‘This was an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a president…’
Comey, speaking at a conference in California on Thursday, faulted Trump for a “presidential denial of a fundamental attack on the United States. In many ways we’re inviting it to happen again with our president’s silence.”
The silence of Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, on the issue of Russian hacking prior to the election resulted in considerable strain on the U.S.–Russia relationship, as did false claims from the Hillary Clinton campaign, which Comey helped to perpetuate, that Trump had colluded with the Kremlin.
Among those investigated and indicted by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller was Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Partisans in the FBI and Justice Department used the archaic Logan Act as a pretense to interrogate Flynn during the presidential transition.
Flynn had agreed to meet with Russian delegates after Obama, in one of his final acts of vindictiveness, expelled several Russian diplomats over the claims of election interference that he had previously neglected to address when Hillary Clinton seemed poised to win.
Echoing the findings of a handful of U.S. intelligence agencies—including his own—which have themselves faced recent accusations of collusion and partisan bias, Comey said Russia intervened in the 2016 election to damage American democracy, undermine Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and bolster Trump.
Russian officials have denied the accusations.
The Russians allegedly succeeded in hacking the email of Clinton staffer John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee.
The emails, published on Wikileaks, revealed embarrassing secrets about the conspiratorial efforts to ice-out challenger Bernie Sanders, as well as the breadth of media complicity with the Clinton campaign.
A separate Russian attempt to hack the Republican National Committee was unsuccessful.
Comey’s comments come as the conclusion of the Mueller investigation turned up no evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia, instead turning the lens back onto the failures of Comey and his cohorts within the intelligence community.
Trump’s firing of Comey was one of the main catalysts in launching the Mueller probe, and Comey has admitted leaking information to the press in order to win support for such an investigation.
On Tuesday, Trump accused Comey of treasonous conduct for launching the investigation under false pretenses, going on little else than the debunked Steele Dossier furnished by the Clinton camp.
“Everything about it was crooked, every single thing about it,” Trump said of Mueller’s investigation.
“There were dirty cops. These were bad people. If you look at McCabe and Comey, and you look at Lisa and Peter Strzok, these were bad people. And this was an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a president.”
Attorney General William Barr said on Wednesday that he’s starting his own inquiry into counterintelligence decisions that may have amounted to political “spying,” including actions taken during the probe of the Trump campaign in 2016.
Asked about Barr’s comments, Comey said “I have no idea what he’s talking about, so it’s hard for me to comment.”
“Maybe the only thing I can say generally is I think his career has earned him a presumption that he’ll be one of the rare Trump Cabinet members who will stand up for things like truth and facts and institutional values,” Comey said.
“Language like this makes it harder, but I still think he’s entitled to that presumption.”
Comey admitted to what he said were his own shortcomings as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, saying he wished he had done more to beef up U.S. defenses against cybersecurity threats.
“I failed to push us to the decision point of how do we want to deploy against this threat effectively,” he said.
“We failed to do an adequate job of pushing the information flow across the semi-permeable barrier across the government and the private sector. We’re nowhere near where we need to be.”
Others, however, have cited his dishonesty and/or obliviousness to corruption within his own ranks as being among his key shortcomings.
Comey—who was appointed by Obama despite claiming to have been a Republican and given money to the Democrat’s two political opponents—joked about what he would do differently if he could go back to 2013, the year he was sworn in to what was expected to be a 10-year term.
“Going back to 2013?” Comey said. “Can I decline to accept the appointment as FBI director?”
(Sebenius reported from Sausalito, Kapur from Washington. Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers also contributed to this report.)
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