Former FBI Director James Comey said in a wide-ranging CNN interview Thursday that he could potentially be a witness against the FBI’s former number two.
His commentson CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” came after CNN reported that the Justice Department’s inspector general referred its findings on Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, to the US attorney’s office in Washington for possible criminal charges associated with lying to internal investigators.
Asked if he could end up being a witness, Comey said, “Potentially.”
“Sure, given that the IG’s report reflects interactions that Andy McCabe had with me and other senior executives, I could well be a witness,” Comey said.
In the report, the inspector general said McCabe “lacked candor” when discussing a disclosure to The Wall Street Journal on the investigation into the Clinton Foundation. In Thursday’s interview, Comey declined to prejudge the situation with McCabe but offered confidence in the process.
“I think it is accountability mechanisms working,” he added. “… It is not acceptable in the FBI or the Justice Department for people to lack candor. It’s something we take really seriously.”
President Donald Trump tweeted later Thursday that Comey had thrown McCabe “under the bus.”
“James Comey just threw Andrew McCabe ‘under the bus.’ Inspector General’s Report on McCabe is a disaster for both of them! Getting a little (lot) of their own medicine?” he tweeted.
Memos to Congress
Comey’s interview came shortly after a source told CNN that the Justice Department would provide Congress with memos Comey had written on his conversations with Trump.
Comey offered a muted reaction to the release of the memos and said it was “fine” with him.
“I don’t care,” Comey said. “I don’t have any views on it.”
Comey said the memos would underscore his sincerity and demonstrate that he hasn’t changed his story throughout his time in the spotlight.
“I’ve been consistent since the very beginning, right after my encounters with President Trump,” Comey said. “And I’m consistent in the book and try to be transparent in the book as well.”
Confidence in Rosenstein
Comey’s appearance marked the latest stop on his publicity tour and continued public war of words with President Donald Trump, almost a full year after the President fired Comey as FBI director.
In the wake of the firing and Trump’s tweet alleging there were “tapes” of their conversations, Comey said he had a friend disclose details of his interactions with Trump in order to prompt a special counsel.
Comey said Thursday that he felt it necessary to prompt a special counsel because he thought leadership at the Justice Department “would not be aggressive enough,” and specifically cited a lack of confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as part of his reasoning.
When he fired Comey, Trump cited the recommendation of Rosenstein, who along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions had advised Comey’s termination.
“It was a new deputy attorney general, who I didn’t have confidence in, given what I’d seen around my firing, and so I thought something has to be done,” Comey said.
Trump a ‘counterpoint’ to ethical leadership
Comey tried to say Thursday that his book was not about Trump but about ethical leadership generally – an area where he feels the President is an example of someone who falls short.
“I think he is a counterpoint,” Comey said. “I couldn’t write about ethical leadership and illustrate it with stories without telling stories of someone I think fails to reflect values of an ethical leader, so sure, he’s three of the 14 chapters.”
But asked if, given his withering assessment of Trump’s personal and professional conduct, the country would have been better off with Hillary Clinton as president, Comey declined to answer.
“I can’t answer that,” he said. “That hypothetical is too hard for me to go back in time and try and answer.”
Pressed on the point, Comey said he believes Trump was legitimately elected and advised people to accept that while still recognizing when Trump steps out of bounds.
“We have the current President, who was, in my view, legitimately elected, is serving as President,” Comey said. “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.”
Comey said later in the interview that his feelings about Trump’s conduct did not amount to a strong degree of personal animus.
“I definitely don’t hate him,” Comey said.
He continued, “There are things he does that make me uncomfortable, and I think are inappropriate that are some ways like, a bully-like behavior, but I don’t hate Donald Trump. I don’t even dislike Donald Trump.”
‘Possible’ Russia has dirt on Trump
When it came to Comey’s provocative assertion that he will not write off the possibility that Russia may have compromising information about Trump, the former FBI director called it unlikely but defended the comment.
“It’s a striking thing when someone constantly brings up something to deny that you didn’t ask about it,” he said, adding later, “I’ve always been struck in my encounters with him that he wouldn’t criticize Vladimir Putin even in private, which struck me as odd.”
Asked for substance to back up the notion, Comey said he did not have evidence and was relying on what his “common sense” led him to believe was possible.
CNN’s Clare Foran contributed to this report.