Hell froze over on Sunday when James Comey admitted fault in the FISA scandal.
According to Breitbart, President Donald Trump threatened jail time for Comey and demanded an apology after the former FBI director admitted on Fox News Sunday that he was “wrong” to defend the bureau’s spying on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign associate, using warrants granted under the controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Comey took a more nuanced approach than his previous claims of blanket vindication in a heated interview Sunday with Fox’s Chris Wallace.
“Sure, I’m responsible, that’s why I’m telling you, I was wrong,” Comey told Wallace, according to Breitbart. “I was overconfident as the director in our procedures. And it’s important that a leader be accountable and transparent.”
Comey confesses: “I was wrong”
Comey responded with vindication last week after Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz released his report on the FBI’s alleged abuse of the FISA court to spy on Page. According to Fox, Horowitz found that the FBI withheld exculpatory information in their warrant applications and made other “significant” omissions pertaining to Christopher Steele and his infamous dossier, which was “essential” to spying on the Trump campaign staffer — but Comey and many in the media focused on Horowitz’s conclusion that the overall probe of the Trump campaign was justified.
The former FBI director bluntly claimed that there was “no spying” and that Trump’s allegations of a conspiracy against him in the intelligence community were “all lies.” But in his interview with Wallace, Comey took a more subtle tack and did something he never does — apologize — while downplaying the significance of Horowitz’s findings.
Comey conceded that there was “real sloppiness” in the FBI’s use of the FISA process while defending the integrity of the overall FBI investigation of the Trump campaign. President Trump responded by slamming Comey and floating, vaguely, a scenario in which Comey ended up in jail, according to Breitbart.
So now Comey’s admitting he was wrong. Wow, but he’s only doing so because he got caught red handed. He was actually caught a long time ago. So what are the consequences for his unlawful conduct. Could it be years in jail? Where are the apologies to me and others, Jim?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2019
Downplaying the damage
For his part, Comey appeared tongue-tied on Sunday as he repeatedly apologized, quibbled over the meaning of words, and attempted to thread the needle between his statements on the Steele dossier and Horowitz’s far more damning assessments. Wallace accused Comey of sanitizing Horowitz’s findings by calling it “sloppiness” and trying to make himself into a “bystander” of misconduct that happened on his watch, according to a transcript from RealClearPolitics.
Comey conceded that there were problems with the FBI’s sourcing on the dossier, but Wallace pushed back, noting that the IG found problems with Steele’s credibility, not merely his sources. Wallace also accused Comey of “minimizing” the seriousness of Horowitz’s findings on misconduct as well as the significance of the dossier, and Comey apologized for doing so.
But the ex-FBI chief also confusingly insisted that there was “no disconnect” between his view that the dossier wasn’t a “huge part” of the process and that of Horowitz, who said it was “central.” When Wallace pointed to Horowitz’s insistence that he did not decide on whether there was mere negligence or intentional wrongdoing, as well as his statement that nobody at the FBI was vindicated, Comey insisted that the IG did not find “misconduct by any FBI people,” but merely “mistakes” — even as he conceded that those “mistakes” were consequential.
“What I mean is that the FBI was accused of treason, of illegal spying, of tapping Mr. Trump’s wires illegally, of opening an investigation without justification, of being a criminal conspiracy to unseat, defeat and then unseat a president. All of that was nonsense,” he insisted. But with another probe into similar matters ongoing in the Justice Department, Comey’s not off the hook yet.