“But his leadership style — I’m not trying to suggest he’s out robbing banks — but his leadership style reminded me of that of a Mafia boss,” Comey said, speaking about Trump.
The GOP lawmakers say they’re looking at whether probes into President Donald Trump, which began before he was elected, were tainted by political bias. Comey, whom the president fired in 2017, returns for more questioning on Dec. 17.
These are some of the highlights, drawn from the 235-page redacted transcript released on Saturday by Republican lawmakers. The interview lasted from 10:12 a.m. to 4:38 p.m., including a 30-minute lunch break.
Comey dismissed suggestions the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference and potential coordination with the Trump campaign was prompted by allegations contained in the so-called “Steele” or “Trump Dossier.” Republicans have insisted that the document, an opposition-research paper paid for by Democrats, prompted the investigation.
“It was not,” Comey said, according to the redacted transcript. When asked how he knew, he said: “Because I know what the basis was for starting the investigation. It was the information we’d received about a conversation that a Trump foreign — campaign foreign policy adviser had with an individual in London about stolen emails that the Russians had that would be harmful to Hillary Clinton. It was weeks or months later that the so-called Steele dossier came to our attention.”
Collusion with Russia
On the timing of when the FBI learned about Americans possibly working with Russians who were trying to interfere with the 2016 election:
“And so, if it was after July 29th, then the answer would be, yes, we had some reason to suspect that there were Americans who might have assisted the Russians. If it was before then, the answer is no.”
In response to a follow-up question:
“My recollection is the first information we had, certainly the first information that came to my attention that Americans might be working with the Russians as part of their efforts, came at the end of July — I think the 31st is too late, but the last week of July — when we received information from an allied nation about the conversations their ambassador had in England with George Papadopoulos. That was the beginning of it, which is the first time we turned to trying to figure out whether any Americans were working with the Russians.”
Trump and Michael Flynn
On the effect of a conversation with Trump early in 2017 that Comey interpreted as an attempt by the president to halt a probe into then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (who later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI):
“No. This had — I did not abide this. And it did not affect the investigation, so far as I’m aware, in any way.”
Confidence in Mueller
On his confidence in Robert Mueller, who is heading the special counsel’s investigation, Comey said: “There are not many things I would bet my life on. I would bet my life that Bob Mueller will do things the right way, the way we would all want, whether we’re Republicans or Democrats, the way Americans should want.”
Responding to a summary of his decision-making process in concluding there shouldn’t be charges against Clinton for mishandling classified information and using a private email server as secretary of State:
“Yep. I believed it then, I believe it now. And anybody that thinks we were on team Clinton trying to cut her a break is smoking something.”
Trump as Mafia boss
On why Comey said in his book that meeting with Trump struck him as similar to interacting with a Mafia crime boss:
“It was an impression that kept popping into my head when I interacted with President Trump, and particularly it started when I watched him interact as president-elect that first week of January at Trump Tower, and I kept trying to push it away because it seemed too dramatic.
“But his leadership style — I’m not trying to suggest he’s out robbing banks — but his leadership style reminded me of that of a Mafia boss, of a Cosa Nostra boss, because it’s all about me, what you can do for me, it’s all about your loyalty to me. It’s not about any higher values or institutional values. It’s about how are you feeding me, the boss, how are you taking care of me, the boss.”
(Billy House and Matt Townsend contributed to this report.)
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