CBS Hosts Take Turns Quoting From James Comey to James Comey

The journalists at CBS This Morning scored an exclusive interview with former FBI Director James Comey. So what did they do with the time? They read back quotes from Comey to Comey. Though there was the occasional attempt at challenging the fired FBI director, the hosts often seemed impressed just to be talking to him. 

Referencing an op-ed he wrote in The New York Times, co-host Norah O’Donnell marveled, “We were talking about the op-ed you wrote just a couple of weeks ago.” Co-host Gayle King also hyped, “Where to begin? Where to begin, Norah?” 

 

 

The two then took turns quoting from Comey attacking the administration. Here was O'Donnell: 

You essentially go through, you say, “How could Mr. Barr, a bright and accomplished lawyer start saying these things? You talk about Rod Rosenstein and you say, “What happened to these people?” And then you say, “More often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.”

King tried to top that by reading another quote to the former government official: 

And it’d like to add to that. “It starts with you sitting silent while he lies, both in  public and private, making you complicit by your silence. In meetings with him, his assertions about what everyone thinks and what is obviously true wash over you unchallenged.” I'm curious to Norah’s question, were you at home mad one day and said, “I have to say something?” Where did this come from? 

After Comey slammed Donald Trump and O’Donnell, who will soon be the anchor of the CBS Evening News, offered this softball: “Explain how that happens? Explain how you believe he wraps people in a web of deception?” 

Comey sure sounded less like a neutral former FBI head and more like a partisan. Here are a few quotes from him: 

“The Republicans need to breathe into a paper bag.”

(....)

“It's time to move on to the most important thing we do, which is vote to decide who should represent us at president of the United States.” 

(....)

“[Americans] are going to vote their values [in 2020].” 

After asking about spying on the Trump 2016 campaign, Dickerson essentially accepted Comey’s batting this away: “So, the debate is a semantic one? The FBI was investigating into the Trump campaign. But you are saying they had cause to and you just wouldn’t use the word spy?” 

As for tough questions, there weren’t many. But Gayle King eventually got around to this one: “Do you feel in some way that your credibility has been hurt because Democrats and Republicans have criticized your actions and decisions?” 

O’Donnell closed the interview out by — you guessed it — quoting Comey to Comey: 

I think we should end on — because you have a new premise in your book in which you say that, you pose the question, “Are we going to be okay?” What’s the answer to that?  

A transcript of the questions (and some answers) is below. Click “expand” to read more. 

CBS This Morning
5/8/19
8:03:53 to 8:11:56 a.m. Eastern

NORAH O’DONNELL: Director Comey's firing by President Trump led to Mueller's appointment as special counsel. James Comey is with us for his first television interview since the Mueller report was released to the public. His memoir A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership has just come out in paperback. James Comey, good morning. Good to have you here. 

JAMES COMEY: Good to be with you. 

O’DONNELL: I’m really interested to hear your take on the Mueller report. We saw that the special counsel in that report detailed in that report ten instances of possible obstruction of justice by the President. Why do you think the special counsel ultimately decided not to charge him with obstruction of justice? 

COMEY: I think because he was trying to be both principled and fair. He was trying to abide the Department of Justice ruling that says you can't indict a sitting president and reasoned that if you can't indict a sitting president, I ought not to accuse him of a crime because that wouldn't be fair. Given that I can't clear him, I'll lay out the evidence for future prosecutor and the Congress. 

O’DONNELL: But one of the things you said in your book is you believe that your firing was potentially obstruction of justice and the special counsel didn’t go that far. 

(....)

JOHN DICKERSON: One of the things the attorney general points to in those ten episodes is there was kind of an initiating event that put the President's mind set — sensing intent is important. The president thought, “This is going to mess up my administration.” And one of the things Barr focused was your reluctance to tell the public that the President was not actually under investigation. The President not having you tell the public was like, “Oh, my gosh, this is all stacked against me and this was kind of the initiating thing that made him so paranoid. 

(....)

GAYLE KING: Have you been surprised by Bill Barr's summary letter? 

COMEY: Yes. 

KING: What surprised you? 

COMEY: That it struck me, especially after I read the Mueller report, as misleading. It was inaccurate to summarize that work. 

O’DONNELL: What was misleading about what the Attorney General said? 

(....)

KING: You know, the Republicans have said, “Case closed. Time to move on here.” Do they have a point? 

(....)

COMEY: Well, I think they have a point in the sense that I think the American people now have a clear view of how the President acted. Read the report. If you didn't have enough of a clear view of Donald Trump's character and the way he approaches this office, you now do. It's time to move on to the most important thing we do, which is vote to decide who should represent us at president of the United States.

JOHN DICKERSON: The Attorney General said he believed spying occurred in looking at the President's then campaign. What you do think of that? 

COMEY: Yeah, I have no idea what he's talking about. FBI doesn't spy. The FBI investigates. We investigated a very serious allegation that Americans may be hooked up with the Russian effort to attack our democracy. The Republicans need to breathe into a paper bag. If we had confronted the same facts with a different candidate, say, a Democrat candidate, where one of their advisers was talking to a foreign adversary's representative about that adversary’s interference into our election, they would be screaming for the FBI to investigate and that’s all we did. 

DICKERSON: So, the debate is a semantic one? The FBI was investigating into the Trump campaign. But you are saying they had cause to and you just wouldn’t use the word spy.  

COMEY: Of course. And people just ought to look into the predication for looking into that. We should have been fired if we didn’t investigate this. 

O’DONNELL: You have tens of thousands of FBI agents on the front line every day doing work to protect America, to keep this country safe and when the Attorney General undermines the integrity of those efforts by suggesting they're involved in spying against the President, what does that do the reputation? 

(....)

O’DONNELL: We were talking about the op-ed you wrote just a couple of weeks ago. 

KING: Where to begin? Where to begin, Norah? 

O’DONNELL: Because you essentially go through, you say, “How could Mr. Barr, a bright and accomplished lawyer start saying these things? You talk about Rod Rosenstein and you say, “What happened to these people?” And then you say, “More often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.”

KING: And it’d like to add to that. “It starts with you sitting silent while he lies, both in  public and private, making you complicit by your silence. In meetings with him, his assertions about what everyone thinks and what is obviously true wash over you unchallenged.” I'm curious to Norah’s question, were you at home mad one day and said, “I have to say something?” Where did this come from? 

(....)

O’DONNELL: Explain how that happens? Explain how you believe he wraps people in a web of deception? 

(....)

O’DONNELL: You do point out that the Defense Secretary, Mattis, did not do that. He was one of the exceptions in that rule. 

DICKERSON: The former FBI assistant director of intelligence Kevin Brock, turned your phrase around on you, though. He wrote, “He himself ate away at the soul of the FBI. And not in small bites, but in dangerously large ones.” 

(....)

KING: I wonder about that too, John. Do you feel in some way that your credibility has been hurt because Democrats and Republicans have criticized your actions and decisions. 

COMEY: Definitely, definitely. The only thing I’d say to folks is — sure. Just read what I write and listen to what I say and evaluate it. How are my facts? What is my reasoning seem like to you? If you don’t like it, if my facts are wrong, don’t listen to me. I don’t think they are though.  

O’DONNELL: I think we should end on — because you have a new premise in your book in which you say that, you pose the question, “Are we going to be okay?” What’s the answer to that?  

COMEY: Yes. Because American history shows us that we have periods of retreat and pain after periods of tremendous progress and we recover. Because there’s a ballast in America and that's our values. The great middle of America represents our value and they stir every so often, and I hope they're stirring now. I see signs of it and they're going to vote their values. 

KING: Back to what you said about the facts, you're entitled to your own opinion, you’re not entitled to your facts. And to your point,  Read the report. 

COMEY: Truth is a real thing. 

KING: Yes, it is a real thing. Thank you, James Comey.

NB Daily Mueller Report Video James Comey Gayle King Norah O'Donnell John Dickerson
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