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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Former FBI Director James Comey. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 19, 2018 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:05]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to this special edition of THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

By now, you have no doubt heard former FBI Director James Comey detailing his rise and his time as the nation's top law enforcement official and sounding the alarm about the future of America under President Trump.

This week, he's been particularly candid in his criticism of the president, who has, of course, fired back, attacking Comey as a -- quote -- "slime ball," even dubbing him "slippery James Comey."

But, right now, at a crucial moment in this very public war of words about very important issues, there is a lot of breaking news, with a source telling CNN that, later today, the Department of Justice is expected to allow Congress to see Comey's memos detailing his interactions with President Trump, and another source saying that the Justice Department is looking at possible criminal charges against Comey's former deputy Andrew McCabe for lying about leaking.

Amidst this barrage of major breaking news involving James Comey and the Department of Justice, we have with us today the former FBI director and the author of his new book, "A Higher Loyalty": Truth, Lies, and Leadership."

James Comey, welcome to THE LEAD. Thanks for being here.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Thanks for having me here, Jake.

TAPPER: So let's talk about this breaking news. CNN just breaking the story, the Justice Department Inspector General sending a criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney in D.C. regarding your former deputy, Andrew McCabe. They did this after releasing a report concluding McCabe repeatedly lied to investigators and to you about a leak to the Wall Street Journal, in which he confirmed -- or he had people leak to the Wall Street Journal, confirming the existence of an investigation into the -- the Clinton Foundation.

If they ultimately bring a case against Andrew McCabe, would you be a witness for the prosecution?

COMEY: Potentially. I don't know whether the reporting is accurate. I know it's CNN reporting, but I don't know it of my own accord. But sure, given that the IG's report reflects interactions that Andy McCabe had with me and other FBI senior executives, I could well be a witness.

TAPPER: You express a lot of horror in the book when public officials, or even celebrities, lie to investigators, whether David Petraeus, or Scooter Libby, or...

COMEY: Martha Stewart.

TAPPER: Martha Stewart.

COMEY: Yes.

TAPPER: So I would assume that you would be upset at Andrew McCabe. I haven't really heard you criticize him the same you've criticized those others.

COMEY: Well, I didn't -- I hope I didn't criticize them personally. I think it's very important...

TAPPER: No, the act, though.

COMEY: Oh sure, the act is one I take very seriously, and so does the Department of Justice. What's gone on so far has been the accountability mechanisms of the department working, because it's a department that's committed to the truth. And so it's working -- I don't know whether there's a criminal referral, what will happen, but that's part of accountability. An examination of what the consequences should be if there was material lying.

TAPPER: But how do you feel about your former deputy, according to the Inspector General, lying? Lying to you, lying to investigators, for a leak that the Inspector General said was only motivated to preserve his own reputation, having nothing to do with the FBI or the public's right to know.

COMEY: Conflicted. I like him very much as a person, but sometimes even good people do things they shouldn't do. I've read the report. I'm not the judge in the case. I'm not the discipline decision maker in the case. I think it is accountability mechanisms working, and they should work, because it's not acceptable, in the FBI or the Justice Department, for people to lack candor. It's something we take really seriously.

TAPPER: The Justice Department is also expected today to begin the process of letting Congress see your memos detailing you interactions with President Trump. Is that the right decision, to let Congress see them?

COMEY: I don't know. Because I don't know what considerations the department has taken into account. It's fine by me.

TAPPER: You don't care?

COMEY: I don't care. I don't have any -- I don't have any views on it. I'm totally fine with transparency. I've tried to be transparent throughout this, and I think what folks will see if they get to see the memos, is I've been consistent since the very beginning, right after my encounters with President Trump, and I'm consistent in the book and try to be transparent in the book as well.

TAPPER: Senator Grassley, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, says that there are seven memos. He says four of them are classified. Is that right?

COMEY: I don't now -- because I don't have the memos, I don't know exactly how many there are. Some may be memos, some may be emails. They're somewhere between five and ten, it may be seven, it may be eight, I don't remember. And I think some of them -- I know when I created some of them, they were classified, but I don't know how many of that group.

TAPPER: One of them is -- the classified one (ph), is obviously from when you told President Trump in Trump Tower about what was in that two-page annex about the Steele dossier, the summary of what was in the Steele dossier. What would the other classified ones be about?

COMEY: Well, I can't answer that if they're classified.

TAPPER: You can't even say the subject of them? Terrorism...

COMEY: Well, there were a number of conversations I had that related to our investigative responsibilities, and that I considered classified at the time. And if I go beyond that, I'll be breaking the seal on them.

TAPPER: The -- we're just learning that Bloomberg News is reporting that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told President Trump that he is not a, quote, "target" of the Mueller investigation, of the Russia probe.

[16:05:00] At this point in the investigation, what might that mean, telling the president he's not a target?

COMEY: I don't know what it means. It's a fairly standard part of any investigation, trying to decide whether a person you're encountering is a witness, a subject or a target. A target is someone on whom the investigation, the grand jury has developed significant evidence -- evidence sufficient to charge. A witness is somebody who has nothing to do with any exposure, and a subject is everybody in the middle.

So I don't know the context in which the deputy attorney general did that but that's the general framework.

TAPPER: The president has obviously had a lot of words in response to you for the last year and change, especially this last week. He's called you a liar and a leaker. Our reporting says that a Republican who recently spoke with the president says that the president feels as though he has weathered your book tour. Has he weathered the book tour? Has he come out unscathed?

COMEY: I have no idea. The book tour's not about the president. It's about my hope that I can be part of facilitating a conversation about our values. President Trump figures in that, obviously, because he's part of the stories I'm trying to tell to illustrate ethical leadership. Because it's not about him, I haven't thought about it in terms of whether he's weathering it or not weathering it.

TAPPER: The book's about President Trump to a great deal -- I mean, there's a lot -- I read the book. There's a lot in there about your time as a U.S. attorney, about your childhood, but there's a lot in there about President Trump, especially in terms of leadership. He's an example of how not to be a leader, in your view. He is the example of somebody who is a bully. And you talk throughout the book about how you hate bullies.

COMEY: I think he is a counterpoint, that's why he's in there. I couldn't write about ethical leadership and illustrate it with stories without telling stories of someone I think fails to reflect the values of an ethical leader. So sure, he's 3 of the 14 chapters, it's an important part of the book. But all I meant is, it's not a book about Donald Trump and I hope very much it'll be useful long into the future beyond a Trump presidency.

TAPPER: You leveled some very tough charges about him. You call him morally unfit, you call his presidency a forest fire. You say he's violating the rule of law. Do you think the nation would be better off if Hillary Clinton had won?

COMEY: I can't answer that. That's something -- that hypothetical is too hard for me to go back in time and try to answer. I think (ph) --

TAPPER: You painted a pretty dire picture of President Trump. It's hard to imagine how you don't think the nation would be better off if Hillary Clinton had won.

COMEY: Yeah, I don't think about it in those terms though, Jake. I think we have the current president who was, in my view, legitimately elected, is serving as president. The question is, is he adhering to our values? He's clearly not. So what do we do about it? And I think the first thing we do is not get numb to it. When he calls for the jailing of private citizens in his tweets, don't shrug but realize that's not OK, that's not normal.

TAPPER: The -- it's interesting that you won't go as far to say that Hillary Clinton would be -- the nation would be better off if Hillary were president. Because you have called for the nation to respond to the challenge of Trump, in your view, by voting; presumably by voting against what he represents. Is that not a fair interpretation?

COMEY: I actually think of it -- maybe it's the same thing but I think of it in terms of voting for something else, which is the core values of this country, which are more important than any policy disputes. I don't care whether people find that in a Republican or a Democrat or neither. It's important that our leaders reflect those values because that's all we are.

TAPPER: So you have spent decades building a reputation for being evidence-based, for being nonpartisan. The FBI is an organization that is supposed to be evidence-based and nonpartisan. Do you worry that by painting this stark portrait of President Trump and suggesting that the American people should vote for something other than the lack of values that he represents in your construct, that you are sullying both the brand of Comey and the brand of the FBI?

COMEY: Yeah, I don't think so. And I certainly hope not because I'm not criticizing President Trump because he's a Republican or because he has a certain view on taxes or immigration or anything else. I'm criticizing him on the grounds of values which is at the center of the FBI and something that should be at the center of all of our evaluations of our leaders. So I get that it's relevant to politics but I see it as something actually more important than partisan politics.

TAPPER: Something you said to me in one of your interviews stood out. Quote, "If you've been investigating something for almost a year and you don't have a general sense of where it's likely to end up, you should be fired because you're incompetent." You write something similar to that in the book and it's you explaining why you wrote the letter basically exonerating Hillary Clinton from criminal behavior before you had even interviewed her.

But let's apply that same standard to the Mueller investigation. You oversaw the Russia investigation for almost 10 months. Did you -- do you have a general sense of how that investigation is going to end up?

COMEY: In some respects, I did at the time but not completely. I suspect that the team that's investigating it now has a general sense. I have no idea what that is. But again, it's a general feeling that on the current course and speed, we're likely to end up in this direction or that direction.

TAPPER: And where did you think it was going to end up? Did you think it was going to end up with people around President Trump being found guilty of conspiring, aiding and abetting with Russians?

[16:10:00] COMEY: I can't say. I've left that out of the book for reasons that are -- should be obvious. I can't talk about classified information or sensitive investigative details. So, I'm not going to say.

TAPPER: But your -- your sense of where the investigation was headed is not classified, it's just your impression. And, obviously, the investigation has continued since then. Why won't you say? I mean, people want to know.

You have left the impression that there's something there. In your interviews, you have said, when asked, do the Russians have something on President Trump? You've said, it's possible -- it's possible, which is not a very FBI Director answer. Don't you think?

COMEY: No, I think it's an honest and calibrated answer.

TAPPER: Well the --

COMEY: So, I hope that's an FBI -- I'm not the FBI Director, but I hope that's an FBI Director type of answer.

TAPPER: Well, when you gave the press conference about Hillary Clinton in 2016, in the summer, you said, you didn't say she didn't lie or you didn't say it's possible she lied. You said, there's no -- you found no evidence that she had lied.

COMEY: Yes.

TAPPER: You found no evidence she had that email server, knowing that it was improper? But you're not using the same construct of there is evidence or there isn't evidence, you're saying, it's possible. That leaves the impression, for people, that there might be stuff out there -- that there might be evidence that President Trump is under the thumb of the Kremlin.

COMEY: Yes, but I see -- what I take it (ph), you're asking me about two different things. I'm not going to talk about the investigation of possible cooperation between Americans and the Russian effort to influence our election.

What you asked me about now is, why did I say what I said when people ask me whether I thought it was possible that the Russians had derogatory information on President Trump. I think it's unlikely, but I think it's possible.

TAPPER: But isn't that construct unfair to President Trump in a way? Because the question was, if President Trump was compromised by the Russians, you say it's possible. I don't think it's likely, but it's possible.

I mean, it's possible there's life on other plants, we don't know. Except (ph) for you -- somebody like you with your reputation, saying it's possible. Isn't -- I mean, it's also possible that it's not true. Isn't that another way you could look at the same question?

COMEY: Sure, but I'm not looking to the stars saying, there might be green men out there. There's a reason I say it's possible. Two things struck me. One, the President's constantly bringing it up with me to deny it. And in my experience as an investigator, it's not an ironclad rule, but it's a striking thing when someone constantly brings up something to deny that you didn't ask about it.

And then, second, I've always been struck (ph) in my encounters with him that he wouldn't criticize Vladimir Putin, even in private, which struck me as odd. Now, those aren't definitive, those aren't conclusive facts, but I'm not -- the reason I'm saying it's possible is, there are things that lead my common sense to believe that it's possible.

TAPPER: But isn't that, kind of, cute. I mean, you don't -- you're not saying that you have evidence of it. You're just saying it's possible. I mean, do you have evidence that there's -- that President Trump has been compromised by the Russians? Have you seen evidence of it?

COMEY: No, and I think I've said that throughout. I'm trying to be transparent as --

TAPPER: Yes.

COMEY: -- here's my reasoning. Here's why an honest answer has to be it's possible. Now, I'm not saying it's likely, in fact, I've said all along and I'm repeating it to you here, today. It's unlikely, in my view, but it's possible.

TAPPER: So, let's talk about the investigation and what you can talk about it. In January, 2017 when you met with President Trump and you did that oral presentation of what's in that two page memo, summarizing the Steele dossier. We know from the book that you talked about these unverified allegations involving him and prostitutes.

Did you brief him about any -- any of the other things in the Steele dossier, claims that his associates, Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort, were potentially working with the Russians? Or was it only about the prostitutes?

COMEY: It was only about the salacious part of it.

TAPPER: Why? Why only about that?

COMEY: Because that was the part that the leaders of the intelligence community agreed he needed to be told about because we knew it and thought it was about to become public. And if it was true, we didn't know whether it was true, it would be important to let him know this as part of a defensive briefing.

TAPPER: While we're on the subject of the dossier, by the time you left, how much of it do you think you were able to, either, prove to be correct, verify, or debunk?

COMEY: The work was still underway. I wouldn't be able to say anyway, if I was still there, but the work was still underway when I was fired.

TAPPER: Some of it -- is it fair to say that some of it you verified as true and some of it you debunked as false?

COMEY: I think that all I can say is, a core part of it was consistent with lots of other intelligence, a core part of it being the Russians are engaged in an orchestrated campaign to influence the American election.

TAPPER: The -- Michael Cohen, I want to ask you about him. He's now under criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney for the southern district of New York, your former job. CNN's reporting that one of President Trump's former lawyers is warning the President that Michael Cohen could flip.

And also, we're hearing and lots of people have reported that President Trump and his advisors are much more concerned about the investigation into Michael Cohen than they are into the Russia investigation. Put on your legal analyst hat for a second. Why might that be? Why would they be more worried about Michael Cohen than about Robert Mueller?

[16:15:00] COMEY: I'm going to resist putting on the legal analyst hat. You've got all these awesome legal analysts at CNN, I'm not one of them.

TAPPER: We know that Cohen's name is in the Steele Dossier. We know that -- that the FBI has been trying to verify whether or parts -- if the dossier is true or not. Is he vulnerable in the Russia investigation, Michael Cohen?

COMEY: That's not something I can answer.

TAPPER: In the book, you detail interactions with the president that made you uncomfortable. Ultimately, you accepted President Trump's dinner invitation, you promised honest loyalty. You later agreed that Flynn -- Michael Flynn was a good man.

Now, you write that your experience in high school gave you a, quote, "lifelong hatred for bullies." Do you -- do you think President Trump is a bully? And do you hate him?

COMEY: I definitely don't hate him. There are things he does that make me uncomfortable and I think are inappropriate that are, in some ways like -- a bully-like behavior. But I don't hate Donald Trump. I don't even dislike Donald Trump.

TAPPER: I want to ask you a devil's advocate question of about --

COMEY: OK.

TAPPER: -- President Trump. You were a person who privately briefed him about the salacious allegation involving prostitutes. Is it not possible that President Trump, when he asked for your loyalty, had in his mind the idea that, here's an FBI director, the only FBI director I'm really familiar with is J. Edgar Hoover and I know he blackmailed politicians all the time.

Is it not possible that he thought he was asking for your loyalty because he was worried that you were going to drop all this incriminating information on him that may or may not have been true?

COMEY: It's possible.

TAPPER: It's possible. One --

COMEY: I'm only saying that because you said that.

TAPPER: Is -- I want to get clarity on something else that you said this week. You said this week that President Trump, quote, "treats women like meat." Is that from some personal experience that you saw or heard about or is that just from things that he has said?

COMEY: Just from media. Not from personal experience.

TAPPER: I want to ask about -- specifically about if you could put on your hat, you legal analyst hat I'm going to ask you one more time. COMEY: Which I'm refusing to do.

TAPPER: You're refusing to do. But to look at -- I know you've been asked about the obstruction of justice charge. And you said that's possible that there's a -- an -- an obstruction of justice case to be made specifically with firing you and -- and asking you after you -- after the meeting where he asked you to drop the Flynn matter.

Look at the conspiracy matter, aiding and abetting when I know collusion is not an actual criminal charge. If you look at what there is there. We know the Russians hacked the Democrats. We know that at least two people in the Trump world, Papadopoulos and Trump Jr., were approached by people with Kremlin ties and told about dirt on Hillary Clinton.

We know that there is an expression of a desire for that information. We know that two people in the Trump world reached out to Julian Assange. We know that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks published these e- mails. And we know that President Trump made a lot of hay out of those e-mails.

First of all, am I missing anything? Is there anything else in the conspiracy that we don't know?

COMEY: I can't answer that.

TAPPER: Of everything I just said which is all in the public domain, is that enough for a conspiracy charge against anybody?

COMEY: It's really not something I can answer. I would say this, you'd certainly, if you're the special prosecutor, want to understand those facts and -- and any around them to try and make that analysis.

TAPPER: But is there a case there?

COMEY: You don't want me to say it's possible again. It's possible. But I don't know.

TAPPER: You write in the book about your controversial decision to notify Congress that you were reopening the Clinton investigation just a few days before the election. You've been asked a lot about this so I'm not going to ask the same questions other people have.

But you did say you were thinking at the time, quote, "if I hide this from the American people, she'll be illegitimate the moment she's elected." Didn't that happen, except to Donald Trump?

In other words, you didn't disclose -- and I understand why you didn't, but you didn't disclose the Russia investigation to the American people. And now, there are a lot of people who think he's illegitimate. And it's something that he himself thinks is a cloud hanging over his presidency.

Didn't you, in avoiding possibly -- trying to avoid doing one thing to Hillary Clinton, you did it to Trump? COMEY: I don't think so because I think of the two investigations,

and everybody working on it in the Department of Justice and the FBI did, as well, as quite different.

Very early stage counterintelligence investigation of Americans, not Donald Trump, a small group trying to figure out, is there any connection of those people and the Russian effort? Separate from the Russian effort which we had important discussions about whether to publicize that.

But I don't know what we would have said in the early stages. We weren't investigating Donald Trump. We had just started. I think there actually wasn't serious consideration given to it because it wouldn't -- it wouldn't be remotely appropriate under our policies.

TAPPER: You caught very early stages in October 2016, but you disclosed it in March 2017. That's only five months later, is that -- was there really such a difference in terms of disclosing it?

COMEY: But only in a general way. I mean, five months later, we informed Congress that there was an investigation, but didn't say anything more about that.

And the reason for that is, the acting attorney general decided there was such pressure from Congress, Senator Grassley was holding up the confirmation of the deputy attorney general unless he got more information that there were important prudential reasons for the Department of Justice to say something in general about it, five months later.

[16:20:00] You admit in the book you made two mistakes in the Clinton investigation. One of them was using the phrase, "extremely careless," to describe Secretary Clinton's handling of classified information. You said that was a mistake. What phrase should you have used?

COMEY: I don't know. Even in hindsight. I haven't come up way to capture that it was something above mere sloppiness. We're talking about eight top secret e-mails, dozens of secret e-mails. And so we're trying to find a way to honestly describe something that was above just ordinary carelessness -- leaving a document on a counter at a restaurant or something by accident -- and criminal misconduct. It was between those two.

TAPPER: But you still -- you still don't have a phrase that would have been...

COMEY: I still don't. You might expect I've kind of suppressed the effort to try and figure it out since then.

TAPPER: After you were fired, President Trump tweeted there might be tapes of your private conversations. You say you decided to ask your friend to then leak some information about your interactions with the president. Not classified information, but information about your interactions with the president. And you say you did this, you testified that you did this to try to force the creation of a special counsel. Why? Why would a special counsel be needed? Why would the Department of Justice and FBI not be able to continue to do the job?

COMEY: I thought that the department as currently supervised, would not serve process to get the tapes.

TAPPER: Because Jeff sessions are too weak?

COMEY: Well, he had recused himself.

TAPPER: So Rod Rosenstein...

COMEY: And it was a new deputy attorney general who I didn't have confidence in, given what I had seen around my firing and so I thought, something has to be done, because there were lots of discussions in public then about appointing a special prosecutor. Something has to be done to push them to appoint someone who will have the gumption to go get the tapes.

TAPPER: What do you say to people who say, boy, that seems awfully manipulative, not your role and maybe even, it seems like payback?

COMEY: I don't think of it that way. I was a private citizen who saw something I could do. I thought that was very, very important and I did it and it -- and it obviously acknowledged it the moment I was asked about it publicly. I thought it was something that needed to be done. And a private citizen can talk about their unclassified conversations with the president.

TAPPER: Yes, but the average private citizen doesn't think to him or herself, I'm going to leak this information so as to force the creation of a special counsel. I mean, it's an extraordinary gambit that you made, and obviously it paid off. And congratulations, but it's not kind of thing that the average private citizen would do.

COMEY: Of course not. But the average private citizen -- first of all, I don't take any joy in it, so I don't accept the congratulations. But it's -- the average private citizen didn't have a one on one conversation with the president of the United States where he asked him to drop a criminal investigation and then tweet at him after he's fired that he better hope there aren't tapes. I was in a position given what I knew to do something that would be useful and important. And so I did it. And reasonable people can disagree about it, but I still think it was the right thing to do.

TAPPER: I asked you about Andrew McCabe, the deputy. I also want to ask you about FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page who worked at the FBI. There's been a lot in the news about text messages they sent back and forth in which they disparaged a lot of people, including President Trump.

Now, you say you had no idea that they were having an affair or about the text messages and I take you at your word. But put yourself in Donald Trump's shoes for one second. You're Donald Trump and you feel this is unfair, this investigation. You find out that Peter Strzok, the led FBI agent is texting somebody disparaging things about you and then you find out he's the one that actually helped conduct the Hillary Clinton interview and he called you an idiot. Wouldn't you think that this is unfair and politicized?

COMEY: Sure, I get why he'd be very concerned about that. It's the reason Bob Mueller removed Peter Strzok, who's an excellent agent, but removed him from that investigation. Its poor judgment and shouldn't happen. So I get the concern about it.

TAPPER: Your book is about leadership; throughout. Does it say anything about your leadership that Strzok, who was a high level FBI agent, was doing this? Did you set, in any way, any sort of tone where that kind of glib insult of a -- of a major political candidate at the time, would be not that big of a deal?

COMEY: No. But it does say something about my leadership. I mean, I'm responsible for the senior members of my team and I've asked myself the same question. I tried the model a certain way of acting which did not include that kind of behavior, but I ask myself, should I have given them all a speech? But these are grown-ups, these are senior people in the counter intelligence division. I don't want to be too tough on myself, but yes, I'm responsible. I'm responsible for their actions and their poor judgment.

TAPPER: Speaking of leadership, after you were fired, you say you got a phone call from then Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, now the chief of staff at the White House, in which he referred to the president as dishonorable, and was talking about quitting. You told him not to quit. Were you surprised when he took a job as the White House Chief of Staff and have you been surprised to see him as one of President Trump's strongest defenders?

[16:25:00] COMEY: I don't remember John calling the president dishonorable. He was talking about people and I don't like you being treated this way and I won't stay and work with people that would treat you in such a dishonorable way.

TAPPER: Who else would he be talking about?

COMEY: I don't know but he didn't - I just want to be clear, he didn't say the president by name.

TAPPER: That's fair and I appreciate the clarification, but just to - just to dial down on this point, who else would he be talking about? Who else mistreated you other than President Trump in his view or your view?

COMEY: No, that's fair. I don't know what he had in his head but he might have meant the attorney general, he might have meant the deputy attorney general who were deeply involved in my firing. So I don't know. But he conveyed a sense that he didn't want to continue to work for people who treat me in that way. And so I wasn't surprised to see John (ph) go serve because he cares deeply about this country. His whole life has been about serving this country, so no, I wasn't surprised.

TAPPER: You named your secret Twitter account, no longer secret, after a hero of yours, Philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr. You began your book with a quote of his, he once said, quote, "Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history." We're in - right now we're in the immediate context of history and probably, to a lot of people out there, both supporters of the president and opponents of the president, a lot of stuff doesn't make sense.

How do you think history's going to look at this? Are you confident that you're going to be seen as taking the path of the righteous?

COMEY: I don't know. And I hope people will see me, even if they disagree with my decisions, as a fair-minded person acting in good faith, being careful, involving other people. But I don't know and - I hope this doesn't sound odd, it doesn't matter that much. I'm a happy person, I care how my family feels about me, I'd love to be a great father and grandfather. But people make their own judgment over time.

TAPPER: You have been very sensitive to the criticism that some people have made that you have an infatuation with your own sense of integrity. You acknowledge that you have a big ego, but you don't like that specific criticism. I don't understand the disconnect because I think the ego is about your sense of integrity, don't you think? Isn't that the biggest...

COMEY: Yes, I see it as the same. I mean, I agree with you. But I'm a little sensitive to it because I've spent my whole life trying to make sure that it's not ego driving my decisions. And the decisions we've made here, whether you disagree or agree with them, weren't made by me alone. I put together a team of people who argued and fought and debated and didn't abide my rank or my position so we could make a good decision together. So I'm responsible for these decisions but I didn't make these decisions in a vacuum.

So that's why I'm a little defensive about it but - these decisions were made by me with a group of people around me that helped me as a guardrail and not falling in love with my own view of things.

TAPPER: You're an interesting public figure because I don't know anyone so reviled by the Hillary Clinton partisans and the Donald Trump partisans. Does that mean to you that you did your job right? Or does it mean to you - or does it mean something else, necessarily?

COMEY: Well, it means mostly that my deputy was right when he told me in the summer of 2015 that I'm totally screwed, as this investigation began. But I don't - doesn't mean that I'm right, that everybody hates me. I could still be wrong.

TAPPER: Do you feel that everybody hates you?

COMEY: No, I mean the partisans on both...

TAPPER: Yeah, OK. Yeah.

COMEY: You said the Trump people and the Clinton people. They both can't be right that I'm in the other team's pocket, which I hear all the time. That can't be possible. The challenge of being the FBI in today's political environment is, you're not on anybody's side, that confuses people, which I get, and it angers people, which I also get. And there's only so much you can do about it except constantly try to show transparency.

Show people your work so that fair-minded people can make a judgment. And that's what I've tried to do in this book.

TAPPER: All right, well the book is selling quite a bit. Congratulations on that and thanks for coming here and taking our questions, appreciate it.

COMEY: Thanks for having me, Jake.

TAPPER: FBI Director James Comey. And you can hear more from James Comey next Wednesday. CNN's Anderson Cooper will hold a town hall with him in front of a live audience at the former FBI director's alma mater, the College of William & Mary. It's going to be cohosted by the student assembly there. That's this coming Wednesday, April 25th, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

Don't go anywhere, we've got a lot to dissect with my political panel. We're going to be right back.

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