Fox News host Bret Baier and James Comey sat down for a one-on-one interview Thursday night, in perhaps the most serious and direct conversations with the former FBI Director to date.
Incredible interview there from @BretBaier. Respectful, but not deferential. Forceful, without being impolite. And, in a rare feat on TV anymore, it elicited a ton of new and important information.— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) April 26, 2018
Baier held Comey's feet to the fire on a wide variety of controversial topics - including the FBI's decision to exonerate Hillary Clinton before interviewing her, what Comey knew about the "Steele Dossier" used to obtain a surveillance warrant on a Trump campaign aide, and the memos Comey leaked to his friend which he hoped would lead to a special counsel investigation.
After starting the interview off with a joke about how Comey must find it "a little tougher to get around town without a motorcade," Baier pulled no punches - launching straight into asking the former FBI Director if it was true that his team decided to exonerate Hillary Clinton before interviewing her.
In response, Comey said that because of all the prior investigative work the FBI had done on the Clinton email case, investigators said "it looks like it's not going to get to a place where the prosecutors will bring it," and that it's "fairly typical" for white collar investigations to save interviews for last.
Comey: I started to see that their view was, it was unlikely to end in a case that the prosecutors at DOJ would bring.
Baier: Before the interview?
Sure, yeah, because they had spent ten months digging around, reading all of the emails, putting everything together, interviewing everybody who set up her system. They weren't certain of that result, but they said "Look boss, on the current course and speed, looks like it's not going to get to a place where the prosecutor will bring it."
Strzok and Page
On the topic of Peter Strzok - the anti-Trump counterintelligence agent deeply involved in both the Clinton and Trump investigations along with his FBI attorney mistress, Lisa Page, Comey said he never witnessed evidence of bias working with the pair, but that he was "deeply disappointed" when he saw some of the text messages exchanged between them.
“I can tell you this: When I saw the texts, I was deeply disappointed in them,” Comey told Baier. “But I never saw any bias, any reflection of any kind of animus towards anybody, including me. I’m sure I’m badmouthed in those texts, I’m just not going to read them all. Never saw it.”
Comey said that if he had been aware of the level of hatred Strzok and Page had for Trump, he "would have removed both of them from any contact with significant investigations."
Key part of interview: @Comey admits he'd absolutely have removed Strzok/Page for bias, and then struggles to then claim their work product is still valid. Admits its a "fair question." Won't admit he doesn't have any reasonable answer. #SpecialReport— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) April 26, 2018
The "leaked" memos
When it comes to the leaked memos that kickstarted the Mueller probe, Comey maintains that the memos he created to document his interactions with President Trump, seven in all and four of which have been deemed classified; two marked "confidential" and two marked "secret."
Comey also admitted that he leaked the memos to two other people who he said were members of his "legal team," including David Kelly and former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
“I gave the memos to my legal team after I gave them to Dan Richman -- after I asked him to get it out to the media,” said Comey, who likened the memos to his "diaries."
“I didn't consider it part of an FBI file... It was my personal aide-memoire,” Comey said, adding "I always thought of it as mine, like a diary"
It's difficult to know where to begin on that Director Comey interview w/ @BretBaier. He just admitted to leaking his memos (with now-classified info) to two more people, in addition his friend.— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) April 26, 2018
So he shared government property with not one, but three people? What?
Trump "just wrong"
Responding to a Fox & Friends interview in which President Trump said "Comey is a leaker and he's a liar. He's been leaking for years," the former FBI Director responded "He's just wrong. Facts really do matter." Comey then claimed that because the FBI approved the inclusion of the memos in his book, A Higher Loyalty, they are therefore not classified.
Comey told Bret Baier that he didn't need to tell Congress that Daniel Richman, the "good friend" to whom he leaked, was a FBI special government employee because "it wasn't relevant."— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) April 26, 2018
Byron York of the Washington Examiner provides an excellent breakdown of Comey's semantic absurdity here.
The "Steele Dossier" and who paid for it
Baier asked Comey why the FBI used the Steele Dossier compiled by former UK spy Christopher Steele to obtain a FISA warrant on a Trump campaign aide if it was "salacious," to which Comey replied that the dossier was part of a "broader mosaic of facts" used to support the application.
And when it comes to who funded the dossier used in the FISA application, Comey claims he still has no idea whether Hillary Clinton and the DNC funded it.
“When did you learn that the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign had funded Christopher Steele’s work?” Baier asked.
“Yeah I still don’t know that for a fact,” Comey responded.
“What do you mean?” Baier replied.
“I’ve only seen it in the media, I never knew exactly which Democrats had funded,” Comey explained, “I knew it was funded first by Republicans.”
Baier quickly corrected Comey, noting that while conservative website Free Beacon had Fusion GPS on "a kind of retainer," they "did not fund the Christopher Steele memo or the dossier," adding "That was initiated by Democrats."
In @BretBaier interview, Comey seems unaware/confused about difference between Fusion GPS/Free Beacon period and Fusion GPS/Steele dossier period.— Byron York (@ByronYork) April 26, 2018
Comey claimed that "Republicans" funded the *dossier* (not other anti-Trump research) and he wasn't sure that HRC and DNC funded the dossier (they did). That's either mendacity or negligence.— Mollie (@MZHemingway) April 27, 2018
Comey’s claims to @BretBaier that A: he didn’t leak and B: he doesn’t know to this day that the HRC campaign and DNC financed the dossier simply are not credible. He even claimed the GOP started the funding of the dossier. That was debunked many months ago.— Brit Hume (@brithume) April 27, 2018
Actually is stunning overall amount the head of the FBI claims to not have known. Didn't know Steele's name; didn't know he lied to the FBI and was dismissed; didn't know who funded dossier; didn't know who leaked it. You gotta ask: Maybe he didn't want to know? #SpecialReport— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) April 26, 2018
On Friday morning, in response to the interview, Trump blasted Comey again in a tweet:
"Is everybody believing what is going on. James Comey can’t define what a leak is. He illegally leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION but doesn’t understand what he did or how serious it is. He lied all over the place to cover it up. He’s either very sick or very dumb. Remember sailor!"
Full Interview Below
Brett Baier's Take and other reactions:
.@BretBaier on @Comey interview: "The other thing that struck me about the interview is when he said...had he not been fired, he would still be working for [@realDonaldTrump] as he's lambasting Republicans for working with [Trump]." #TheStory pic.twitter.com/Zm269FGMtk— Fox News (@FoxNews) April 26, 2018
.@TGowdySC on @Comey #SpecialReport interview: "Jim Comey has a definition of the word 'leak' that no one else has. What he says is a leak is what the rest of us call a felony." #Tucker https://t.co/RggSJ7Gsfm pic.twitter.com/vgnnMXBlhc— Fox News (@FoxNews) April 27, 2018
Baier: Should McCabe be prosecuted?— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) April 26, 2018
Comey: That's not my role.
Baier: It wasn't your role in the Clinton investigation, either.