WASHINGTON — Former FBI Director James Comey said lawmakers will suffer “everlasting shame” for not defending the men and women in federal law enforcement after emerging from a second day of closed-door questions from the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform committees.
“People who know better including Republican members of this body have to have the courage to stand up and speak the truth, not be cowed by mean tweets or fear of their base,” he said. “There is a truth and they are not telling it; their silence is shameful.”
Comey first sat down with the lawmakers on Dec. 8, where they decided he would return today for more questions.
Comey told reporters afterward that the session was “another day of Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Steele dossier — 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?”
President Trump tweeted on Sunday, “Remember, Michael Cohen only became a ‘Rat’ after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started. They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY’S OFFICE! Why didn’t they break into the DNC to get the Server, or Crooked’s office?”
Armed with search warrants, the FBI raided Cohen’s home and office in April; Trump complained afterward that agents “broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys.” Cohen told CNN at the time that “members of the FBI that conducted the search and seizure were all extremely professional, courteous and respectful.”
Comey continued, “Republicans used to understand that the actions of a presidents 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,” he added.
Comey said that Trump’s tweet about Cohen “undermines the rule of law.”
“This is the president of the United States calling a witness who has cooperated with his own Justice Department a rat. Say that again to yourself at home and remind yourself where we have ended up,” he said. “This is not about Republicans and Democrats; this is about what does it mean to be an American.”
“What are the things that we care about above our policy disputes which are important? There is a set of values that represent the glue of this country and they are under attack by things just like that. We have to stop being numb to it whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, you need to stand on your feet, overcome your shame and say something.”
Comey said he gave lawmakers “truthful testimony” about “very hard decisions in 2016.”
“When you are 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,” he said. “…I’d rather not be talking to you all but somebody has to stand up and speak for the FBI and the rule of law and I hope there’s a whole lot more somebodies out there than just me.”
The former FBI director was asked about then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates’ displeasure at not learning until the day of that FBI agents went to interview Michael Flynn. Yates told then-White House Counsel Don McGahn two days later that Flynn had made false statements to the FBI, for which Flynn would plead guilty.
“I knew that 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 and so I had to make the decision separate from her,” Comey told reporters today. “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.”
“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 believe that nonsense. That’s a tragedy. That will be undone eventually but that damage has nothing to do with me.”
On the Flynn interview, Comey called it “nonsense” that the former national security advisor “should have been warned you shouldn’t lie.”
“Think of what’s happened to the Republican Party. They are up here attacking the FBI’s investigation of a guy who pled guilty to lying to the FBI,” he said. “…I’m very proud of the way the FBI conducted itself — agile, flexible, thoughtful, pursued the leads where you’d want us to.”