Former FBI Director James Comey was the star of primetime Sunday with his appearance on ABC’s “20/20.”
Comey was interviewed by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos about his upcoming book, “A Higher Loyalty.” The juiciest parts of the interview — in the eyes of the mainstream media — were Comey’s remarks about President Donald Trump, calling him “morally unfit” to be president, and even comparing him to a mafia crime boss.
But one portion of the interview that did not air in Sunday evening’s broadcast — but is featured on the network’s website and appears in transcripts of the interview — featured Comey speaking about comments made by former President Barack Obama during the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Comey said the now-former president made comments about the investigation that should not have been made.
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) April 16, 2018
“We had the problem that President Obama had twice publicly basically said, ‘There’s no there, there,'” Comey said, suggesting Obama “jeopardized” the Justice Department’s credibility due to his nonchalant attitude toward the Clinton investigation.
In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” in October 2015, Obama claimed Clinton had merely made a “mistake” while using a private email server but that it did not endanger America’s national security.
In April 2016, Obama told “Fox News Sunday” that no harm had been done to national security because Clinton would never “intentionally” place the U.S. in a jeopardizing state.
Those comments were troubling to Comey because it made it appear a legal judgment on Clinton had already been made.
“Both times he said that. So that’s his Justice Department,” Comey said.
Comey admitted Obama’s stance “surprised” him and that he believed it was inappropriate because Obama used to be a lawyer and should have known better.
However, when Comey was asked by Stephanopoulos if Obama had been trying to “color” the case against Clinton, the former director remained unsure.
“He didn’t have any insight into the case, at least as far as I know, more than anybody reading the newspaper did, which was zero because there were no leaks,” Comey said. “I think he felt a pressure in the political environment because he wanted Hillary Clinton to be elected, to give her a shot in the arm, and so he spoke about an investigation. And he shouldn’t have done that.”
In his book, Comey suggests the Justice Department was following Obama’s lead after Clinton had essentially been absolved by the president.
“To this day, I don’t know why he spoke about the case publicly and seemed to absolve her before a final determination was made,” Comey wrote.
“If the president had already decided the matter, an outside observer could reasonably wonder, how on earth could his Department of Justice do anything other than follow his lead.”
Comey’s book, which comes out Tuesday, delves deeper into his career before, during and after the 2016 presidential election.
Comey was also critical of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the ABC interview, saying he decided to announce details of the inquiry into Clinton’s email server because Lynch lacked the credibility to do it herself.
“I actually thought, ‘As bad as this’ll be for me personally, this is my obligation, to protect the FBI and the Justice Department,'” Comey said. “Given all that had gone on, the attorney general of the United States could not credibly announce this result. And if she did, it would do corrosive damage to the institutions of justice.”
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