News & Politics

James Comey: 'Spying? I Have No Idea What Barr's Talking About. The FBI Doesn't Spy ...'

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Former FBI Director James “Cardinal” Comey on Wednesday vehemently denied that any “spying” went on at the FBI while he was in charge.

During an appearance on CBS This Morning, Comey was asked to comment on Attorney General William Barr’s contention that “spying did occur” during the FBI’s counterintelligence operation that targeted the Trump campaign in 2016.

“I have no idea what he’s talking about,” the former director said. “The FBI doesn’t spy, the FBI investigates,” he insisted. “We investigated a very serious allegation that Americans might be hooked up with the Russian effort to attack our democracy.”

Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.

Later, Comey advised Republicans concerned about the FBI’s use of politically funded dirt to obtain a FISA warrant and “informants” to gather information on campaign advisers, to “breathe into a paper bag.”

“If we had confronted the same facts with a different candidate, say a Democrat candidate, where one of their advisers was talking to a foreign adversary’s representative” about interfering in an election, “they would be screaming for the FBI to investigate.”

“We should have been fired if we didn’t investigate this,” he said.

By “foreign adversary’s representative,” Comey was presumably referring to Joseph Mifsud, the mysterious Maltese professor who vanished from the public eye in late 2017. An Italian newspaper discovered that Mifsud was hiding out for months last year in a rented flat next to the American embassy in Rome while he was being sought by an Italian court. His hideaway was paid for by “Link International,” a company co-owned by Link Campus University, which is believed to be “a training school for Western spies.”

Or as the Mueller report refers to him, a Maltese national “who maintained various Russian contacts while living in London.”

There’s a lot of debate about who exactly Mifsud was working for, but Comey surely knows the answer and it probably wasn’t Russia or any other “foreign adversary.”

In fact, it’s looking increasingly likely that the FBI’s investigation was opened on false pretenses.

Comey is in trouble and he knows it, writes Kevin R. Brock, former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI, in an excellent piece in The Hill Tuesday.

Comey has realized, probably too late, that he has to try to counter, more directly, the narrative being set by the unsparing attorney general whose words in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week landed in the Trump-opposition world like holy water on Linda Blair. Shrieking heads haven’t stopped spinning since.

And so we’ve seen Comey get real busy lately. First he penned a curious op-ed in The New York Times. Then a Times reporter, with whom Comey has cooperated in the past, wrote a news article exposing an early, controversial investigative technique against the Trump campaign in an attempt to get out front and excuse it. Next, Comey is scheduled to be encouraged on a friendly cable news “town hall.”

Not to mention his appearance on CBS This Morning. Indeed, after months of posting on Twitter mawkish photos of himself communing with nature, Comey has decided to up his game. Unfortunately, “his strange, desperate statements and behaviors betray his nervousness and apprehension,”  Brock notes.

Comey will claim that everything he did in the FBI was by the book. But after the investigations by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz and U.S. Attorney John Huber, along with Barr’s promised examination, are completed, Comey’s mishandling of the FBI and legal processes likely will be fully exposed.

Ideally, Barr’s examination will aggregate information that addresses three primary streams.

The first will be whether the investigations into both presidential nominees and the Trump campaign were adequately, in Barr’s words, “predicated.” This means he will examine whether there was sufficient justification under existing guidelines for the FBI to have started an investigation in the first place.

The Mueller report’s conclusions make this a fair question for the counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign. Comey’s own pronouncement, that the Clinton email case was unprosecutable, makes it a fair question for that investigation.

The second will be whether Comey’s team obeyed long-established investigative guidelines while conducting the investigations and, specifically, if there was sufficient, truthful justification to lawfully conduct electronic surveillance of an American citizen.

The third will be an examination of whether Comey was unduly influenced by political agendas emanating from the previous White House and its director of national intelligence, CIA director and attorney general. This, above all, is what’s causing the 360-degree head spins.

There are early indicators that troubling behaviors may have occurred in all three scenarios. Barr will want to zero in on a particular area of concern: the use by the FBI of confidential human sources, whether its own or those offered up by the then-CIA director.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) on Wednesday suggested that Comey could end up in the center of a criminal conspiracy to undermine President Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“He’s worried, and he should be, that Mr. Barr … is going to look further into the genesis of the investigation of the Trump campaign,” Kennedy said during an appearance on America’s Newsroom. “I think they’re going to find that all roads lead to Mr. Comey.”