his FBI job months earlier. And so there’s lots of other connections. I know him because we were prosecutors together. I didn't mention that. I taught with him at Columbia. I didn't mention that. I think I offered to Congress a fair picture of my connection to the guy. 

BAIER: Okay. Director Comey, stand by if you would. More with the former FBI director after a quick break, including the reaction to Andrew McCabe, those infamous text messages we learned more about them today and the future of the FBI.

(....)

6:37:33 p.m.
7 minutes and 5 seconds

BAIER: Welcome back with former FBI director James Comey. Since your firing, have you met with former CIA Director John Brennan? 

COMEY: Yes. Once, I think. 

BAIER: And former National Intelligence Director Jim Clapper?

COMEY: Yeah. I saw him the night before last, I think.

BAIER: Together. 

COMEY: No, no. Actually, I had dinner with the two of them and our spouses. 

BAIER: You talk Trump case or —

COMEY: No, we did not. 

BAIER: Alright. After your hand-picked Deputy Andy McCabe was fired, you tweeted this, you said: “Special Agent McCabe stood tall over the last 8 months when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on. He served with distinction for two decades. I wish Andy well. I also wish continued strength for the rest of the FBI. America needs you.” You know the Inspector General found that McCabe lied four times, three of them under oath. Kimberly Strassel from The Wall Street Journal tweeted a lot of possible questions for you but here's one: “Please discuss Andrew McCabe and the IG report that finds he lied repeatedly--both to you and about you. Do you still believe he ‘stood tall’ as you tweeted in [January]? Or is he one of the ‘small people’ helping to tear down an institution?”

COMEY: Yeah. I still believe he stood tall. He represented himself and the organization under tremendous stress during that period after I was fired, but I read the IG report as you did. It concluded that Andy had not been candid. This is what accountability looks like in the Justice Department. 

BAIER: Should he be prosecuted? 

COMEY: That's not for me to say. As a — 

BAIER: Well, wait. You said it in the Clinton case. 

COMEY: Well, I was then the director of the FBI. 

BAIER: Which was not your role at that moment.

COMEY: I'm a private citizen. Private citizens should not be calling for the prosecution of people in a case they are not involved in. But, I do believe, as it routinely happens, the IG will likely refer or has referred it to a U.S. Attorney's office to look at it. 

BAIER: So, did you — you see the disparity here where people look at how the Clinton case was handled and how the Trump case is handled. Did you tell lawmakers — 

COMEY: I don’t I don't see disparity though. 

BAIER: — did you tell lawmakers that FBI agents didn't believe former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was lying intentionally to investigators? 

COMEY: No. 

BAIER: You did not tell that?

COMEY: And I saw that in the media. I don’t know what — maybe someone misunderstood something I said. I didn't believe that and didn't say that. 

BAIER: About the controversial text messages, we just received a lot more up on Capitol Hill today. If you knew back then when you were in charge of the investigation, and you saw those texts between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the level of animus they had against President Trump, what would have you done?

COMEY: I would have removed both of them from any contact with significant investigations. 

BAIER: So shouldn't their work from — 

COMEY: — including those involving anybody connected to president trump but beyond that. It’s just such poor judgment. 

BAIER: — should their work product then be questioned?

COMEY: Sure. It's a reasonable question to ask. 

BAIER: Okay. So, then Peter Strzok —

COMEY: They were bad mouthing everybody, including the candidate Trump. 

BAIER: — so, Peter Strzok interviews Hillary Clinton. Deals with the bleach bit and the server and Cheryl Mills, all of that, interviews Michael Flynn, and is integral in this whole case. 

COMEY: But he’s one of many other people involved in all the things you just ticked off. It's a reasonable question to ask and I can tell you this. When I saw the texts, I was deeply disappointed in them, but I never saw any bias any reflection of any kind of animus towards anybody. Including me. I'm sure I'm bad mouthing those texts. I'm just not going to read them never saw it, but that's why we have such a big team of people — 

BAIER: But you were in charge.

COMEY: — to bang on each other.

BAIER: So, the buck stops with you. 

COMEY: Of course. 

BAIER: Okay. 

COMEY; Of course. Of course I’m responsible.

BAIER: Jonathan tweeted in what was the “insurance policy” Deputy Director McCabe, Ctrzok and page were discussing in his office?

COMEY: I have no idea. 

BAIER: No clue?

COMEY: The problem I had reading the texts. I’m sure you’ve had the same challenge is if anybody pulled any of your listeners text or viewers' texts and there’s no context hard to figure out what they're talking about, so I don’t —

BAIER: There is a lot texts. There’s a lot of context with those guys. 

COMEY: Well, the ones I have looked at I’ve had a hard time figuring out. 

BAIER: This morning, the President also said this on Fox & Friends

TRUMP [on FNC’s Fox & Friends, 04/26/18]: If you look at the corruption at the top of the FBI, it's a disgrace. And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point I won't. 

BAIER: What do you think he meant there? 

COMEY: I don't know. I hope he didn't mean that he is going to decide by executive fiat to direct the actions of what is supposed to be an impartial law enforcement function. Lady justice has a blindfold. It should stay on. 

BAIER: Did the inspector general interview you about your handling of the memos? 

COMEY: Oh sure, yeah. 

BAIER: Has? 

COMEY: Has already and I expect a report on them not on the handling of classified information because that's frivolous but on did I comply with policy? Did I comply with my employment agreement? 

BAIER: You said you didn't leak, but there’s a New York Times story in April 2017 that first reported the Lynch e-mail. You didn't write it about here in this book because you said it's classified. The New York Times wrote a lot about it. Did the FBI public affairs coordinate that story?

COMEY: Not to my knowledge and I'm not going to comment on any stories because I'm not allowed to confirm or deny classified information. 

BAIER: Alright. In the infamous Oval Office meeting with President Trump when he asked you to stay behind one-on-one, you write in the book that you felt awkward. You didn't like it. 

COMEY: Correct. 

BAIER: You had been one-on-one with President Obama in the oval office? 

COMEY: Correct. 

BAIER: But this was different. 

COMEY: Yeah. Because he booted out the Attorney General of the United States who was lingering trying to stay. 

BAIER: As opposed to the presidential photographer who President Obama boots out? 

COMEY: Sure. 

BAIER: Okay, so you say you didn't push back when he said he hoped you could see your way clear of letting Flynn go that he was a good guy, hoped you could let it go. You say you didn't push back and that he should have known that he couldn't do that. Alright. So let's assume that's true, that he should have known that. Is it possible there was another reason why you didn't push back and that is that you wanted to keep your job? 

COMEY: It's possible but it's not the case, at least I don't remember thinking about that at the time. 

BAIER: You told CNN last night that you didn't think you’d be fired. That, you know, had you not been fired, you would still be working as FBI director tonight. 

COMEY: Yeah. In fact, that was my intention to serve another six years. 

BAIER: So, despite the fact that now you say that this President is morally unfit, that you say impeachment is too good of a remedy on the book tour —

COMEY: That's not what I said. I said in a way I hope not because I think the voters need to speak.

BAIER: Exactly and on the media tour and the blitz, you are basically encouraging voters to vote Trump out of office because he doesn't line up with your values. 

COMEY: I'm asking them to vote their values and what I believe your viewers would agree are America's values. 

BAIER: Okay and but as of tonight, had you not been fired, you’d still be working for this guy that you say is like a crime boss, who is morally unfit, who you just don't agree with on principle and values. You would still have that job tonight? 

COMEY: Absolutely to be protect — and my goal would to be protect the FBI and serve the President of the United States. 

BAIER: So, when you say Republicans —

COMEY: I respect that office tremendously. 

BAIER: — when you say to Republicans why do you work with this President and then sit there and say you would still have this job tonight, isn't there a disconnect there?

COMEY: No because elected officials in Congress have a public platform and are responsible for communicating with the voters in a way the FBI director is not. My job would be to protect the independence of the institution. Their job should to be represent the people who elected them. 

BAIER: Mr. Comey, the book, Higher Loyalty, has been very successful. We appreciate your time, traffic and all, sir. 

COMEY: Thank you for your patience and your good questions. 

BAIER:  Thank you.

NBDaily 2016 Presidential Push to Impeach Trump Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Political Scandals Trump-Russia probe Fox News Channel Special Report Video Government & Press James Comey Bret Baier Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Peter Strzok
Curtis Houck's picture


Sponsored Links