Ahead of the former FBI director’s appearance on Fox News, President Donald Trump blasted the network for putting James Comey on the air.
“Hard to believe that @FoxNews will be interviewing sleazebag & totally discredited former FBI Director James Comey, & also corrupt politician Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff,” the president tweeted Saturday night.
“Fox is trying sooo hard to be politically correct, and yet they were totally shut out from the failed Dem debates!”
Hard to believe that @FoxNews will be interviewing sleazebag & totally discredited former FBI Director James Comey, & also corrupt politician Adam “Shifty” Schiff. Fox is trying sooo hard to be politically correct, and yet they were totally shut out from the failed Dem debates!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2019
The president needn’t have worried. Comey’s interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” was practically a commercial for Trump’s decision to fire him. Comey took responsibility for the inaccuracies found in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrants on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page without really taking responsibility for them, putting them down to “sloppiness.”
“He’s right, I was wrong,” Comey said, referring to Inspector General Michael Horowitz. “I was overconfident in the procedures that FBI and Justice [Department] had built over 20 years. I thought they were robust enough. It’s incredibly hard to get a FISA. I was overconfident in those, ’cause he’s right. There was real sloppiness, 17 things that either should have been in the applications or at least discussed and characterized differently.”
However, Horowitz didn’t necessarily say it was “sloppiness,” as Wallace pointed out. Comey’s reaction was almost as if he hadn’t read the report at all.
“You’ve talked a lot about mistakes or sloppiness,” Wallace said. “Horowitz concludes three separate teams made significant errors in four separate FISA applications, on one of the FBI’s most significant cases — I mean, the investigation of President Trump and his campaign.”
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“I have to keep correcting you. President Trump was not being investigated. His campaign was not being investigated,” Comey responded. “Four Americans, two of whom were no longer associated with the campaign, were being investigated.”
Well, you say tomato, I say to-mah-to. Here was what Horowitz had to say during testimony before Congress last week: “It’s unclear what the motivations were. On the one hand, gross incompetence, negligence. On the other hand, intentionality.”
Neither of those is really “sloppiness.”
“Gross negligence or they intended to do it. They intended to lie to the FISA court. You were in charge during a lot of this, sir,” Wallace said. “And in fact, you signed the FISA applications.”
“Sure. I think I signed at least two or three of them,” Comey said. And then this gem: “He doesn’t conclude that there was intentional misconduct by these career special agents.”
“No. He just says it’s one of two things, and he can’t decide: gross negligence or it was intentional misconduct,” Wallace responded. “That’s what he said.”
“I’ve read his report,” Comey responded. “He says, ‘We are not concluding that there was intentional misconduct by FBI officials.’”
Wallace was almost incredulous, or at least about as incredulous as Chris Wallace is known to get: “Did you hear what he just said here?” Wallace asked regarding the clip of Horowitz testifying.
When Comey responded yes, Wallace said: “He was asked specifically, ‘How do you explain it?’ And he said, ‘Gross negligence or intentionality.’”
Comey shifted: “Well, I’m sorry. He doesn’t find intentionality, but that doesn’t make it any less important. As director, you are responsible for this. I was responsible for this. And if I were still there, I’d be doing what Chris Wray is doing, he’s figuring out, ‘So, how did this happen? And is it systemic?’ Because that’s the scariest thought, is that …”
“If you were still there, and all of this came out, and it turned out it happened on your watch, would you resign?” Wallace asked.
“No, I don’t think I would,” Comey said. Of course not.
He also noted that he thinks he made “mistakes I consider more consequential than this during my tenure.” And yet we’re still supposed to consider his firing problematic.
This is the invariable problem with James Comey’s story. Earlier in the year, when pressed about the role the Steele dossier played in obtaining a FISA warrant, Comey said “it was part of a broader mosaic of facts that were laid before the FISA judge to obtain a FISA warrant,” whereas Horowitz said “we concluded that the Steele reporting played a central and essential role in the decision to seek a FISA order.”
“I’m not sure he and I are saying different things,” Comey said Sunday. “What his report says is that the FBI thought it was a close call until they got the Steele report, put that additional information in, and that tipped it over to be probable cause. It’s a long FISA application. It includes Steele material and lots of other material. I don’t think we’re saying different things.”
Wallace read back part of Horowitz’s testimony to him: “We concluded the Steele reporting played a central and essential role in the decision to seek a FISA warrant, that it pushed the FISA proposal over the line in terms of establishing probable cause.”
“Words mean something,” Wallace said.
Not if you don’t want them to. Comey has essentially been doing a victory lap about the IG report, which probably isn’t the best idea. Sunday proved that; he wasn’t willing to take even a modicum of real accountability for what happened in the IG report. It was just “sloppiness.”
Except that’s not what it stated. Gross negligence and intentionality — the two explanations given by Horowitz, neither one of which Comey was willing to own up to — are both intentional misconduct.
Gross negligence doesn’t mean you just forgot stuff, it means you willfully didn’t care. Intentionality explains itself.
But Comey is willing to take responsibility for the report — just not the parts he doesn’t like, which say it’s a great deal more than “sloppiness.”
In short, for once, President Trump should apologize for his tweet.
This isn’t the time to excoriate Fox News. It’s the time to send everyone involved a very expensive Christmas gift basket. And yes, I’d say even James Comey. From the president’s perspective, he’s certainly earned it.
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