(CNSNews.com) – Following a second round of closed door testimony on Capitol Hill Monday, former FBI Director James Comey told reporters, “I find it frustrating to be here, answering questions about things that are far less important than the values that this country is built upon.”
In some of his harshest criticism yet, the man at the center of alleged FBI malpractice took aim at Republicans, President Trump and even Fox News. He said the damage to the FBI’s reputation “has nothing to do with me.”
“So another day of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and the Steele dossier,” Comey said when he emerged from Monday’s hearing:
This, while the president of the United States is lying about the FBI, attacking the FBI, and attacking the rule of law in this country. How does that make any sense at all?
Republicans used to understand that the actions of a president matter, the words of a president matter, the rule of law matters, and the truth matters. Where are those Republicans today?
At some point, someone has to stand up and in the face of fear of Fox News, fear of their base, fear of mean tweets, stand up for the values of this country, and not slink away into retirement, but stand up and speak the truth.
I find it frustrating to be here answering questions about things that are far less important than the values that this country is built upon.
A reporter asked Comey, “Do you feel like there’s any legitimate investigative value to what happened here today or was this just a political exercise?”
“I can’t answer that because I don’t know exactly what they’re investigating,” Comey said. “The questions about Hillary Clinton and the Steele dossier strike me as more of the same. I didn’t learn anything new in there. Maybe they did.”
For the record, the House Judiciary Committee is conducting oversight on how the FBI, under Comey’s leadership, used opposition research (the Steele dossier), paid for by the Democrat Party and the Clinton campaign, to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on a Trump campaign volunteer.
It was Comey who intentionally leaked confidential information with the goal of getting a special prosecutor appointed to investigate President Trump.
And just last week, Comey nonchalantly admitted that he took advantage of the Trump administration’s inexperience to send two FBI agents to the White House to interview then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who faces sentencing today for making false statements to the FBI.
A reporter from Fox News asked Comey if the FBI’s handling of the Flynn interview was consistent with FBI guidelines for domestic investigations.
“Entirely consistent, in my view,” Comey said, adding that he feels comfortable with the way the Flynn questioning was handled — “very much so,” he said.
“Do you know what’s happened to the Republican Party?” Comey asked. “They’re up here attacking the FBI’s investigation of a guy who pled guilty to lying to the FBI — he should’ve been warned you shouldn’t lie; he should have been told you can have a lawyer.
“Think of the state of affairs we’ve ended up in — that’s nonsense. I’ve very proud of the way the FBI conducted itself. Agile, flexible, thoughtful, pursued the lead where you’d want us to.”
According to court documents, FBI agent Peter Strzok and a second agent who spoke to Flynn didn’t tell him he was the target of an investigation. Nor did they remind Flynn that it’s a crime to lie to the FBI because “they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport,” one of the agents reported.
In his back-and-forth with reporters, Comey was asked to respond to criticism that he cannot remember key events, and that the FBI was politicized under his watch:
Comey said the Judiciary Committee got “truthful testimony” from him. “When you’re the director of an organization of 38,000 sometimes you don’t know what form people filled out. That’s silliness.
“And as far as hurting the FBI’s reputation, I hope not. We had to make very hard decisions in 2016. I knew we were going to get hurt by it. The questions was how we could reduce the damage.
“What I’m doing now is not what I love to do. I’d rather not be talking to you all. But somebody has to stand up and speak to the FBI and the rule of law. And I hope there’s a whole lot more somebodies out there than just me.”
Asked if he takes any responsibility for damaging the FBI’s reputation, Comey said, “No.” He blamed Trump and Trump supporters:
“The FBI’s reputation has taken a big hit because the President of the United States, with his acolytes, has lied about it constantly and, in the face of those lies, a whole lot of good people who watch your network (Fox News) believe that nonsense. That’s a tragedy. That will be undone eventually but that damage has nothing to do with me.”
He repeated that the silence of Republicans is “shameful.”
Comey also confirmed information in court documents saying that he did not tell then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Flynn about the FBI plan to interview Michael Flynn until the day it happened. “Why did you wait?” a reporter asked him.
“Because I knew that if anything came of the interview, if it advanced our investigation, the attack from the Trump administration would be that an Obama holdover had engineered it,” Comey responded.
“And so I had to make the decision, separate from her, to leave them with — their only opportunity to challenge it would be to burn down the entire FBI. To my shock and horror they’ve tried to do just that, in the face of silence from people in this building.”
One of the reasons Trump gave for firing Comey was Comey’s decision to announce that Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted. Comey took it upon himself to make both the controversial don’t-prosecute decision and the announcement without first informing his bosses at the Justice Department what he was about to do.
In response to Comey’s remarks, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued the following tweet: