Immediately after the release of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that facilitated spying on the Trump campaign in 2016, former FBI Director James Comey claimed vindication, only to admit days later on Fox News Sunday that he had been “wrong” and was “responsible” for the plethora of inaccuracies and omissions on the part of the bureau.
This acknowledgment of culpability caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who said in a scathing tweet on Sunday that Comey had been caught “red-handed” and deserved to face “consequences” for what had occurred, perhaps even “years in jail,” Politico reported.
“Years in jail”
While speaking with Fox host Chris Wallace about the inspector general’s findings, Comey said: “He’s right, I was wrong… I was overconfident in the procedures that the FBI and Justice [Department] had built over 20 years. I thought they were robust enough. It’s incredibly hard to get a FISA… There was real sloppiness.”
President Trump, who fired Comey shortly after taking office in 2017, seized on the unexpected admission from the typically self-righteous Comey and slammed him in a tweet that strongly implied the former director deserved jail time for the gross misconduct that occurred under his watch.
“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,” Trump wrote. “So what are the consequences for his unlawful conduct. Could it be years in jail? Where are the apologies to me and others, Jim?”
Still defending the dossier
Though Comey seemingly admitted his responsibility for what occurred during his tenure as head of the FBI, there were also moments where he appeared to defend and downplay the significance of some of the decisions that had been made, such as the bureau’s reliance on the faulty and debunked Steele dossier to obtain the warrant for surveillance on Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Comey suggested at one point that the dossier was “not a huge part of the presentation to the court” in the effort to get a warrant.
However, Wallace countered that, according to Horowitz, the dossier had actually “played a central and essential role” in establishing the necessary probable cause in the application for the FISA warrant.
The former director denied the obvious “disconnect” between his and Horowitz’s view of the matter and proceeded to further defend the use of the Steele dossier, even as the IG report made it crystal clear that the FBI had been well aware of the unverified and dubious nature of both former British spy Christopher Steele and his now-infamous collection of Russian-sourced anti-Trump gossip.
Consequences for Comey?
As for Comey’s initial claim of vindication following the release of the IG report, he attempted to move the goalposts after Wallace pointed out that Horowitz had been explicit in saying his report didn’t vindicate anybody, and in fact did just the opposite.
There were several other contentious moments throughout the interview, but the main takeaway remains the stunning admission of responsibility by Comey.
Whether he will now face consequences and be held legally accountable — perhaps even with jail time as the president suggested — remains to be seen.