Comey: Come to Think of It, I Probably Shouldn't Have Defended the FBI's FISA Process

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Posted: Dec 15, 2019 10:30 AM
Comey: Come to Think of It, I Probably Shouldn't Have Defended the FBI's FISA Process

Source: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

Former FBI Director James Comey admitted on "Fox News Sunday" that he was wrong to defend the agencies procedures relating to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and a warrant the agency obtained to spy on the Trump campaign. The admission comes after Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his highly-anticipated report about the origins of the Russia probe and the FBI's abuse of the FISA warrant application process.  

"I was wrong. I was responsible. That's why I'm telling you I was wrong. I was overconfident as director over our procedure," Comey told Fox News' Chris Wallace. "And it's important that a leader be accountable and transparent. If I were still director I'd be saying exactly the same thing Chris Wray is saying, which is we are going to get to the bottom of this because the most important question is is this systemic? Are there problems in other cases?"

"He [Horowitz] said it [Steele Dossier] played an essential role in establishing probably cause. In fact, he says if it hadn't of been for the Steele dossier the FBI probably wouldn't even have submitted a FISA application that it had been reviewed in April of 2016 – or August, rather, of 2016. They decided not to do it. They get the Steele dossier and they do it," Wallace replied. "It wasn't part of a broader mosaic. That's what you said, sir."

Comey attempted to spin Horowitz's findings, saying he came to the same conclusion as the inspector general.

"I'm not sure he and I are saying different things," Comey replied. "What his report says is that the FBI thought it was a close call until they got the Steele report, put that additional information in, and that tipped it over to be probably cause."

Wallace explained how the two men came to different conclusions. Comey has said the FISA warrant was part of a broader investigation, where Horowitz said the Steele dossier was the tipping point for the FBI to launch their probe.

"That doesn't make it part of a broader mosaic," Wallace said. "That makes it the center piece of the whole FISA application and the ability to surveil Carter Page."

Comey admitted that he wasn't kept up-to-date on "the details" of the investigation, including that the FBI talked with a Russian contact who flat out said Steele wrote false information in his dossier.

"The worst misconduct: in August of 2016, just two weeks into the investigation, the CIA tells the FBI that it actually has a relationship with Carter Page, that when he has these meetings with the Russians he's actually goes back and tells the CIA about it but you never tell the FISA Court," Wallace said. "And, in fact, in 2017, an FBI lawyer doctors a document. 'The CIA said, 'Oh, Carter Page, he's a source.'' And he puts in the application that he's [Page] not a source."

Comey flat out lied, saying Horowitz never found any wrongdoing by members of the FBI.

"One of the predications of your question, the inspector general did not find misconduct by any FBI people. He found mistakes and negligence and oversight," Comey said. 

Wallace reminded Comey that Kevin Clinesmith was referred for a criminal investigation, something the former FBI director shrugged off, as though it wasn't a big deal. 

Comey, however, contended that Horowitz found no wrong doing, no political bias, but he did find that mistakes took place, something he said is "nothing to sneeze at." 

He did admit that agents working the case should have forwarded off information relating to Page's relationship with the CIA to agency lawyers so they could determine whether or not that should be included in the FISA application.

"You've talked a lot about mistakes, sloppiness, but Horowitz concluded that three separate teams made significant errors in four separate FISA applications on one of the FBI's most significant cases: the investigation of President Trump and his campaign," Wallace said. 

Comey, however, argued that Trump and his campaign weren't being investigated, but "four Americans were being investigated."