Maddow Accuses Comey of Casting ‘Aspersions’ on AG Lynch’s Reputation

One of the high-profile Thursday stops for former FBI Director James Comey on his book tour was MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show. Just as the show began, the White House released all of the memos Comey kept on his interactions with the President to Congress (and then they leaked), so the interview was dominated by softball questions mostly stemming from those documents. But as the show wrapped up, Maddow took the opportunity to rhetorically get in his face about how he hurt former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s reputation.

Late in the nine o’clock hour, Maddow began pressing Comey on the three reasons he began to distance himself from Lynch’s leadership during the Clinton e-mail investigation. Those reasons were her insistence on using Clinton campaign talking points to describe the investigation as “a matter,” her clandestine tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton, and apparently “there's something that you very carefully describe as an unverified intelligence report suggesting that she had offered assurances to the Clinton campaign about the investigation…

Part of why you decided to do is the existence of the unverified intelligence document that could have cast doubt on her independence from the Clinton campaign, even though you didn’t think she had a problem,” she continued to preface before demanding to know if “ever brief[ed] her on that and give her a chance to defend herself?” Comey wasn’t able to fully respond to the question.

Comey explained that the intelligence document did, in fact, exist but he just didn’t trust the validity of the assertions it made. “The thing that troubles me about that is it seems like -- even the way you talk about it in the book sort of casts aspersions on Loretta lynch and whether she was doing anything wrong with regard to this investigation,” Maddow criticized.

 

 

Maddow proceeded to read a passage from Comey’s book detailing the lesson he learned from mentor and former U.S. Attorney Helen Fahey about the importance of ignoring what “uninformed people” would say and just stick to telling the truth. After she finished reading the excerpt, she accused Comey of going back on that important lesson:

It seems to me like with Loretta Lynch you worried very much what misinformed people were going to say about her. That there was no true reason to have concerns about Loretta Lynch’s integrity with that investigation but misinformed people would get the wrong idea and you took action to account for that rather than the truth.

Do you see what I’m expressing as my worry here,” Maddow asked. “It's that, in fact, something untrue about her that people would have misperceived ends up being a limiting factor in terms of whether or not she's allowed to do her job.” “Because of you,” she bitterly declared as the show ended.

In addition to grilling Comey from the left on Lynch, she invited him to talk about how Republicans were on a crusade against him and his FBI colleagues. “A bunch of the senior officials who you briefed at the time, who you gave these memos to about your interactions with the President, a bunch of these folks have ended up having their lives follow curvy paths in the past year,” she said. “Are you concerned there's been an orchestrated campaign to target you and other people who could corroborate your testimony as witnesses?

“There's certainly been an organized campaign to target me. There was definitely an organized campaign to attack Andy McCabe,” he agreed.

This interview came after Comey had verbally absolutely bludgeoned on CNN by The Lead and State of the Union host Jake Tapper.

The relevant portions of the transcript are below, click "expand" to read: 

 

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MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show
April 19, 2018
9:34:54 PM Eastern

(…)

RACHEL MADDOW: A bunch of the senior officials who you briefed at the time, who you gave these memos to about your interactions with the President, a bunch of these folks have ended up having their lives follow curvy paths in the past year.

Obviously, you've had the biggest curveball of them all, but Jim Rybicki, he's resigned from the FBI. James Baker I believe is still there, although he's been reassigned and our reporting indicates he's been reassigned to what's basically sort of a potted plant job at the FBI in comparison with the kind of high-level job he had in the past. Your deputy, Andrew McCabe very publicly fired, publically attacked by the President. You, of course, have not just lost your job but have spent a year as a piñata for the President for Congressional Republicans.

Andrew McCabe said when he was fired said: “Here's the reality, I'm being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey. The release of this Inspector General’s report” against McCabe “was accelerated only after my testimony to the House Intelligence committee revealed I would corroborate former Director Comey's accounts of his discussions with the President.”

Do you think that's the case? Are you concerned there's been an orchestrated campaign to target you and other people who could corroborate your testimony as witnesses?

JAMES COMEY: There's certainly been an organized campaign to target me. There was definitely an organized campaign to attack Andy McCabe and urge his firing, tear down his reputation, attack his wife. Just shameful attacks from the President directly. And with respect to the others, I know them all well, there's different stories. Rybicki was going to leave anyway, Baker was reassigned; very talented general counsel and is in a job—I don’t think he’ll call it a potted plant job, but he is way away from the leadership floor of the FBI.

(…)

9:56:06 PM Eastern

MADDOW: In the book, you spell out three reasons – I hesitate to call them concerns – sort of three reasons you had worries about Attorney General Loretta Lynch when it came to the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. One is that you say that she asked you to call the investigation a “matter,” instead of an investigation. There was the meeting that she had with former President Clinton on an airport tarmac, which you note didn't seem that consequential to you but it did get a tide of critical media attention, which was important.

And then there's something that you very carefully describe as an unverified intelligence report suggesting that she had offered assurances to the Clinton campaign about the investigation, improper assurances or that she was somehow controlling you with regard to the investigation. Because of those worries you basically -- the way you put it is, you step away from Loretta Lynch, you announce the FBI findings in the Clinton e-mail investigation without her. The FBI separates from her. Part of why you decided to do is the existence of the unverified intelligence document that could have cast doubt on her independence from the Clinton campaign, even though you didn’t think she had a problem.

Did you ever brief her on that and give her a chance to defend herself?

(…)

MADDOW: The thing that troubles me about that is it seems like -- even the way you talk about it in the book sort of casts aspersions on Loretta lynch and whether she was doing anything wrong with regard to this investigation. She did take herself out of the loop in terms of overseeing that investigation. And you write early in the book, page 42 about a mentor you had in the Eastern District of Virginia about a U.S. Attorney you felt like you learned from.

COMEY: Yeah, Helen Fahey.

MADDOW: Helen Fahey. You say: “She didn't care what misinformed people said about her. A lesson I would find very valuable as I grew older. She put the interest of the team and the important job we had to do higher than her own feelings or her worries of reputation.” It seems to me like with Loretta Lynch you worried very much what misinformed people were going to say about her. That there was no true reason to have concerns about Loretta Lynch’s integrity with that investigation but misinformed people would get the wrong idea and you took action to account for that rather than the truth.

(…)

MADDOW: Do you see what I’m expressing as my worry here? It's that, in fact, something untrue about her that people would have misperceived ends up being a limiting factor in terms of whether or not she's allowed to do her job. Because of you.

(…)


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