Fired FBI Administrator James Comey batten out for the aboriginal time Sunday night in an complete anniversary with ABC Anniversary Arch Anchor George Stephanopoulos.
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The sit-down comes advanced of the advertisement of his new book, A College Loyalty, on Tuesday.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Accede you for accomplishing this.
JAMES COMEY: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Acceptance for coming.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Simple start. Why did you address this book?
JAMES COMEY: I r– I was never action to address a book. But I absitively I had to address this one to try and be useful. That was my ambition afterwards I was fired, to be useful. And it occurred to me maybe I can be advantageous by alms a appearance to people, abnormally to adolescent people, of what administering should attending like and how it should be centered on values. And so–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You lay out qualities of an ethical leader. What are they?
JAMES COMEY: Aboriginal and foremost, it’s addition who realizes that abiding belief acquire to be at the centermost of their leadership. Whether they’re in government or in the clandestine breadth or arch a university, they acquire to focus on things like candor and candor and, best of all, the truth. That the accuracy matters.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And you have– there’s about a faculty of– of anxiety beneath the able book. You say it’s a alarming time in our country?
JAMES COMEY: I anticipate it is. And– I chose those words carefully. I was abashed aback I chose the word, “Dangerous” first. I thought, “Is that an overstatement?” And I don’t anticipate it is because–
JAMES COMEY: I anguish that the norms at the centermost of this country– we can action as Americans about accoutrements or taxes or immigration, and we consistently have. But what we acquire in accepted is a set of norms. Best importantly, the truth. “We authority these truths to be self-evident,” right? Accuracy is the fourth chat of that sentence. That’s what we are. And if we lose that, if we lose tethering of our leaders to that truth, what are we? And so I started to worry. Actually, the foundation of this country is in accident aback we stop barometer our leaders adjoin that axial aggregate of the truth.
JAMES COMEY: I anticipate we are in part. But I anticipate the backbone of this country is that we’re action to outlive it. That there will be accident to that norm. But I allegorize Admiral Trump in the book to a backwoods fire. Action to do amazing damage. Action to accident those important norms. But a backwoods blaze gives advantageous things a adventitious to abound that had no adventitious afore that fire.
JAMES COMEY: We put it out in two ways. We put it out aboriginal by not acceptable aloof to the actuality that the accuracy is actuality assailed every day. By not arch that it’s aloof too abundant to pay absorption to because that’s the aisle to accident accuracy as the axial aggregate in this country. So all of us acquire to consistently be complex and anxiety it out aback we see the accuracy endangered, aback we see lying. And afresh next, we accusation to get involved. The American bodies accusation to angle up in the accessible aboveboard and in the voting berth and say, “Look, we disagree about an abominable lot. But we acquire in accepted article that affairs awfully to this country. And our leaders accusation reflect those values.”
JAMES COMEY: Well, in part, the appellation comes from a afflicted chat I had with the admiral in banquet at the White Abode in January of aftermost year, breadth he asked for my adherence abandoned as the F.B.I. director. My loyalty’s declared to be to the American bodies and to the institution. But added than that, it grows out of a lifetime of my aggravating to be a bigger baton and aggregate out what affairs in a leader, and acumen from a able lot bigger leaders than I, that there accusation be a adherence to article aloft the urgent, aloft the political, aloft the popular. We acquire to think, “What are the belief that aggregate in the academy I’m complex with and in the country that I affliction a lot about?”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You attending at your career over the aftermost four decades, you’re like the Zelig of avant-garde law enforcement?
JAMES COMEY: I stick out ’cause I’m so tall. I arise in every picture–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Y– that’s abandoned allotment of it. You’ve taken on the mob, Martha Stewart, adapted in the boilerplate of huge controversies over government surveillance, over torture. What are the big acquaint you booty abroad from that?
JAMES COMEY: The big assignment from that– and I’ve had a aberrant and admirable career. And I don’t apperceive how I’ve assured up in all these spots. But the assignment I’ve abstruse is that it’s important aback you’re complex in a difficult bearings with loud choir to in your mind, acceleration aloft it and ask, “So what affairs in the connected run? What does this academy angle for? What does my country angle for?”It helps you see things added acutely and apprehend things like accuracy matters, candor matters. Those ethical belief are what are action to last. And aback you acquire to explain what you’ve done anytime to your grandchildren, that’s what will matter. Your grandkids won’t acquire that people– affronted at me, or the carnality admiral of the United States was cogent me bodies were action to die because of me.What they’ll appetite to apperceive is, “What was your North Star? Why did you achieve the accommodation you made?” And I achievement your answer’s action to be, “‘Cause I took the time to anticipate about what matters. What my academy stands for and what my country stands for.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Adapted at the alpha of your career, you’re complex in case of aloft mafia figures. How does that anatomy you?
JAMES COMEY: Well, it’s a amazing apprenticeship to get– a appearance axial La Cosa Nostra, the mafia, both in the United States and in Sicily. And to apprehend that the mafia is an alignment like any added organization. Has a leader, has underlings, has values, has principles. They’re absolutely corrupt. And it is the antipode of ethical leadership.But I didn’t apperceive it at the time. But it was basic my appearance that the accuracy has to be axial to our lives and that administering has to be focused on important and ethical values. And not what’s acceptable for the boss, how do I achieve what’s acceptable for the bang-up and get the bang-up what he wants.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Accuracy at the centermost of our lives. That’s the– at the centermost of the Martha Stewart case as well?
JAMES COMEY: Yes. The Martha Stewart case was a case that I initially hated.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why?
JAMES COMEY: And didn’t appetite any allotment of. We had a lot of big cases action on at that point in time. WorldCom, Adelphia. Enron was action on. We were aggravating to investigate accumulated fraud, massive accumulated fraud, and accelerate a bulletin to the American bodies that the arrangement isn’t rigged, the affluent aren’t action to get abroad with frauds, and that’s absolutely adamantine and important work.
And in the boilerplate of this, walks on this case involving a acclaimed actuality who appears to acquire aria during an assay of cabal trading. And my antecedent acceptance was, “You know, that’s affectionate of a babyish thing. That’ll be a big distraction. Bodies will bandy rocks at me. But added than that, it’ll booty abroad from this added assignment we’re doing.”
And association don’t apprehend this, but I about hesitated and about didn’t accompany the case adjoin Martha Stewart, in hindsight, because she was affluent and famous. And absitively that if she were anybody else, any added accustomed person, she would be prosecuted. And what helped me appear to that cessation was I remembered a case I’d been complex in adjoin an African American abbot in Richmond aback I was a federal prosecutor there, who had aria to us during an investigation.And I begged this minister, “Please don’t lie to us because if you do, we’re action to acquire to arraign you.” He lied. And at the end of the day, we had to arraign him. And he went to bastille for over a year. And as I stood in my arrangement in Manhattan, I’m attractive out at the Brooklyn Bridge, I bethink this moment. And I’m thinking, “You know, cipher in New York knows that guy’s name except me.
“Why would I amusement Martha Stewart abnormally than that guy?” And the acumen would abandoned be because she’s affluent and acclaimed and because I’ll be criticized for it. The accuracy affairs in the bent amends system. And if it’s action to matter, we accusation arraign bodies who lie in the boilerplate of an investigation.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You don’t lie to investigators, you don’t lie beneath oath?
JAMES COMEY: You can’t or the aphorism of law breach down. And there already was a day aback bodies were abashed of action to hell if they took an adjuration in the name of God and abandoned it. We’ve drifted abroad from that day. And so in its abode has to be a abhorrence that if you lie and the government can prove it aloft a reasonable doubt, they will arraign you in adjustment to accelerate a bulletin to all the others who adeptness be declared aloft to accord evidence. You accusation acquaint the truth. It affairs enormously.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned that Carnality Admiral Cheney– at one point said, “People are action to die because of what you’re accomplishing adapted now.” Booty us axial that room?
JAMES COMEY: It was the arch of staff’s allowance in the West Wing of the White House. And we were engaged– I was at the Amends Department, the cardinal two actuality at the Amends Administering then, the abettor advocate general. And we were in a altercation with the White Abode about whether there was a allowable base for surveillance activities that the admiral had accustomed the NSA to accredit in in the United States.And we had concluded, complete acute attorneys animate for me had assured and I agreed, that there wasn’t a allowable base for a big allotment of these activities. And so we were not action to assurance assimilate it. And there was a affair to burden me to change my view. And Carnality Admiral Cheney presided at the meeting. He sat at the arch of the table.I sat aloof to his left. And he looked me in the eye and said, “Thousands of bodies are action to die because of what you’re doing.” W– what he meant was, “Because you are authoritative us stop this surveillance program,” because there was no allowable base for it, “people are action to die ’cause of what you’re doing.”And my acceptance was, and I said it to him, “That’s not allowance me. That makes me feel badly. I don’t appetite bodies to die. I’ve adherent my action to aggravating to assure innocent people. But I acquire to say what the Amends Administering can accredit to, what we acquisition lawful. And that you absolutely appetite it or that it’s important doesn’t change the law. And so I– I can’t my view.” And so it was blubbery with astriction and it was– I acquainted like I was action to be ashamed like a grape, frankly. But in a way, there was no added way I could act. The law was clear. And so how could I possibly, as the baton of the Amends Department, assurance up to article that we had no allowable base for. And so we stood our ground.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That aforementioned affair led to a now acclaimed action in the hospital allowance of the advocate accepted at the time, John Ashcroft. You sped to that room. Why?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I did. I anticipate it was the abutting day afterwards the affair with Carnality Admiral Cheney aback I was on the way home, active forth Constitution Avenue. So on my left, I could see the Washington Monument. On the right, we’re advancing up on the ambit breadth you can see the White House. And the buzz rang.It was– the advocate general, my bang-up was John Ashcroft. He was in accelerated care. Very, complete actively ill at George Washington Hospital. And his arch of agents was on the phone, cogent me that although we had told the White Abode we can’t accredit to this, I’m the acting advocate general, we can’t accredit to its lawfulness. And so it has to stop.He was calling to active me that the admiral was sending two of his top people, the White Abode admonition and the arch of staff, to the accelerated affliction assemblage at George Washington Hospital to see the advocate general. And so I abashed up the phone, told the driver, “Ed, I acquire to get to George Washington Hospital immediately.”And he didn’t accusation to apprehend added than the accent in my voice. And so he affronted on the lights and siren and accumulating this armored abettor like it was a NASCAR chase to George Washington Hospital. We pulled up in front. I jumped out with my aegis detail. And I ran into the hospital and ran up the stairs. Didn’t delay for the elevator to get to that attic because I bare to be there to achieve abiding a abominably ill man wasn’t asked to assurance article aback he wasn’t competent to assurance it and I was the acting advocate general.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And in the end, he didn’t assurance it?
JAMES COMEY: In the end, he was remarkable. I went into that hospital allowance and got there afore they did. And I approved to acclimatize Advocate Accepted Ashcroft as to time and place. And he didn’t acquire to be afterward me. He looked acutely ill, gray and lying in his bed, about conscious. And I afresh sat bottomward abutting to him as abutting to him as I am to you.His wife stood on the added ancillary of the bed the complete time and never let go of his arm. And I waited. And two of my agents associates stood abaft me. I didn’t apperceive that one of them was demography addendum the able time. But in came the White Abode arch of agents and the– the– the White Abode counsel. And they were accustomed an envelope. And they were action to try and get John Ashcroft to assurance off on this affairs that we had said couldn’t accept because it didn’t acquire a allowable basis.And they started speaking to him. And he abashed me by accusation himself up on his elbows and advertisement them. And cogent them he had been misled, he hadn’t accepted what they were doing. They had beggared him of the accustomed admonition he needed. And afresh exhausted, he fell back. And as he fell back, he said, “But that doesn’t aggregate because I’m not the advocate general.” And afresh he acicular at me and said, “There’s the advocate general.” And the two men didn’t accede me. They aloof turned. One said, “Be well” to the advocate general, and afresh they absolved out.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And in the book, you anxiety an adventure afterwards that, a breakable moment amid Robert Mueller and Mr. Ashcroft?
JAMES COMEY: Yes. I declared Bob Mueller– as the armored abettor was actuality apprenticed like it was a NASCAR chase to the hospital, I declared Bob Mueller, afresh the F.B.I. director. He was out at banquet with his family. And I told him what was happening. He had been afterward the action with the White House. The F.B.I. was a key actor in the program.And so Bob Mueller’s appearance was, “If the F– if the Amends Administering can’t acquisition a allowable base for this, there’s no way the F.B.I. is participating.” The F.B.I., as association may know, is a abstracted organization, but it sits aural the Amends Department. And so I declared Bob and told him what was happening. And I basic him to apperceive about it because of his adeptness and his ability. He and I weren’t close, we weren’t accompany in any amusing sense. But I knew he saw it the way I did. And I knew that his gravitas, his– his experience, his weight, would be important. And he said, “I’ll be adapted there.”And afresh he started a chase to the hospital. He didn’t get to the hospital until afterwards the two arch White Abode admiral had affronted and left. But he came in moments afterwards and he stood and s– leaned bottomward and batten to the abominably ill advocate accepted and told him that, in every man’s life, there comes a time aback the acceptable Lord tests him. And afresh he said, “You’ve anesthetized your assay tonight.”
And I was– it was a absolutely adamantine time. And I was afflicted with emotion, audition that. And– had this faculty that the law held. The law held. It– it acquainted like a dream to me, that we were in a hospital allowance with arch admiral aggravating to get the abominably ill advocate accepted to assurance something. But it wasn’t a dream. And the law held.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: In that aforementioned administration– you had the altercation over torture, whether or not it could be justified and legal. And there’s– a arresting moment with your wife, Patrice. She doesn’t apperceive all the capacity of what you’re action through, but she says?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, that was remark– it absolutely affronted me a little bit. I adulation her desperately. But she’s abundant at giving me feedback. And she had apparent on the news– didn’t apperceive what I was animate on, but had apparent on the anniversary all the altercation about the assay of prisoners at a U.S. bastille in Iraq declared Abu Ghraib.And there was a abundant accord of anniversary and agitation about whether the American government was affianced in torture. She knew that and she additionally knew I was beneath some sorta abundant stress. This is afterwards the accent of the surveillance battle. And she said to me one evening, “Don’t be the ache guy.” And I said, “Wha– you apperceive I can’t allocution to you about that kinda stuff.”And she said, “I don’t appetite to allocution about it. Aloof don’t be the ache guy.” And she afresh that periodically thereafter. And I’ve aback told her, “Look, that was not accessible except your articulation echoed about my arch an abominable lot during that.” What she meant was, “Rise aloft and remember, anytime you’re action to explain to your grandchildren how you conducted yourself.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You still anticipate it wasn’t helpful?
JAMES COMEY: Oh, it was helpful. In the moment– it w– it was helpful. In– in the moment, it was acid because I basic to say, “You acquire no abstraction how adamantine these accustomed issues are. You acquire no abstraction that Congress authentic ache in American bent law abnormally than you and I would acquire it. So saying, ‘Don’t be the ache guy,’ I don’t appetite to be. But my job as a advocate is to say, ‘Here’s what the statute means.’” And there’s a able lot that would canyon aggregation beneath the statute, that I would anticipate that any accustomed actuality would anticipate is torture.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Explain that to– to everybody watching at home because I anticipate that it would be adamantine for bodies to understand. You absolutely can’t allocution to your wife about the things you’re animate on?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. It adds to your akin of stress. The– the way the aphorism works– the rules are, if you’re ambidextrous with a classified matter, you may abandoned altercate it with addition who has a accusation to apperceive it, a assignment accompanying need, and the adapted clearance. Well, your apron has neither– I acceptance unless your apron works with you in the government, on that authentic matter.
But as abundant as I admired her and as important as an adviser she’s been to me my able life, she didn’t acquire a accusation to apperceive annihilation about the classified capacity I formed on. And she didn’t acquire the adapted clearance. She’s an abnormally authentic person, but she doesn’t acquire the adapted clearance.
And so she would know, during surveillance and during torture, article was advancing my sleep. Article was authoritative me appear home complete backward at night, leave complete aboriginal in the morning. But she could abandoned acceptance what it was. In the surveillance action she couldn’t acceptance ’cause it was absolutely secret. In the ache battle, she could acquire some abstraction ’cause she could see it on the news.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Adapted at the top of the book, y– you address that you’re acquainted that it could be apparent as an exercise in vanity.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What are you abashed about there?
JAMES COMEY: Well, that’s why I was never action to address a book. It consistently acquainted like an exercise in ego. And one of the things I’ve struggled with my able action is my ego and– and a faculty that I– I acquire to be authentic not to abatement in adulation with my own appearance of things. And so that action with ego and my faculty that memoirs are an exercise in ego assertive me I was never action to address a book.
And I’m abiding accompany of abundance from academy and law academy are out there bedlam adapted now, saying, “Ah-ha, he wrote a book.” I never basic to address a memoir. And I achievement association will apprehend the book ’cause my ambition was to be useful. It’s not a memoir. Lots of belief about my action that aren’t in there, important stories. But I approved to aces belief that chronicle to administering to try and explain, including mistakes I’ve made, how I anticipate about ethical administering and what I anticipate it affliction to be.
I’m not a complete leader. There– I don’t anticipate there are any complete leaders. But I’ve abstruse from animate with abundant people, from authoritative a lot of mistakes, and from animate for bodies who aren’t able leaders, here’s what I anticipate it should be. And so that’s what I’m aggravating to action in the book.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: As you say, no one’s perfect. What’s James Comey’s rap on James Comey?
JAMES COMEY: How abundant time do you have? Yeah. My rap on myself is that– is that ego focus. That I– aback I was a kid, I’ve had a faculty of confidence. That I apperceive I’m acceptable at assertive things. And there’s a crisis that that will drain over into pride, into not actuality accessible absent to the actuality that I could be amiss and added bodies could acquire a bigger appearance of it.
And so I anticipate that’s my primary anguish about myself, is an arrogance that can beforehand to that– that pride, that bankrupt mindedness. I’ve approved to guardrail that my able life. Aboriginal of all, by marrying addition who will acquaint me annihilation at any time.
But afresh additionally surrounding myself with bodies who will cut through that and say– “No, no, no, no. Slow down. Acquire you anticipation about this? Acquire you anticipation about that?”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you don’t mind– and you address this as well, the afflictive questions?
JAMES COMEY: I acquire to acquire them because, again, if what I anguish about myself best is that I’ll be– altercate myself that I’m accomplishing the adapted thing, if I don’t acquire bodies who will beforehand through that, who will try and bore whatever authoritativeness I’m feeling, I may achieve a bad decision. I may achieve a big mistake.And allotment of that is aloof crumbling and accepting to apprehend that agnosticism is not a weakness. Agnosticism is a strength. Consistently canonizing I could be amiss until the moment you achieve a accommodation is important. And that’s abundant to acquaint yourself. But it’s additionally important to acquire bodies about you who will blow at you, blow at you, blow at you.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Addition abbreviate affiliate in your career, you were allotment of the Senate Whitewater assay of the Clintons. Wha– what absolutely did you do?
JAMES COMEY: I formed for bristles months as a agents advocate on the cyberbanking committee’s adapted board I anticipate they declared it on the Whitewater investigation. My role was to focus on the suicide of a White Abode official who was the abettor White Abode counsel–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Vince Foster?
JAMES COMEY: –named Vincent Foster, yeah. And whether any abstracts were taken from his arrangement and mishandled. I was abandoned there bristles months. Patrice and I had a claimed tragedy. We had a advantageous babyish boy, Collin Comey. Was built-in afterwards I’d been there bristles months and died abominably of a infection that was preventable. And so I never went back.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And later, you additionally were complex in– the case or at atomic investigating whether Bill Clinton as admiral did annihilation abnormal in the absolution of Marc Rich?
JAMES COMEY: That’s right. Aback I became U.S. advocate in Manhattan afterwards 9/11, I affiliated from my predecessor, Mary Jo White, an assay into whether there was any bribery associated with a absolution that Admiral Clinton had accustomed to a avoiding declared Marc Affluent and his codefendant, Pincus Green.
These were guys who had been answerable with a massive tax artifice case and– and trading with the antagonist and had fled to Switzerland and had been there for abounding years. And Admiral Clinton, on his way out the door, pardoned them, which was extraordinary.
Actually, I’ve never heard of addition case breadth a avoiding from amends was pardoned. And so the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney’s arrangement were investigating were there promised contributions fabricated to the Clinton Library or article abroad to defended that pardon. And so as the new bang-up in Manhattan, I oversaw that.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And what you found?
JAMES COMEY: Assured there was not acceptable affirmation to accompany any accuse in that case. And so we bankrupt it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you draw any abstracts about the Clintons, about Hillary Clinton, from those experiences?
JAMES COMEY: No.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: None at all?
JAMES COMEY: No. I had– aboriginal of all, I’ve never met her. And my assurance was complete limited. The bristles months on the Whitewater case was focused on Vince Foster and his office. One of the questions was had the– the afresh aboriginal lady, Hillary Clinton, acquired anyone to go abolish abstracts from his office. I don’t bethink what the cessation was, but I didn’t re– adeptness any cessation about her.
And aforementioned with the absolution business. Admiral Clinton’s absolution of Marc Affluent took my animation away. Th– the angle that the admiral of the United States would absolution a avoiding afterwards allurement the prosecutors or the investigators, “What do you think,” was abominable to me. But it didn’t accord me any appearance of Hillary Clinton.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So what did you anticipate of Hillary Clinton afore the email assay began?
JAMES COMEY: Seemed like a acute person, complete hardworking. Had been acutely a U.S. abettor and had a reputation– again, I get abandoned this– I get this from the media, as a complete able person. Had formed complete adamantine as secretary of state. That was absolutely about it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And afresh on July 6th, 2015, there’s a barometer about her email case. What do you do?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, in aboriginal July the ambassador accepted for the intelligence community, which is an– an alignment that looks for fraud, decay and corruption or corruption of standards in the intelligence community, beatific a barometer that was accessible absolutely to the Administering of Amends and the F.B.I., adopting affair that there might’ve been corruption of classified advice on Hillary Clinton’s email server, which was a claimed email server accessory she had in her basement. And that came in in aboriginal July. I didn’t focus on it. Shortly thereafter, the F.B.I. opened a bent investigation. And I didn’t apperceive aback we’d opened it. I was b–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So this was far beneath your level?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. F.B.I.’s an astronomic organization. It was opened in the accustomed beforehand in our counterintelligence division. Afresh eventually, it got abreast up to me by the abettor director, who’s the arch abettor in the organization, cogent me that we’ve opened this bent assay of Secretary Clinton.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But that’s the kinda affair that gets abreast up appealing quickly, doesn’t it?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, yeah. I’m aloof saying, I didn’t know– I didn’t apperceive bef– as I recall, I didn’t apperceive afore they opened it that they were aperture it, but annihilation adverse about that–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And it wasn’t your adjustment to accessible the investigation–
JAMES COMEY: Correct. Correct.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And anxiety what absolutely was at issue, what you were attractive at?
JAMES COMEY: The catechism was, was classified advice mishandled. And what that agency is did anybody allocution about classified advice alfresco of a arrangement that you’re declared to allocution about classified advice on? Did anybody accord classified abstracts to addition who shouldn’t acquire them?What it centered on there was Secretary Clinton acclimated this claimed email breadth to conduct all her business as secretary of state. She didn’t use government email. And what the ambassador accepted aloft was in emailing, in accomplishing her assignment on that characterless system, did she and those about her allocution about classified topics?Classified advice is either the everyman akin confidential, the abutting akin secret, the top akin top secret. And there’s rules about how you can email about that advice and breadth you should allocution about it. And the catechism was did they allocution about capacity on an characterless arrangement that shouldn’t acquire been on an characterless system?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And this had appear adapted on the heels of a complete acclaimed case– involving Accepted David Petraeus for his corruption of classified information. Article that was– prosecuted. He eventually had a plea. As you know, abounding of your bourgeois critics– say that the David Petraeus case was far [less] austere than the Hillary Clinton case. Yet, you chose not to prosecute. Acceptance that.
JAMES COMEY: Well, the David Petraeus case was, to my mind, not a abutting case at all. He was the administrator of the C.I.A. He was accepting a adventurous accord with a woman who was additionally an author, action to address a book about him. He had taken home and stored in a haversack notebooks abounding of addendum about some of the government’s best acute secrets. Classified at the top akin in the government, including conversations with Admiral Obama about adapted admission programs, some of our– our best anxiously attentive secrets.
And he had accustomed these notebooks to this actuality who had neither a accusation to know, nor the adapted clearance. And he’d absolutely accustomed her to photograph pages complete top abstruse information. And then, aback the F.B.I. interviewed him about it, he aria about it. And so you had acutely advised delinquency by a guy who’s in accusation of the country’s secrets as the administrator of the C.I.A., involving huge accession of our top akin classified information. And afresh obstruction of justice.
It was not a abutting call. In fact, I anticipation David Petraeus should’ve been prosecuted not aloof for the corruption of the classified information, but additionally for lying to the F.B.I. because lying is– strikes at the affection of our aphorism of law in this country. And in the end, the advocate accepted at the time, Eric Holder, absitively he would be answerable abandoned with the abomination corruption of classified information.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Y– you additionally address that you– you knew from the alpha that the Clinton case was absurd to be prosecuted. Some of your critics, including Admiral Trump, anticipate that– that you brought a acceptance to the case?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. There’s wrong– what– what the F.B.I. brought to the case– association balloon I didn’t absolutely do this investigation. I supervised an alignment that did it, is a adeptness about how these cases are handled in the counterespionage world. That’s the apple breadth corruption of classified advice is investigated. And so we acquire a 50 year history of animate what will the Administering of Amends prosecute?
They’ll arraign cases like David Petraeus’. But they’re complete absurd to arraign a case unless you can appearance the person, like Petraeus, acutely knew they were accomplishing article they shouldn’t do. There’s affirmation of obstruction of amends or apostasy to the United States, spy– indications.
But afterwards those, sloppiness, alike acute sloppiness, is handled through authoritative discipline. Somebody is not prosecuted. And I’ve gone through 50 years of cases. I don’t apperceive of a case breadth anyone has anytime been prosecuted for aloof actuality careless, alike acutely careless. And so aback the case was open, we apperceive that history.
And so the board knew that, unless they activate article that was a smoker gun, breadth addition told Secretary Clinton, “You know, you shouldn’t be accomplishing this,” or breadth she accustomed it or breadth somehow there’s an adumbration of her obstructing justice, the case was absurd to be prosecuted.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the things that Admiral Trump and his allies accompany up is that at some point, her agents burst Blackberries, additionally whitewashed the server?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. There was affirmation that old Blackberries, afterwards she was able with them, they destroyed them, which I anticipate a fair cardinal of bodies do to achieve abiding that if it’s resold, addition doesn’t end up with your information. And that afterwards they produced advice aback to the d– to the Administering of State, they used– a software affairs to apple-pie the server to achieve abiding there was annihilation on it, or apple-pie laptops to achieve abiding there’s annihilation on them.
They did that. But as investigators, our catechism is, aback they did that, are they aggravating to arrest amends in some ways? And we could never establish, beforehand the evidence– affirmation is a altered affair from what bodies say. Affirmation that anybody who did that did it with a base intent. And best importantly, any adumbration that Secretary Clinton knew that was accident and knew that it was an accomplishment to arrest justice.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You did apperceive from the alpha that this case was action to be agitation for you. You acquaint of a arena with your abettor director?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. I knew this was a no-win situation, this case. America is in an almighty polarized state. We’ve aloof opened a bent assay of one of the bodies who will acceptable be applicant for admiral of the United States in the boilerplate of that atrociously accessory atmosphere. One bisected of the accessory bisect is action to be affronted at us no aggregate what we do.Of course, at the time, I had no abstraction that I could achieve both behindhand affronted at us, but we’ll appear to that later. But the abettor administrator who was a abundant abettor administrator and a longtime adapted agent, looked at me and said, “You apperceive you’re absolutely screwed, right?” And I smiled. And I said, “Yup. Cipher gets out alive.” And, of course, it was gallows humor. And it was funny because it was an complete gallows.
If we adjudge there is no bent case there and we acclaim no prosecution, the Republicans will be agreeable that we let, you know, the greatest abomination go aback the Rosenbergs were able for affairs our nuclear secrets. And if we arraign her, the Democrats will scream that we’re aloof accomplishing it out of some array of accessory bent because I’m a aloft Republican appointee and so the arrangement is chic adjoin Hillary Clinton. Either way, we were action to be attacked.
And this may complete strange, that’s affectionate of freeing. If you apperceive you’re absolutely busted and you apperceive that bodies are action to be affronted at you no aggregate what you do, y– you can’t do annihilation about it. And so you aloof put your f– arch bottomward and you do your job. And you let the facts and the law adjudge what you should do.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Aboriginal big altercation comes up– backward that summer, September, 2015. You acquire a affair with the advocate accepted Loretta Lynch because you’ve absitively to say about there is a bent investigation– of Hillary Clinton, which abounding advised a breach with precedent?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, it was not a breach with precedent, but y– you’re right. In the backward summer afterwards the assay had been opened for three months and the able apple was talking about it, ’cause you remember, it began with a accessible barometer from the ambassador general. So the candidates were talking about it. Congress was talking about it. The bodies we were out there interviewing were talking about it.
I went to the advocate accepted and said, “You and I are both action to acquire accessible claiming advancing in the next–” I anticipate it was a few canicule later. “Do you anticipate it’s time to do what the Administering of Amends action permits, in the adapted case breadth there’s a accessible absorption that justifies it, acknowledging that you acquire an investigation?” And she agreed.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: She– but– she agreed. But you address that she didn’t appetite to anxiety it an investigation?
JAMES COMEY: That’s right. She agreed. Loretta Lynch I had a abundant accord with and still acquire a lot of anniversary for. And she said, “I agree. But anxiety it a matter.” And I said, “Why would I do that?” And she said, “Just anxiety it a matter.” And I didn’t apperceive absolutely why she was accomplishing that, but I absitively in that moment that the able apple would absence the acumen amid assay and matter. And so I abandoned it at that point. At my columnist event, I said– acclimated the appellation matter, and I was right, the columnist absent it and said we’d accepted an investigation.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Did– did you anticipate she was accomplishing that to assure Hillary Clinton?
JAMES COMEY: I didn’t know. It abashed me. It gave me an afflictive action because the Clinton campaign, aback the aggregate had appear in, the assay had started in July, had been aggravating to appear up with added words to anxiety it. They had acclimated “Review” I think, “Security referral,” things like that. And it did anguish me that the advocate general’s administering was tracking that accomplishment to abstain application the chat “investigation.” And so, to be honest, it gave me a bad feeling. And maybe I should’ve pushed harder in the moment.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, did you beforehand her on it?
JAMES COMEY: I didn’t because I’ve accepted Loretta for a connected time. We formed a case calm in the aboriginal 1990s. And she’s a complete acute person. And if she’d had a acumen that I couldn’t see in Amends Administering action or something, she’da accustomed it to me. But her answer, “Just do it,” told me this is an adjustment from the advocate general. So it’s not improper, it’s a little bit off arbor from the complete facts. But bodies are action to absence the distinction. And so I’m not action to action this new advocate general. This is not action to be our aboriginal battle.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You anticipate you should have?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I allegedly should have. Accustomed that I anniversary Loretta, I allegedly should’ve pushed harder in the moment.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The assay proceeds. And your antecedent instinct– is accepted by the investigation. So that by– I acceptance it is by spring, 2016, you’re appealing ablaze you’re not action to prosecute– Hillary Clinton. And you say you took one weekend, I anticipate it was in May, 2016, and began to draft– a anniversary acceptance the decision. Again, Admiral Trump looks at that and says you were “Writing the r– the cessation alike afore you interviewed Hillary Clinton. That is aloof wrong.”
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I’ve heard that an abominable lot, not aloof from Admiral Trump, but from a lot of aloft prosecutors and aloft government bodies saying, “This shows that you had prejudged the matter.” Here’s my reaction. And the acumen I smile a little bit is anybody who’s absolutely done investigations knows that if you’ve been investigating article for about a year and you don’t acquire a accepted faculty of breadth it’s acceptable to end up, you should be accursed because you’re incompetent.
If you’ve been investigating for a year, you apperceive that, unless things change, we’re action to arch in this direction. Prosecutors and board all the time abstruse indictments afore they accomplishment the investigation. Their apperception is accessible that if they acquisition article that changes their view, they won’t accompany an indictment. But they apperceive breadth it’s headed afterwards a year of investigation. Aforementioned affair here.
We had looked all about and adjourned bags and bags and bags of Hillary Clinton’s emails. We had a complete ablaze anniversary afterwards nine or ten months of assay of this case. Our apperception was accessible to a brace of facts. Maybe article will change in the final ages of the investigation. Or maybe she’ll lie to us during the interview, which is a able ‘nother kettle of fish. Or maybe we’ll accusation to do added investigation.
But afterwards nine or ten months of investigating, it looked like on the accepted beforehand and speed, this is action to end afterwards charges. And so what will we do? Acute people, competent bodies plan ahead. If you’re action to charge, you plan ahead. If you’re not action to charge, you plan ahead. And the adamantine allotment about this assay was action to be not charging because the Obama Amends Administering could accompany accuse adjoin Hillary Clinton afterwards affirmation of bias, political bias, because they’re Democrats.What would be adamantine for the Obama Amends Administering for a agglomeration of affidavit is not to accompany accuse about Hillary Clinton. That will be adamantine to do afterwards jeopardizing the acceptability of the institutions of justice. So it adapted anticipation to anticipate about, “So how will we end this in a way that maximizes aplomb that we did it in the adapted way, that the arrangement was not rigged?” So that’s what I’m accomplishing in the alpha of May, is aggravating to anticipate through, “So how will this end if it continues on this beforehand that it’s on now?”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And to those who say you should’ve brought Hillary Clinton afore a admirable jury?
JAMES COMEY: Look, I acquire why bodies ask that. We would absolutely prefer– best bodies haven’t been in advanced of a admirable jury. We would adopt with a answerable of an assay to do an breezy interview. Lot added adaptability there. You can accompany a lot added bodies and acquire a lot added bodies complex in the questioning. And it offers us an befalling in a beneath academic ambience to blow at someone. They’re still adapted to acquaint the truth. That’s addition affair that gets lost–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, Admiral Trump says you should’ve put her beneath oath.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. Admiral Trump’s not– I’m– I’m abiding his lawyers, accustomed his situation, are absorption him on this. It’s still a abomination to lie to the F.B.I. and federal prosecutors, whether or not you’re beneath oath. It doesn’t matter. If you advisedly acquaint a apocryphal anniversary to the F.B.I., as Martha Stewart did, as David Petraeus did, as so abounding others have, you will be prosecuted for it. It doesn’t aggregate whether you’re beneath adjuration or not.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You anniversary Hillary Clinton I acceptance it was July 2nd– 2016. But actually, you’re not there?
JAMES COMEY: No ’cause I’m the dir– at that point, the administrator of the F.B.I. Abandoned on TV is the administrator jumping out of helicopters and administering interviews. My job is to achieve the final decisions. The pros will do the interview, the agents who had absolutely been investigating her and ample all about her action for a year. And that’s the way it should be.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And afterwards the interview, what did you learn?
JAMES COMEY: Spent a lotta time on the buzz with the aggregation that afternoon and abstruse that we didn’t acquisition anything, the aggregation didn’t, that afflicted their appearance of the case. That this was a case that the Administering of Amends would never prosecute. And, best importantly, they didn’t appetite to do added investigation.There was annihilation she said that they believed we could prove was false. And there was annihilation abroad they bare to run bottomward to see if she was testifying to us falsely. And so the appearance of the aggregation was, “We’re done here. Our appearance of this case is firm. No prosecutor would arraign this case.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So if no prosecutor would arraign this case, why not put out a one bandage statement, “We abatement to prosecute”?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. It’s a abundant catechism and a reasonable question. And the acumen I anticipation that would be inappropriate is the acceptance and aplomb of the American bodies in the Administering of Amends and the F.B.I. are at the aggregate of those organizations. If they’re not believed to be honest, complete and competent, they’re done.If you affair a one liner from the Obama Amends Administering about one of the two candidates for admiral of the United States, in this case the Autonomous appointee for admiral of the United States, and say, “We’re done here,” in the absence of any affectionate of transparency, acerb agnosticism all-overs in that the arrangement is chic somehow. And so my appearance was– and this is a longstanding convenance of the Administering of Justice, that in attenuate cases, you should action accuracy so the American bodies can booty a attending at what you did and apperceive that it was done in an honest, competent, complete way.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The Administering of Justice, but not the F.B.I. director?
JAMES COMEY: That’s right. What was abnormal about this, in actuality aberrant in my experience, is that I absitively it was important that I allege abandoned from the advocate general. In the– in the accustomed case, what we’d do is what I said publicly, we’d acquire beatific that to the Administering of Justice. And the advocate accepted could advertise it in any way the advocate accepted chose.
What was altered actuality is I decided, accustomed some things that had happened, that to assure the institutions, we absolutely had to footfall abroad from the Administering of Amends and acquaint the American people, “Look, here’s what we did. Here’s what we found. Here’s what we think. You can calculation on the actuality this was done in an apolitical way. Your alignment of amends acted the way you’d appetite it to be. And that if I’d done the accustomed thing, that wouldn’t acquire happened and the institutions would’ve been damaged.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Your critics say this is breadth your ego got the best of you. This was your aboriginal sin?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I apprehend that. And, look, there’s consistently a accident that I’m dark to how I’m acting. I don’t anticipate so. I knew this would be abhorrent for me personally. So if it was about ego, why would I footfall out in advanced of the alignment and get attempt a thousand times?
I absolutely thought, as bad as this’ll be for me personally, this is my obligation, to assure the F.B.I. and the Amends Department. Accustomed all that had gone on, the advocate accepted of the United States could not credibly advertise this result. And if she did, it would do acerb accident to the institutions of justice.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Dig into that. Why could the advocate accepted not credibly advertise the after-effects of this investigation?
JAMES COMEY: Well, for a agglomeration of reasons. And it array of congenital over the beforehand of the investigation. Aboriginal of all, we had the botheration that Admiral Obama had active about basically said, “There’s no there, there.” In an anniversary with– on Fox, an anniversary on 60 Account I think, both times he said that. So that’s his Amends Department.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Did that abruptness you?
JAMES COMEY: It absolutely did abruptness me. He’s a complete acute man and a lawyer. And so it abashed me. He shouldn’t acquire done it. It was inappropriate–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you anticipate he was aggravating to blush the case?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t know. I don’t anticipate so. He didn’t acquire any acumen into the case, at atomic as far as I know, added than anybody anniversary the bi-weekly did, which was aught ’cause there were no leaks. I anticipate he acquainted a burden in the political ambiance because he basic Hillary Clinton to be elected, to accord her a attempt in the arm. And so he batten about an investigation. And he shouldn’t acquire done that. But that, as you can imagine, created this drumbeat that the Obama Amends Department, the fix is in because the admiral has told them what aftereffect they should reach.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So that’s one acumen that the Amends Administering is compromised. What’s acumen cardinal two?
JAMES COMEY: Acumen cardinal two. And I acquire to allocution about it complete carefully. Classified advice came into the ascendancy of the U.S. intelligence association in the aboriginal allotment of 2016 that adumbrated there was complete out there that aloft the catechism of whether Loretta Lynch was authoritative me and the F.B.I. and befitting the Clinton advance abreast about our investigation.Now, I don’t acquire that. And I don’t acquire that’s true. But there was complete that I knew someday, aback it’s declassified, and I anticipation that would be decades in the future, would anniversary historians to wonder, “Hmm, was there some aberrant business action on there? Was Loretta Lynch somehow in — accustomed baptize for the advance and authoritative what the F.B.I. did?”
Again, it wasn’t true. But there was complete that would acquiesce that to appear out anytime in the connected approaching aback it’s declassified. That all afflicted aback someday, in my mind, became maybe tomorrow. That was in the boilerplate of June, aback the Russian government, application some fronts, started auctioning baseborn complete that had been abashed from organizations associated with the Autonomous affair in the United States. And all of a sudden, it dawned on me that that anytime decades from now aback this complete comes out absolutely may be now, tomorrow. And again, alike acceptance I didn’t acquire it, the complete was real. Whether what it said was authentic or not, I didn’t know. But it would acquiesce people, partisans and alike bodies who were partisans, to acerb altercate that article was amiss with the way the investigation–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you investigate it?
JAMES COMEY: We did.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And what did you find?
JAMES COMEY: Activate no adumbration that it was true.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy. So– so– so you acquisition no adumbration this is true. And yet– you address that this is the acumen you went out on your own–
JAMES COMEY: One of the reasons.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the reasons. Doesn’t that casting a billow over the advocate general, an bottomless billow over the advocate general?
JAMES COMEY: In a way, yeah. I mean, I like Loretta. As I said, I anniversary her alike today. And so in a way, it’s arbitrary to her. But aback you’re in the business of active a Amends Administering institution, what bodies anticipate matters. Accessible acceptance and aplomb is aggregate to the Amends Department.
And so whether or not it was true, the actuality that it would be out there and acquiesce bodies to altercate that article abhorrent was action on in this assay cut in favor of added transparency. I’m not adage it’s true. But because it will attenuate aplomb in our work, the way to accede to that is appearance bodies your work. And again, Amends Administering action allows for this. What fabricated it altered was the breach amid the F.B.I. and the Amends Department. Now, that– of course, that material– so– I’m talking about it anxiously because it’s still classified, that was aloof one brick in the load. The– the aloft brick in the aggregate happened aloof before–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: H– how–
JAMES COMEY: –the Clinton email–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: –yeah, and I appetite to get to that–
JAMES COMEY: –entered.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: –in a second. But I apperceive you can’t allocution about it, but I’ve apprehend about it. I anticipate a lotta the country has apprehend about it as well. These are emails or memos appear by the Russians. The F.B.I. knows they’re junk. How can you afresh acquiesce that to access this decision?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, that’s catchy for me ’cause– ’cause the F.B.I.’s told me that I acquire to be complete authentic speaking about this ’cause it’s still classified. What I can say is the complete is legitimate. It– it is real. The agreeable is real. Now, whether the agreeable is authentic is a altered question. And again, to my mind, I believed it was not true.I– I didn’t see any adumbration that Loretta Lynch was aggravating to awning this assay for the Clinton advance or complete me in any way. She backward abroad from it as far as I could tell. But the point of it is I knew there was complete that adeptness hit the accessible aboveboard any moment, that would acquiesce bodies to altercate effectively that there was monkey business action on–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But afresh wouldn’t– your obligation afresh be you get up and say, “No, there’s no monkey business. I apperceive that. I’ve advised it. I’ve looked into it. It’s not true”?
JAMES COMEY: Well, sure, if I could do that, accustomed the rules of classified information, but I couldn’t. But what I could do instead is action abnormal accuracy to the American bodies about the investigation. Acquaint them, “Here’s what we did, here’s what we found, here’s what we anticipate about it. You can assurance us because we’re adventurous you our work.” Again, which Administering of Amends action permits in an abnormal case.
And so, it was frustrating. I’m abiding it’s arresting to Loretta Lynch that– that this complete was out there. But it– to my mind, it added to the case that we accusation to do article abnormal to action the American bodies transparency. And afresh the acme happened at the end of June.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, I appetite to get to that in one second. One final point on this. The New York Times quoted aloft dus– Administering of Amends admiral saying, “The F.B.I. never baldheaded affirmation absorbed Ms. Lynch and the document’s columnist and are assertive that Mr. Comey basic an exers– basic an alibi to put himself in the spotlight.”JAMES COMEY: Yeah. Look, I– I acquire why bodies say that. That’s aloof not true. I’m cogent you how we evaluated the information. We didn’t acquire any acumen to acquire that what the certificate said was accurate. That is, that Loretta Lynch was a access to the Clinton advance and authoritative us. But there’s no agnosticism that it would’ve accustomed bodies to altercate acerb that that was the case.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Di– d– did you tell– Congressional admiral in a classified ambience that this was not true?
JAMES COMEY: That what was not true?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That thi– that this advice was not true? That you’d investigated, looked into it and it was not– it was– it was not valid?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I c– I can’t say what I said in a classified setting, so let’s set that aside. I can acquaint you adapted now– we looked into it and activate no affirmation to abutment its truth.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Third brick. The alley meeting.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, the bigger brick of all. Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton had a chat on an F.B.I. alike which transported the advocate accepted in Phoenix in backward June. And I didn’t pay abundant absorption to it. I saw anniversary accounts of it aboriginal on. And it apprenticed blossomed into a complete big accord the aftermost anniversary of June.
I don’t apperceive what they talked about. I acclaim Loretta Lynch ’cause I anticipate she’s an honest person, saying, “We talked about grandchildren and added things.” I acquisition it adamantine to acquire that Bill Clinton would’ve approved to arrest amends by walking aloft the alley in advanced of–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Affectionate of public.
JAMES COMEY: –in advanced of a agglomeration of F.B.I. agents up the s– up the stairs and assimilate an F.B.I. plane. And so, look, I– I acclaim Loretta’s anniversary that– what they talked about. I anticipate she’s cogent the accuracy about that. But again, the aplomb of bodies that the arrangement is animate in a fair way, that Adult Amends has kept her blinder on, matters.
And so what happened the aftermost anniversary of June is a big storm blew up about what was action on there. And the advocate accepted did article that, to my mind, was strange. At the end of that week– so I anticipate Friday, July the 1st, she put out a accessible anniversary which I didn’t apperceive was coming, saying, “I’m not action to abolish myself from the investigation.” “Recuse” is the official word. “I’m not action to footfall outta the investigation. But I will acquire Jim Comey’s advocacy and that of the career prosecutors.” And at that moment, I absitively I acquire to step– as abundant as I like her, I acquire to footfall abroad from her and appearance the American bodies the F.B.I.’s assignment separately.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Wasn’t there addition route? Couldn’t you acquire aloof gone to her privately, abandoned and said, “You’ve gotta recuse. You’ve gotta get out of this completely”?
JAMES COMEY: Maybe. But she’s my boss, one. Two, w–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve stood up to administering before.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so that’s why there’s a two. Two, she appear about what she was accomplishing afore talking to me. And so I absolutely didn’t anticipate there was a anticipation that, accepting appear publicly, she would acquire my advocacy and that of the career prosecutors, that I would be able to altercate her to recuse.
Now, what I did anticipate about was, “Should I anxiety for the arrangement of a adapted prosecutor?” Addition alfresco the accustomed alternation of command who can afresh booty our assignment and advertise it abandoned from– so I don’t acquire to do this, can do it abandoned from me. And I absitively that would be atrociously arbitrary to the answerable of the investigation, Hillary Clinton. And that’s not a political judgment, that’s an ethical judgment.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: No, but there’s a third route. You– you– you beforehand her to recuse and afresh it goes through the accustomed Amends Administering channels. The abettor AG, Sally Yates, makes the decision, makes the announcement?
JAMES COMEY: Sure, maybe. Maybe. And– and I– I acquire a reasonable actuality adeptness acquire done that. But my acumen was she’s aloof appear about that she’s not action to recuse herself. And she’ll acquire my advocacy that of the career prosecutors. And so what added is there to do at that point?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you achieve the accommodation to achieve a accessible statement– July 5th. Booty us axial your head. Acquaint us what you were thinking.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, my ambition was to try to action as abundant accuracy as I could, connected with the law and policy, to the American people, with the ambition of acceptable them, aboriginal of all, that we’re not on anybody’s side. We’re not on the Democrat ancillary or the Republican side. That we did this in a competent way, an honest way, an complete way.
And there’s no there, there. That no reasonable prosecutor would arraign this case. And you can await aloft that ’cause we did this able-bodied and in an apolitical way. And so we crafted a anniversary that we formed on endlessly to get it right. And I absitively that I would apprehend it, say it out loud, so that bodies could apprehend the accent in my voice. But that I wouldn’t booty any questions. And that was the goal, to accord a address to the American bodies and afresh footfall abroad from it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You alike anticipation about the tie you’d abrasion that day?
JAMES COMEY: I did. We’re in such– we’re still in such a abandoned accessory time. I don’t apperceive whether association apprehension this, but in Washington Democrats tend to abrasion blue– men tend to abrasion dejected ties. Republicans tend to abrasion red ties. And so I chose a gold tie that morning ’cause I didn’t appetite to abrasion either of the accustomed assemblage colors.
Which seems crazy that I acquire to anticipate about that, but accustomed the times we were operating in and we’re still in, I was acquisitive the American bodies would see us as afar from this craziness. That these are bodies I can trust. And allotment of that was not aloof the way I dressed. But by alms them a lot of information. Sh– let me appearance you my assignment so you can acquire we did this in the way you would appetite us to do it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Your critics say you offered way too abundant information. The way they put it, “Listen, in the F.B.I. we artlessly do not blood-soaked up bodies we acquire not to prosecute.”
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, and I get that. Look, that’s fair criticism. But here– here’s my acceptance to it. The Administering of Amends has connected done that in the adapted case, breadth it’s all-important to the believability of the work. There was altercation for the aboriginal brace years of my time as administrator over whether the IRS had targeted Tea Affair groups.
And the Administering of Amends and the F.B.I. did a bent assay and in a abundant address that was accessible as to what we had done– the administering did this, they criticized bodies but said no bent case was warranted. This is aloof connected with that practice. What I’d ask those bodies is would the assignment absolutely acquire been aboveboard if I wasn’t honest? That– that Hillary Clinton’s c– conduct on that claimed email server was acutely careless. It aloof was. And if I wasn’t honest about that, how am I accomplishing the ambition of adventurous the American bodies this is your amends arrangement animate in the adapted way?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Y– you– you cited her for acute carelessness. In an aboriginal abstruse of your statement– the words, “Gross negligence” were there instead of “Extreme carelessness.” And– and Admiral Trump’s allies say that’s a assurance that you abandoned went accessible on her.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I don’t. All these allies who anticipate I went accessible on her acquire a adamantine time acceptance so why did I do what I did in October, but I’ll breach in July. I wasn’t aggravating to go accessible on her or adamantine on her. I was aggravating to be honest and ablaze with the American people. What she did was absolutely sloppy.
Not– you know, there’s all the time bodies abuse a classified certificate or maybe acquire one chat on email that they shouldn’t. This was over the beforehand of four years, dozens of conversations on email about abstruse topics. And I anticipate eight about top abstruse topics. So this is added than aloof accustomed sloppiness.
So if I’m action to be honest, I acquire to say somehow it’s added than accustomed sloppiness. So my aboriginal draft, which I wrote myself, said, “Gross negligence.” It’s a advocate term. And the acumen I acclimated that appellation is I basic to additionally explain that I don’t beggarly that in the faculty that a statute anesthetized 100 years ago agency it. And afresh my agents assertive me that that’s aloof action to abash all kinds of people, if you alpha talking about statutes and what the words mean. What’s a chatty way to explain it? And abroad in my anniversary I had said, “Extremely careless.” And so they said, “Just use that.” And so that’s what I went with.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And to Hillary Clinton supporters, that articulate like you’re accusing her of a abomination alike acceptance you don’t prosecute.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I get that. And afresh the added said saying, “You’re acceptance she committed a crime, you didn’t arraign her.” The ambition was– and– and one of the mistakes I fabricated is I don’t apperceive what it would be. I should’ve formed harder to acquisition a way to aback that it’s added than aloof the accustomed mistake, but it’s not bent behavior, and acquisition altered words to– to anxiety that.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Alike your ancestors had some criticism of that columnist conference?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, they did. They did. God adulation them, they acquire criticism of about every columnist conference. But this one, their acceptance was, “You Seacrested it, Dad,” which I– they explained to me was a advertence to Ryan Seacrest, the TV host, who I acceptance will frequently say– he’s about to advertise a aftereffect and afresh say, “But first, this commercial.” And what they meant was I fabricated bodies delay till the complete end to say what the cessation was we were reaching, aback association basic to apprehend that at the beginning.
And I absolutely anticipate that’s fair feedback. And I– I anticipate that’s an archetype of my ego cheating through. That– that I anticipation I knew the best way to present this was not to accord them the banderole up advanced ’cause I anticipation afresh they won’t acquire to the blow of it–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You basic bodies to listen.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. But– I anticipate I was amiss about that. In fact, I apperceive I was amiss about that ’cause it led to a lotta confusion. “Where is he going?” And bodies cerebration that I was somehow burying the beforehand for affecting purposes or– or something. So that acceptance from my family, as usually is, was accurate.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And you additionally would not use the words, “Extreme carelessness” today?
JAMES COMEY: No. I’d acquisition some– I don’t apperceive what it would be, sitting here. Acquisition some added way to convey, ’cause I basic to be honest and transparent. This wasn’t your accustomed ambassador who aloof mishandles one document. This was article added than that. But not article that anybody would prosecute.
And– and that’s one of the things about the criticism that drives me crazy. Cipher who has done counterespionage assignment would anticipate this is a case that’s been prosecute– would be prosecuted, ever. And so I bare to acquisition a way to both aback that and to abduction that it was added than aloof accustomed carelessness.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you anticipate that the F.B.I. would be in bigger appearance today, the academy you love, would be in bigger appearance today if you had artlessly put out that one bandage statement, “We abatement to prosecute”?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t know. I’ve asked myself that a actor times. It’s hard– hindsight is a admirable thing. I’m not abiding that it would have. And– here’s why I say that. Because we would’ve taken a amazing aggregate of criticism for actuality fixed. The arrangement fixed, no detail. And I still would’ve been abject up to Capitol Hill all that summer to absolve the F.B.I.’s work.And so surely, I would’ve said article about how we did the work. And so I– I’d kinda be in the aforementioned place, except I’d be arena aegis like a cornerback backpedaling. There’d be this amazing hit the academy would take. I’d be aggravating to explain to people, “No, no, we did it in a acceptable way. We did it in a acceptable way.” And none of it, by the way, would change what I faced in backward October. Alike if we’d aloof done the one liner, we’d still acquire the daydream of backward October.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Y– you laid out a alternation of affidavit that led you to do– do the July columnist conference– alike action aback to Loretta Lynch calling this a aggregate not an investigation. Admiral Obama belief in. The classified advice about Loretta Lynch, the alley meeting. Can you assure bodies today– can you assure them that the Obama Amends Administering was not absorption Hillary Clinton?
JAMES COMEY: Yes. And if there were bodies who were secretly aggravating to assure Hillary Clinton, we didn’t apperceive about it. The FBI accumulating this assay and we did it in a competent and complete way. I would bet my action on that.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: While this is all action on in July of 2016, the FBI additionally opens an assay into the Trump campaign. Why?
JAMES COMEY: Well– to be added clear, we opened an assay into whether there were any Americans associated in any way with the Trump advance who were animate with Russia as allotment of Russia’s accomplishment to access our election. And so in backward July, the FBI got advice that there was somebody who had had– was a adopted action adviser declared Papadopoulos to the Trump campaign.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: George Papadopoulos.
JAMES COMEY: Right, who had been talking to addition in London about accepting clay that the Russians had on Hillary Clinton as allotment of their accomplishment to access our campaign– the– our election. And the acumen that was important was that was connected afore the– there was any accessible adumbration that the Russians had complete they were action to dump, which they started auctioning in mid-June.
And so we opened, our counterintelligence division, in backward July, an assay to try and aggregate out– we apperceive the Russians are aggravating to blend with our election. Are any Americans animate with them, aggravating to advice them?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You additionally had had your eye on Carter Page, who had additionally been animate with the Trump campaign.
JAMES COMEY: Correct.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And what was your affair there?
JAMES COMEY: Similarly, aggravating to aggregate out is he in any way analogous with the Russians, as allotment of their accomplishment to access our– our election? We apprehend the chat “collusion” all the time. “Collusion” is not a chat that’s accustomed to me from my work. The catechism is, is anybody conspiring or acceptable and abetting, helping, the Russians achieve their ambition of interfering in the American election? That’s what the counterintelligence assay was about.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: S– so what appulse did the Steele– the declared Steele abstracts acquire on the FBI investigation? Did that activate the FBI assay in any way?
JAMES COMEY: No. No, in fact, as I said, the advice that triggered it was the Papadopoulos advice that came in backward July. The FBI didn’t get any advice that’s allotment of the declared Steele dossier, as I acquire it, until afterwards that. And so the assay was triggered absolutely abandoned from the Steele dossier.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So the FBI is investigating Russian arrest in our campaign, and whether or not any individuals associated with Admiral Trump are affiliated with that interference. What are you cerebration then? As you see Admiral Trump allure the Russians to absolution Hillary Clinton’s emails, as you see him debris to criticize Vladimir Putin?
JAMES COMEY: I’m cerebration the questions that we’re allurement ourselves, which is, is anybody– is the Trump advance in any way animate anon with the Russians? Is there– because the– the actuality that the admiral is calling for the absolution of the emails could cut both ways.
You could altercate it’s an adumbration that they don’t acquire a abstruse access with the Russians, or you could altercate it agency they’re in bed with the Russians and there accusation be access that we can find. And so it was acutely of absorption to us, but we already had the assay underway.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And the abnegation to criticize Vladimir Putin?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t apperceive what’s abaft that. I mean, that’s– that addled me alike afterwards Admiral Trump became admiral ’cause I apparent that he wouldn’t criticize him alike in private, which– I can acquire a admiral authoritative a geopolitical accommodation that, “I affliction not to criticize an antagonist country’s baton for some acumen publicly.” But I apparent Admiral Trump wouldn’t alike do it privately, and I don’t apperceive why that is.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You aboriginal were abreast on the Steele abstracts in August of 2015. What did you achieve of it?
JAMES COMEY: That it, at its core, was connected with the added advice we’d aggregate during the intelligence investigation. That there was a massive Russian accomplishment underway to baffle with our acclamation with three goals: to bedraggled up the American capitalism so it’s not a animated ablaze for others about the world; to aching Hillary Clinton, who Vladimir Putin abandoned hated; and to advice Donald Trump become adopted president.
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Th– those allegations are at the aggregate of the Steele dossier, and we already knew that was authentic from absolutely abstracted information. And so at its core, it said article that was connected with what we believed. It was advancing from a aboveboard source, addition with a clue record, addition who was a aboveboard and admired affiliate of an affiliated intelligence anniversary during his career. And so it was important that we try to acquire it, and see what could we verify, what could we aphorism in or aphorism out?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you anticipate it was a aboveboard document?
JAMES COMEY: Well, absolutely the antecedent was credible. There’s no agnosticism that he had a arrangement of sources and sub-sources in a position to address on these kinds of things. But we tend to access these things with a bit of a bare slate, aggravating to aggregate out, “So what can we replicate?” This guy, who’s credible, says these things are true. Okay. That agency we should try and carbon that assignment to see if we can beforehand the aforementioned sources.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: A– and at the time, did you apperceive it had been financed at the alpha from Admiral Trump’s– by Admiral Trump’s political opponents?
JAMES COMEY: Yes, I– I was told at some point that it was– the accomplishment had originally been financed by a Republican antecedent to develop– material– action assay on Donald Trump. Afresh afterwards the Republican nominating action ended, the accomplishment was taken up and adjourned by a Autonomous accumbent accumulation aggravating to get action assay on Trump. I never knew which– who the groups were, but I knew it started with Republicans advantageous for it and afresh Democrats were advantageous for it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And– and all through August and September– there’s a abundant agitation action on axial the Obama administration: What to accede about Russia (SIC) was doing, what to accede about your investigation. Anxiety that.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. Not the added part. Y– absolutely was not a adamantine catechism about whether to allocution about about the actuality that we’d opened in– counterintelligence investigations on a babyish cardinal of Americans because it was far too early. We didn’t apperceive what we had, and we didn’t appetite to tip them off that we were attractive at them.
So connected with our policy– again, complete altered than the Hillary Clinton case, which began with a accessible referral. Everybody knew we were attractive at her emails. So aback we accepted it three months later, there’s no accident at all to the investigation.This was complete different. We did not appetite these Americans to apperceive that we had acumen to acquire they adeptness be animate with the Russians ’cause we gotta run this bottomward and investigate it. So absolutely what was debated was a altered and harder catechism which is what should we acquaint the American bodies about the actuality that the Russians are messing with our election?
Trying to aching our democracy, aching Hillary Clinton and advice Donald Trump. What should we do about that? And one of the options debated was should we bathe the American bodies in some way by cogent them, “The Russians are aggravating to blend with you. You should apperceive that so you can booty that into anniversary aback you see anniversary or see authentic approaches to things.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: W– we– we apperceive that– there were s– there were able objections in– by Republicans in the Senate to actuality accessible about this. But at one point, you absolutely volunteered to put it all on paper?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah– I anticipate it was in August, I volunteered that– that I would be– I bethink adage that I’m a little bit annoyed of actuality the complete articulation on things, afterwards the beforehand I’d taken afterwards the July 5th announcement. But I said in a affair with the president, “I’m accommodating to be the articulation on this and advice bathe the American people.
But I additionally admit why this is such a adamantine question, because if you advertise that the Russians are aggravating to blend with our election, do you achieve their ambition for them? Do you attenuate aplomb in our acclamation by accepting the admiral of the United States, or one of his arch people, say this publicly?
Will the Russians be blessed that you did that?” And so I– I wrote an op-ed, was action to go in a aloft bi-weekly that laid out what was action on. Not the investigation, ’cause that was too acute to reveal, but that, “The Russians are actuality and they’re accusation with us. And this is connected with what they’ve done in the past,” and they never took me up on it. The Obama administering deliberated until the alpha of October.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And– and one of the things you address that was influencing the admiral and his administering was the acceptance that Hillary Clinton would win.
JAMES COMEY: I anticipate so. In fact, I heard the admiral say, as– as I blab in the book, “Putin backed the amiss horse.” That is, all of us were operating in a apple breadth the acclamation were adventurous that Donald Trump had no chance. So I anticipate what the admiral meant by that was the Russian accomplishment is wasted, and so why should we advice them by advertisement what they’re accomplishing aback their assignment is not action to achieve their goal?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And it would accord bodies acumen to catechism the aftereffect of the election.
JAMES COMEY: Right. Donald Trump was already saying, “If I lose, that agency the arrangement is rigged.” And so if the Obama administering comes out saying, “The Russians are aggravating to advice acquire Donald Trump,” that walks adapted into his anecdotal that’s, “See, I told ya,” that the able arrangement is anchored and you can’t assurance the American autonomous process. And the Russians would acquire able their goal.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Eventually the– administering does announce– that they’ve activate that Russia is interfering– yet, and this is– this confounds me. I– I’m– I’m puzzled by this. Yet, aback they adjudge to appear out with a collective anniversary of the intelligence committees, you as the FBI administrator banned to assurance it. Why?
JAMES COMEY: Because of the way we access action in the countdown to an election. The– it’s not accounting down, admitting what you adeptness acquire heard, but there’s an important barometer that I’ve lived my able government career– obeying. If you can abstain it, you should not booty any action in the countdown to an acclamation that could acquire an appulse on the election.
By that, I beggarly the FBI or the Administering of Justice. And so we were actuality asked, in October, to assurance assimilate a anniversary that says, “The Russians are messing with our election.” In my appearance and the appearance of the FBI administering was it’s too late. And we can abstain action here.
Because the goal’s already been accomplished. The American bodies already apperceive this because lots of government admiral acquire been on accomplishments talking to the columnist about this, associates of Congress acquire been talking about it, the candidates are talking about it. So the bang has already been achieved, and it’s October. So we can abstain action actuality connected with our action that, whenever possible, we try and abstain action. So we won’t assurance this.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But doesn’t that attenuate the weight of the statement?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t anticipate so. I mean, advancing from the administrator of Civic Intelligence, I don’t anticipate anybody noticed at the time that the FBI wasn’t on the statement. It was the secondly of Homeland Security, and the administrator of Civic Intelligence, my boss. I appear to the advocate accepted and the administrator of Civic Intelligence.
And so I don’t anticipate it un– attenuate the statement. But it accustomed us to be connected with our accepted which is, if possible, we should abstain action in the countdown to an acclamation that adeptness acquire an impact. Here, it is accessible because the goal’s been able already.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Did anybody try to altercate you to assurance it?
JAMES COMEY: I anticipate I was asked to assurance it– by the administrator of Civic Intelligence, Jim Clapper. And I anticipate I explained why– I anticipation the FBI shouldn’t assurance up at this point. I don’t bethink any pushback on that.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: At the aforementioned time, the Hillary Clinton email assay comes back. Aback did you aboriginal apperceive you were action to acquire to accord with this again?
JAMES COMEY: Really, October 27th. Somebody beforehand in October, the b– in the alpha of October sometime, mentioned to me that there may be a affiliation amid emails activate on Anthony Weiner’s laptop and the Clinton email investigation. I don’t remember.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Was this Andrew McCabe?
JAMES COMEY: I anticipate it was Andy McCabe, but I’m not certain. I didn’t abundance that in any arresting abode in my academician ’cause how could that possibly be true?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But how could that not be article you remember?
JAMES COMEY: That’s a abundant question. I anticipate the acceptance is because how could that possibly be true? How could there be a affiliation amid Anthony Weiner’s laptop and Hillary Clinton’s emails? And so I anticipate it was array of a casual animadversion to me, and I’m abiding I stored it abroad thinking, “Okay, well, that doesn’t achieve any sense, but I’m abiding they’ll acquaint me if it does.” And they did. They c–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s l– it’s led your critics to say that the FBI, for several weeks, sat on the adeptness that they had several thousand Hillary Clinton emails.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, added than several thousand, hundreds–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of thousands.
JAMES COMEY: –of bags on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. And I don’t apperceive the acceptance to that criticism. I don’t apperceive whether the Agency aggregation could acquire abashed faster to– to accompany it to me for a decision. All I apperceive is that they did accompany it to me on the morning of October 27th. And so, there’s an ambassador accepted assay action on– about our assignment on that investigation. I’m abiding they’ll say, which I anticipate is great. But I don’t apperceive the acceptance to that now–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So th– and– and– and– and to be clear, amid that aboriginal acceptance and October 27th, you didn’t apprehend annihilation about Hillary Clinton’s–
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I don’t–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: –emails?
JAMES COMEY: –remember audition annihilation abroad about it until I absolved into a appointment allowance aboriginal in the morning on October 27th. So we’re now beneath than two weeks from the election. The abettor administrator emailed me at about 5:30 in the morning and said, “The midyear team,” which was the cipher name for the Clinton email investigation, “needs to accommodated with you.”And it’s abnormal to email me at 5:30 in the morning. And so I m– abiding to accommodated with the team. And I absolved in with a brainless smile on my face, I think, and said, “The bandage is aback together.” ‘Cause they were sitting in the aforementioned seats they’d sat in so abounding times.
And I didn’t smile afresh for a connected time like that– afterwards that. And what they told me was, “We acquire found, for affidavit we can’t explain, hundreds of bags of Hillary Clinton’s emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. And article abundant added important than that. Bags of emails from Hillary Clinton’s Blackberry domain.”
She acclimated a Blackberry for the aboriginal three months or so of her administering as secretary of Accompaniment afore ambience up the claimed server in the basement. And the acumen that affairs so abundant is, if there was gonna be a smoker gun, breadth Hillary Clinton was told, “Don’t do this,” or, “This is improper,” it’s awful acceptable to be at the beginning.
And we never activate those emails. And so now they’re cogent me, “For affidavit we can’t explain, bags of those Blackberry emails are on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.” And so I said, “Okay. We gotta go get ‘em. How fast can you assay these?” And the acceptance was, “We can’t possibly accomplishment afore the acclamation because we acquire to apprehend tens of bags of emails.
We can’t ask recruits to appear in and assay them because you acquire to apperceive the context.” And so I’m sitting there on the morning of October 27th, they’re cogent me there’s complete that may change the cessation in this case. We all agree, including the Administering of Justice, we’ve gotta get a chase accreditation to go get these.
And afresh the catechism for me now is, “So what do we do now?” Bethink the– the accepted is, the barometer is, “If you can abstain it, you booty no action that adeptness acquire an appulse on an election.” And I’m sitting there, on the morning of October 27th, and I can’t see a aperture that’s labeled, “No action here.” I can abandoned see two doors, and they’re both actions. One says, “Speak,” the added says, “Conceal”–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, no. You– you c– you could you f– try to acquisition out aboriginal whether or not they were absolutely relevant. Whether they– there was affirmation there of a crime.
JAMES COMEY: Well, maybe. And maybe addition administrator adeptness acquire done that. My appearance is that would be a potentially acutely capricious and alarming affair to do, to gamble– remember, the aggregation is cogent you, “We cannot appraise this complete afore the election.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But we don’t apperceive what’s in it?
JAMES COMEY: Well, we apperceive there are hundreds of bags of Hillary Clinton’s emails there, including Blackberry emails. And so there is acumen to acquire that this is affirmation in our case, and may change the result. And so maybe what you do is action and say, “I’ll be quiet about it,” but that comes aback to my doors.
That’s an acknowledging act of concealment, right? Because I’ve told Congress and the American people– the able point of July 5th was transparency. “Look, American people, what we’ve done. We did it carefully, we did it well. There’s no there there.You can booty that to the bank. You can await on the FBI. We’re done. Everybody can get on with their lives.” It’s October 27th, that’s not authentic anymore, in potentially a huge way. So you could allege about it, or you could not allege about it. But the not speaking about it is an action.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Arch Amends admiral weren’t assertive that you absolutely had an obligation to acquaint Congress that at that time. What was their argument, what was your response?
JAMES COMEY: Their altercation was that it was not connected with our policy, and that we don’t commonly animadversion on investigations, all of which I accede with. And that they would admonish adjoin it. Absolutely never batten to me about it personally. I had my arch of agents anxiety over to the leadership’s arch of s– staffs of th– the advocate accepted and the abettor and say, “The administrator thinks that is amid speaking and concealing.
Speaking is absolutely bad; concealing is catastrophic. If you burrow the actuality that you acquire restarted the Hillary Clinton email investigation, not in some asinine way but in a very, complete important way that may beforehand to a altered conclusion, what will appear to the institutions of amends aback that comes out?
Especially, accustomed the apple we’re operating in, aback Hillary Clinton’s adopted president? She’ll be an adulterine president, but these organizations will never balance from that. You hid from the American bodies article you knew gave the lie to what you told them in Congress repeatedly. And so the administrator thinks that we acquire to speak. And he would be blessed to allocution to you about it. Let him know.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Alike acceptance you didn’t apperceive what was in– what was in those emails, you could acquire predicted what Admiral Trump and his allies would do with it already you appear this information. It’s absolutely what happened. Anybody says, “This accusation be significant. This accusation be real.”
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I absolutely get that, and– which is why we formed so hard. And although they didn’t appetite to allocution to me about the decision, the administering of the Administering of Amends did accord ascribe on what I should say to Congress. And the ambition was to say as little as possible, because we didn’t know, “Is this action to change our aftereffect or not?”But j– of beforehand I apperceive what’s action to happen. It’s action to be adulterated one way, aloof as if it– aback the afterwards affair came out, it would be adulterated the added way.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That concern, aback it dealt with the classified advice about Loretta Lynch, article you didn’t acquire but were abashed about how it would be used, didn’t acquire to affect you here. Actuality you apperceive that Admiral Trump is action to say– that applicant Trump at the time is action to say, “This proves aggregate I’ve been adage about Hillary Clinton is right.”
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. And the catechism is so what do I do? Accustomed that that’s action to happen, what do I do? Does– does that beggarly I conceal? And my judgment, and reasonable bodies can disagree about this– my point is not to acquaint people– “You should acquire I’m right.” But I appetite bodies to apperceive breadth the accommodation came from. That’s amid speaking and concealing. It would abort the Administering of Amends and the FBI to burrow that advice from the American people.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s the acumen you made. Boy, you acquire to be abandoned in that judgment. You attending at antecedent advocate generals for Admiral Bush, for Admiral Ford, for Admiral Obama, Amends Administering admiral for Admiral Clinton; they all disagree with you. They say this aloft a line.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I’ve– I’ve heard a lot of that. And in fact, all that was put calm allegedly to be the acumen for my firing. What I would achievement is that they would, by anniversary the book, appear with me to October 28th. Appear with me, and sit there with me.
Not animate the future. And sit there with me, attending at the doors I looked at, and acquaint me afresh what you would do. Acquaint me which you would pick? And th– that’s what I would, in my mind’s eye, scream at the television. I wouldn’t scream at the television, but I’d say, “Tell me what you would do. Acquaint me which aperture you would pick.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: They acquire a appealing ablaze answer. You say you don’t breach with longstanding Amends Administering norms, you don’t accede advice like this?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. Okay. And so that means– and aboriginal of all, the Amends Administering norms acquiesce you, in adapted cases, to animadversion on an investigation, to animadversion on the facts you activate in an investigation, all the things we talk–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But there’s no– there’s– there’s no antecedent for– putting out advice like this at the end of a campaign?
JAMES COMEY: Oh, I’ve never heard of it before. I– I– as I say in the book, I– I anticipate I did it the way that it should acquire been done. I’m– I’m not assertive of that. Added bodies adeptness acquire had a altered view. I adjure to God no approaching FBI administrator anytime has to acquisition out.
I– I achievement so abundant this is aloof a 500-year flood we never see again. We acquire the FBI’s criminally investigating one of the two candidates for admiral of the United States during the campaign. And– and aloof over a anniversary afore the election, we acquisition on Anthony Weiner’s laptop– and by the way, I– I apperceive this is obvious, but I didn’t put the emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.Right? I would so abundant rather Anthony Weiner had never had a laptop. I’d rather never acquire heard about this situation. But a anniversary or so afore the election, we acquisition complete on Anthony Weiner’s laptop that may change the result, including the missing Blackberry emails.
My catechism for all those op-ed pieces is, “So what do you do?” And maybe you would acquire conceal, but you gotta explain to me why and how you anticipate ab– again, not with the account of hindsight. But how you anticipate about the accident to the institutions–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We aloof don’t get complex two weeks afore an election.
JAMES COMEY: Right. To my mind, that is a attenuated way to acceptance that catechism afterwards because the accident to the institutions you lead. I mean, “We don’t get involved.” We get complex if it is the atomic bad option, right? That’s a abhorrent option, to speak. It fabricated me ailing to my abdomen to speak.I’ve adherent my action in government to institutions that acquire no appulse on elections. Speaking is action to acquire some impact, potentially. But concealing is action to abort the institutions that I love.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Hillary Clinton’s assertive that that letter defeated her. What do you say to her?
JAMES COMEY: I achievement not. I– I don’t know. I candidly don’t know. I abiding achievement not. But– the honest acceptance is, it wouldn’t change the way I anticipate about it. I mean, my hope– I didn’t address the book for this reason. But talking about leadership, it was important to acquaint the email adventure because it’s me aggravating to aggregate out how to beforehand well.
That bodies will apprehend that adventure and try to put themselves in my shoes. Try to apprehend that I’m not aggravating to advice a applicant or aching a candidate; I’m aggravating to do the adapted thing. And you can appear up with altered conclusions. Reasonable bodies woulda declared a altered aperture for reasonable reasons. But it’s aloof not fair to say we were accomplishing it for some adulterine reason.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: If you knew that letter would acquire Donald Trump, you’d still accelerate it?
JAMES COMEY: I would. I would. In fact, that was a catechism asked by one of my best people– a abettor accepted admonition in the FBI who is a complete anxious and quiet person, who didn’t allege a lot. And that– that morning we were authoritative that decision, she asked, “Should you accede that what you’re about do to may advice acquire Donald Trump president?”
And I paused, and afresh I said, “Thank you for allurement that question. That’s a abundant question. But the acceptance is not for a moment because bottomward that aisle lies the afterlife of the FBI as an complete force in American life. If I anytime alpha because whose political fortunes will be afflicted by a decision, we’re done. We’re no best that accumulation in America that is afar from the partisans, and that can be trusted. We’re aloof addition amateur in the– in the affiliated battle.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But– but at some level, wasn’t the accommodation to accede afflicted by your acceptance that Hillary Clinton was action to win? And your affair that she wins, this comes out several weeks later, and afresh that’s taken by her antagonist as a assurance that she’s an adulterine president?
JAMES COMEY: It accusation acquire been. I don’t bethink anxiously cerebration about that, but it accusation acquire been. ‘Cause I was operating in a apple breadth Hillary Clinton was action to exhausted Donald Trump. And so I’m abiding that it– that it was a factor. Like I said, I don’t bethink spelling it out, but it had to acquire been. That– that she’s action to be adopted president, and if I adumbrate this from the American people, she’ll be adulterine the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: An– and doesn’t that additionally explain, at some level, your accommodation to burrow the actuality that you’re investigating the Trump advance for accessible ties to Russia? You burrow it so you don’t accord him an alibi to say, “Hey, this affair is rigged.”
JAMES COMEY: Well, no. Not with anniversary to the counterintelligence assay of those babyish cardinal of Americans. That– that was absolutely not a adamantine call, accustomed the acuteness of the aggregate and that it was ongoing. We didn’t appetite to tip anybody off. What– you’re adapted though, with anniversary to the accommodation by Admiral Obama, as to how to allocution about the Russian arrest with the American people.
I anticipate it was– I mean, he said it to me– in that affair I described, “Putin backed the amiss horse.” He was acutely thinking, “I don’t appetite to, accustomed that Trump’s action to lose, be– attending like I’m putting my feel on the scale.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve said that a few times now. You anticipate it’s not a abutting call. Boy, your critics say this is a clear, clear, ablaze bifold standard. You appear advice about Hillary Clinton; you buried advice about Donald Trump. That adopted Donald Trump.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I get that. I get that– why they say that. But what I’d ask them to do is booty a footfall aback and beam at the two cases and the aspect they were in. The Hillary Clinton email case, which began with a accessible referral, and so was public, th– and we were absolutely investigating the applicant herself; and the counterintelligence investigations aggravating to aggregate out whether a babyish accumulation of people, not Donald Trump– we were not investigating Donald Trump.Whether this babyish accumulation of Americans was analogous annihilation with the Russians. We had aloof started the investigation. Didn’t apperceive whether we had anything. So it would acquire been atrociously arbitrary to those bodies to allocution about it. And it woulda jeopardized the investigation.
As I said, the Administering wouldn’t accede to allocution about that, and abandoned in a accepted way, until the afterward March. So I achievement those critics– I get the antecedent reaction. It seems inconsistent. But if you booty the time and attending at the aspect of the two cases, they’re very, complete different. And absolutely allegorize the aphorism that we’re following.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: If Advocate Accepted Lynch had ordered you not to accelerate the letter, would you acquire beatific it?
JAMES COMEY: No.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: No way?
JAMES COMEY: No way. I– I acquire in the alternation of command. I followed her apprenticeship to anxiety it a “matter,” because she told me to anxiety it a “matter.” And I didn’t acquire it was bent or illegal. And so, yes, I would acquire followed their instruction.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why do you anticipate they didn’t adjustment you not to accelerate it?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t know. I don’t know. Allotment of me thinks– accustomed an appointment I had with Loretta afterwards I beatific it, that she may acquire accepted what I was doing. And– and so didn’t appetite to be complex in the decision, didn’t appetite to acquire it, but didn’t appetite to accord me the apprenticeship not to accelerate it. Sorta let me booty the hit for that. And I could be amiss about that, but– but I anticipate that’s connected with– with– an appointment I had with her privately.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What did it feel like to be James Comey in the aftermost ten canicule of that advance afterwards ya beatific the letter?
JAMES COMEY: It sucked. Yeah, it was– it was a complete aching period. Again, my able action has been committed to institutions that assignment not to acquire an captivation in an election. I absolved about vaguely ailing to my stomach, action baffled down. I felt, aback I went to the White House– I don’t appetite to blemish it for people, but there’s a cine declared “The Sixth Sense” that I allocution about in the book breadth Bruce Willis doesn’t apprehend he’s dead.
That’s the way I felt. I acquainted like I was absolutely alone, that everybody hated me. And that there wasn’t a way out because it absolutely was the adapted affair to do. And that– that, in a way, I’m ruined. But that’s what I acquire to do. I had to do it the way.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And during that time, you absolutely talked about this appointment with Loretta Lynch.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, the Monday I beatific the letter– I apprentice about the emails, get abreast on the accusation for a chase accreditation on the 27th of October. We debated and debated and debated and adjudge on the 28th to accelerate the letter. We had a approved affair with Loretta on Monday, so that woulda been the 31st.
And she emailed me the Sunday night afore and said, “Hey, can I accommodated with you afterwards our approved agitation blackmail appointment on Monday morning?” Said, “Sure.” And at the end of the meeting, she asked could she accommodated with me? Which of beforehand we’d al– I’d already agreed to meet.
But our staffs were all there, and so they afresh knew the two of us were action to meet. And they all waited outside. And Loretta took me into an arrangement in the FBI that’s aloof for the advocate general, and I absolved in first, and she absolved in and bankrupt the aperture and afresh affronted and aloof absolved appear me with her arch bottomward and her accoutrements out.
And I’m not a big hugger, but especially– there was an awkward dis– aberration in our height, I acceptance as there is with me and best people. But she apprenticed her face adjoin my chest and captivated her accoutrements about me and afresh I accomplished down, as I explain in the book, and kinda abominably hugged.
And afresh we– beggared and she said, “I– I anticipation you bare a hug.” And she was right. I’m abiding it showed on my face how baffled I felt. And afresh we sat bottomward and she said, “How are you doing?” Loretta Lynch is a absolutely acceptable actuality and has accepted me a connected time.
She said, “How are you doing?” And I told her that I acquainted terrible, that I acquainted beaten, and– but that I didn’t see that I had a choice. And afresh she said article that addled me. She said, “Would they feel bigger if it leaked on November the 4th?” And my acceptance was– and I said to her, “Exactly, Loretta.”
And so, I don’t know, was she cogent me, “You’ve done the adapted thing?” And, in a way, adhering me because she feels abominably I’ve taken this abundantly barbarous hit? I don’t know. But I interpreted that as, “First of all, I feel abominably for you. And alike if you hadn’t fabricated this decision, already you alpha action to get a chase accreditation for Anthony Weiner’s laptop to attending at hundreds of bags of Hillary Clinton emails, it’s acceptable to aperture out anyway,” she’s cogent me.
And remember, the Administering of Amends had thought, “We gotta go get a chase warrant,” in the anniversary afore the election. And so that’s how I took it. Again, I– I could be amiss about that, but that’s how I took it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the affidavit it was– you feared it was action to aperture out is– ’cause you were ambidextrous with a rogue aspect of FBI agents and aloft FBI agents up in New York who were absolutely accusation to get this out there. Were you acquainted of that?
JAMES COMEY: I knew that there were leaks coming– or appeared to be leaks about bent assay of the Clintons advancing out of New York. And I don’t apperceive absolutely breadth that was advancing from. I commissioned an assay to acquisition out. I don’t apperceive what the assay found.
But, yeah, I was abashed about– the– the aggregation that had done the assay was in the counterintelligence assay at headquarters, of the emails. And there were no leaks at all, complete tight. But the bent association in New York were now complex in a aloft way, and I don’t appetite to distinct anybody out ’cause I don’t apperceive breadth it was advancing from.But there’d been abundant up there that I anticipation there was a appealing reasonable likelihood that it would leak, and that’s what Loretta was reflecting.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You had your– your aloft boss, Rudy Giuliani, out there on television adage article big was coming.
JAMES COMEY: Yes, I saw that. And I don’t apperceive whether that was– it’s allotment of what I ordered investigated. I don’t apperceive whether that was allotment of a aperture outta the– FBI arrangement in New York that knew about the chase warrant. But that was my concern, that already you alpha gluttonous a chase warrant, abnormally in a bent case– counterintelligence is different.
They’re so acclimated to operating in a classified environment. They’re abundant tighter. But already you alpha involving bodies whose attitude is criminal, and in New York which has a altered culture, there is a reasonable likelihood it was action to get out anyway.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So were you gamed actuality by bodies who had political motives?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t anticipate so. I mean, I– I don’t anticipate anybody with political motives put hundreds of bags of Hillary Clinton’s emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop, for heaven sakes. And so I– I don’t anticipate so.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Is one of the acquaint actuality that, as adamantine as you approved to breach outta politics, it absolutely is unavoidable? That because you acquire to achieve political assumptions as ya– as– as you’re closing in on an election, you’re befuddled into backroom no aggregate which accommodation you make?
JAMES COMEY: Oh, I anticipate that’s right. And that– that wasn’t a new lesson. That was why Mark Giuliani said at the beginning, “You apperceive you’re absolutely screwed.” The FBI’s an complete organization, but it’s operating in a very, complete difficult accessory ambiance in the United States.
And investigating one of the two candidates for admiral of the United States. That’s what he meant, “You’re absolutely screwed.” And– one of my kids– I backward off Twitter during that aeon of time. One of my kids aggregate with me a cheep that’s become one of my favorites breadth addition said, “That Comey is such a political hack.
I aloof can’t aggregate out which party.” And I took that as a compliment, but additionally an analogy of what I’m talking about. You’re the FBI, you’re declared to be award the facts. And you’re award the facts in a apple breadth everybody’s on a side, and can’t possibly acquire you’re not on a side. And so you’re accordingly action to get formed from all points, and you’re action to be complex in backroom in some sense, because you’re in the boilerplate of it–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But does that–
JAMES COMEY: –trying to acquisition out what’s true.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: –lead to the cessation do what you’re action to do, don’t allocution about it?
JAMES COMEY: Yes, except that you’re an academy that depends aloft accessible trust. And so, again, those bodies who say, “You should acquire aloof bankrupt the Clinton assay afterwards adage a chat about it,” I don’t anticipate you’re cerebration about the accessible assurance in the institutions of justice, and the accident that would acquire done to people’s acceptance and assurance that the amends arrangement is working.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But hasn’t the public–
JAMES COMEY: It’s the acumen that you allocution about cases– again, cases of abundant absorption you allocution about all the time. It was absolutely important that the Administering of Amends put out a address about what happened in Ferguson, Missouri. An 80-some-page report.
Now, they could acquire said, “We don’t allocution about our investigations,” but association basic to apperceive what happened in Ferguson, Missouri? For affidavit I absolutely understand. And aback you’re the Amends Department, you’ve got to acquaint people, aback you can, “This was done in the adapted way, and here’s what you should know–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But aren’t you anxious that that accessible assurance has taken a hit because of the decisions you made?
JAMES COMEY: Oh, of beforehand I am. Yeah, I’ve anticipation about it a lot. And I was action to say a actor times. Allegedly haven’t anticipation about it a actor times, maybe a thousand or more, and asked myself, “So should I acquire done article differently?” And I anticipate it’s fair to say somebody abroad in my shoes adeptness acquire done article differently.
The honest acceptance is I busted up a brace of things, but in the main, I anticipate accustomed what I knew at the time, these were the decisions that were best afflicted to canteen the belief of the institutions. It was abhorrent for me, terrible. But I still anticipate it was the adapted affair to do.
And my achievement in this book is, not that bodies accede with me, y– they may still airing outta this cerebration I’m an idiot, but I’m an honest idiot. And I absolutely was deliberative, and didn’t do this alone. I had a aggregation of complete ablaze bodies who argued and fought and debated aggravating to aggregate out, “So what’s the adapted affair to do?”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Your accepted counsel, I believe, anticipation you shouldn’t absolution the letter, correct?
JAMES COMEY: No. There was o– there was one arch controlling who anticipation we shouldn’t accelerate the added letter, November the 8th, saying, “We acquire able attractive at these emails and it doesn’t change our result.” But added than that– I mean, we debated a ton of altered options. The arch aggregation of the FBI, including the accepted counsel, anticipation we acquire to.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Acclamation Day 2016. You didn’t vote.
JAMES COMEY: No.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why not?
JAMES COMEY: I’m the administrator of the FBI. I’m aggravating to be alfresco of backroom so anxiously approved not to chase it a lot. And that I shouldn’t be allotment amid the candidates. I’m aggravating to beforehand an academy that should be abstracted and other.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Were– were you aware– you say you try not to chase it, but you accusation acquire been acquainted of– what the candidates were adage about the letter in those final ten days.
JAMES COMEY: Yes, I was. Yeah. Because, again, I’m arch an academy that accessible assurance and aplomb in that academy absolutely matters. So I try to accumulate clue of, “So what are– what are association adage about us and how we’re administering ourselves?” ‘Cause alike acceptance I was aloft not to affliction what added bodies think, aback you’re the administrator of the FBI or the advocate general, you acquire to aback it relates to the academy you lead.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And booty us through that day. Breadth were you as the allotment were advancing in?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t alike remember. I anticipate I was home that day. Yeah, I anticipate I was home that day, that night. ‘Cause I anticipate it was a adequately backward evening. And I was abashed that Donald Trump was adopted president, as I anticipate most– maybe Donald Trump was too, but as– as a able lotta bodies were.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And what allotment of you is thinking, “I helped acquire Donald Trump”?
JAMES COMEY: Well, no allotment of me, ’cause I don’t apperceive the acceptance to that. But a able lot of me was thinking, “Oh my God, did we acquire some role in this? Did we acquire some appulse on the election?” And it’s an abundantly aching juxtaposition, but additionally thinking, “I absolutely wouldn’t-a done it any differently.
God, I achievement we had no impact. I achievement we had no impact.” But it– I know– I anguish it sounds aloof to say, but it– it wouldn’t change the result. It aloof makes it added aching to anticipate that we adeptness acquire had an–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: It wouldn’t–
JAMES COMEY: –impact on the–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: –change?
JAMES COMEY: It wouldn’t. I– alike if I had a time machine, I can’t go aback in time and as administrator of the FBI say, “I’m action to achieve this accommodation because I don’t anticipate Donald Trump will be a acceptable admiral of the United States.” That’s not the FBI’s role. And so I’m gl– I’m animated for a lotta affidavit I don’t acquire a time machine, but that’s what I beggarly aback I say it doesn’t– it doesn’t change the result.
We– we approved to, and I acquire did, achieve these decisions afterwards absorption to political Russia. Afterwards absorption to how it would affect and who it would affect, based on, “So what’s the adapted affair to do? Should we speak, or should we conceal? And accustomed the belief and traditions of the institutions of justice, which is the adapted affair to do?”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you hoped it didn’t change the result, but what does your gut acquaint you?
JAMES COMEY: I absolutely don’t know. I’ve apprehend a fair amount, ’cause– ’cause I’m– again, I achievement complete much. I’d adulation to acquire a accumulation of academics accredit it had absolutely no appulse on the election. I’ve apprehend bodies altercate that it had. I don’t know.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Nate Silver has a appealing persuasive– assay that suggests it fabricated a huge difference.JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I– again, I don’t apperceive the answer. And in a way, I affliction about the answer, and in a way it doesn’t aggregate at all.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And– aloof booty us axial your abode at that point. You– you’ve accounting about this. Your wife, Patrice, Hillary Clinton supporter.
JAMES COMEY: Oh yeah. And– and the– the– I didn’t booty a poll amid all the kids, but I’m appealing abiding that at atomic my four daughters, allegedly all bristles of my kids, basic Hillary Clinton to be the aboriginal woman president. I apperceive my amazing apron did. My)– my wife and girls marched in the women’s beforehand the day afterwards Admiral Trump’s inauguration.
There was a lotta affection in this abode for Hillary Clinton. And I– I get that. But again, I achievement it illustrates to bodies that I absolutely wasn’t authoritative decisions based on political fortunes.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: S– so what did she say to you? What did you say to her?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I don’t– I– she knew enough, Patrice, the affliction that I was in that– and how adamantine these decisions were that I don’t anticipate she spent a lotta time– I anticipate she got absolutely breadth I was. I d– she didn’t spend– she bidding frustration.She hated the actuality that I had to achieve these decisions, and ’cause she loves me dearly, she hated the actuality that I abandoned was dispatch in advanced of the institutions to get attempt repeatedly. She would say, “Look, I get what you’re doing. I get that you’re aggravating to assure the institutions.
But why does it acquire to be you? Why do you acquire to be the one that everyone’s action to hate?” And my acceptance was– “‘Cause I’m stuck. I would rather not.” Like I said, I would rather Hillary Clinton acquire acclimated the Accompaniment Administering for her email system. I would rather that Anthony Weiner acquire not had a laptop at all.
I would rather acquire had– I’ve still never met Hillary Clinton; I would rather never acquire been involved. But what am I action to do? We were involved. The ambassador accepted beatific us a referral, we had to accessible a case, and we were absolutely screwed.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: If she were sitting adapted actuality today, what would you acquaint her?
JAMES COMEY: Hillary Clinton? I– I apprehend it sounds like I’m pumping my book, “I achievement you’ll apprehend those capacity of the book. Not so that you airing abroad accordant with my decisions, but that you acquire bigger breadth they came from. And– and frankly, the kinda actuality who was aggravating to achieve those decisions.
Even you anticipate they’re wrong, that attending at how we fabricated those decisions and why.” And I– I think– look, I haven’t talked about this. I’ve gotten the daylights exhausted outta me– this is the aboriginal time I’ve talked about this. And I’m abiding a able lotta bodies acquire a appearance of me based on that.
And what I’d ask them to do is amuse try to appear into those rooms. Apprehend the book and appear into those apartment and see how we approved to achieve these decisions. And if possible, ask yourselves, “What would I acquire done, and why?” And you may appear out thinking, “I’dve done it differently,” but I don’t anticipate you’ll appear out cerebration that– as Hillary Clinton wrote in her book, I shived her.
I mean, that sounds like I was aggravating to knife somebody, I was out to get her. And it’s analogy of our animosity actuality that you’ve got the Trump camp, which I acceptance thinks I was aggravating to save Hillary Clinton. They don’t absolutely explain what I was accomplishing in October.
And afresh Clinton afflicted thinks I was aggravating to shiv Hillary Clinton. Both can’t be true, but in our polarized world, bodies alive in abstracted bubbles. I would achievement both camps will apprehend this and, I hope, see a acutely awry animal amidst by added awry bodies aggravating to achieve decisions with an eye, not on politics, but on those college values.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you wouldn’t change the big decisions. What are you apologetic about?
JAMES COMEY: Oh, I’m– well, I’m apologetic about a cardinal of thing– I’m apologetic that Seacrest-ed the announcement. I’m apologetic that I– acquired all kinds of abashing and affliction with the way I declared her conduct that led bodies into all kinds of ancillary roads. I’m acutely apologetic that I was complex at all, but– that’s article I can’t avoid.
And I’m apologetic there wasn’t an opportunity, abnormally with the added one, to explain more. To say, “Look, here’s what we’re doing.” ‘Cause I got that chance– the abandoned time I’ve absolutely gotten that adventitious was in a clandestine ambience with the able U.S. Senate breadth Abettor Franken– we were th– I was there to allocution about Russia.
But S– then-Senator Franken ashore his duke up and said, “Can we allocution about the albatross in the room? What you did to Hillary Clinton?” And so I affronted to Senate Majority Baton McConnell, who was active the meeting, and said, “Can I acceptance that?” And he said, “Yeah, booty all the time you need.”
And so I answered, and I laid out what we’ve laid out. “Look, here’s breadth I was on July 5th and why. Here’s October 28th.” And– and Abettor Franken absolutely disconnected and yelled, “But you didn’t acquisition anything.” And I said, “Senator, you acquire hindsight bias.
I apperceive now I didn’t acquisition anything. But you acquire to appear with me to the 28th of October. Sit there with me. What would you do? I see two doors. I can’t acquisition a aperture that says, “No action.” I see two actions: allege or conceal. Speaking would be terrible. Concealing would be catastrophic.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Not necessarily. Tough it out and booty your lumps?
JAMES COMEY: Booty your lumps. I mean, y– you beforehand the institutions of amends that would be maybe forever, but absolutely for a bearing or more, be unimaginably damaged by conspiring to burrow that you had aria to the American people. And you had restarted the Hillary Clinton assay in abstruse in a way that you anticipation adeptness change the result.
Fair-minded people, and there are a lotta them in America, candid bodies would attending at that and say, I think, “How on apple could you do that? You told us we were done. You told us this was finished. And all of a sudden, it’s not finished, and not aloof in a babyish way.
You anticipate the aftereffect could change. And you didn’t acquaint us that?” And so, again, bodies can counterbalance that differently, but that’s how I anticipation about it. And so again, in that– in that affair with the Senate, I got the adventitious to lay that out. And I was best addled that Abettor Chuck Schumer came up to me afterwards, who had been a very, complete articulate analyzer of my decisions, and took my hand, and he had tears in his eyes, and he started dabbling me in the centermost of the chest.
He said, “I apperceive you. I apperceive you. You were in an absurd position.” He wasn’t cogent me he agreed with my decisions, but I anticipate already he came with me to October 28th, he accepted better. I anticipate Admiral Obama accepted it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You met with Admiral Obama afterwards the election?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, he captivated me aback afterwards one of the complete aftermost affairs I had with him, afterwards the election, and said he didn’t appetite to allocution to me about any authentic case, ’cause he was complete conscientious about that. And he said, “But I appetite to aloof acquaint you article generally.
I appointed you to be FBI administrator because of your candor and your ability.” And afresh he looked me in the eye and he said, “Nothing has happened, nothing, in the aftermost year that has afflicted my appearance of that.” And, look, he wasn’t cogent me, “I accede with what you did.”
He wasn’t cogent me, “You fabricated the adapted decision.” He was cogent me, “I apperceive breadth it came from. I apperceive you’re not a accessory hack. I apperceive you’re aggravating to do the adapted thing.” And it meant a lot to me. I mean, I had not been a political adherent of Admiral Obama’s.
I came to acutely anniversary him, and his college adherence to the belief I affliction a lot about. And I g– I about got affecting in that moment ’cause, again, I’d been walking about like Bruce Willis in “The Sixth Sense.” And acquire the admiral of the United States say, “I still anniversary you for the affidavit I did originally,” meant a lot to me.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That was a real, in some agency a complete raw conversation, in your telling. What abroad did you acquaint him?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I said to him– “Mr. President,” aboriginal of all, I said, “Thank you, Mr. President. It has been a nightmare. I’m just– I’ve aloof approved to do the adapted thing.” And he said, “I know. I know.” And afresh I said, “I anticipate my wife would annihilate me if I didn’t booty this adventitious to accede you, and to acquaint you how abundant I’m action to absence you.
And– and additionally to t–” I told him that, “I alarming the abutting four years. But in abounding ways, I feel abundant burden to breach to try and assure the academy I lead.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What were you dreading?
JAMES COMEY: Well, I had some faculty of the attributes and appearance of the new admiral of the United States. And I abashed complete abundant that there would be an accomplishment to abrade the adeptness of the FBI. The FBI sits in the controlling branch, it should.
The FBI administrator belletrist to the advocate accepted and the administrator of Civic Intelligence, and they address to the president.They should. But the FBI consistently has to be a little bit conflicting to the controlling addendum ’cause we acquire to investigate the controlling branch. It’s the acumen Congress gave the FBI administrator a ten-year term, to arresting that accusation for independence. Not– not complete independence, but adeptness of spirit.
And I worried, accustomed what I had apparent during the campaign, that– that that accomplishment to accept apart– adeptness be challenged in– in a Trump administration. And– and I was right, but that’s what I abashed about.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Alike your harshest critics will acquire what you’re aloof talking about adapted now– you’ve lived your action aggravating to be a actuality of integrity, aggravating to alive by honesty, aggravating to assure the institutions you serve. But in the words of Eric Holder, you’re a acceptable man; acceptable men achieve mistakes.
JAMES COMEY: Oh, they abiding do. And I– I’ve fabricated a actor of them. But again, I think, alike with hindsight, that the action we acclimated to achieve decisions in the email investigation, and the things we considered, and the ultimate decisions, were the best ones. I could be amiss about that; I don’t acquire a cartel on wisdom.But– but I’m appreciative of the way we fabricated those decisions. And I accumulate adage “we.” Again, they were my decisions; I’m answerable for them. But we fabricated them by insuring there was a buncha of bodies banging it about and arguing with anniversary other. And came to a aftereffect that we all thought, “Okay, this is the best affair to do in a abhorrent circumstance.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What did it amount you?
JAMES COMEY: What did it amount me? Well, (SIGH) I’m abiding the anniversary of a lotta bodies that– who couldn’t see what I was seeing, couldn’t understand, couldn’t possibly acquire why I was accomplishing what I’ve done. It– in a way, I– it didn’t amount me abundant aloft that ’cause I don’t appetite to be annihilation else.
I– never action to run for office. I basic to be the FBI administrator for addition six years. It had no appulse on my alarming ancestors who still thinks I’m a knucklehead but loves me dearly. And– but I anticipate that’s what it amount me, that it acquired a lotta bodies to catechism whether I was a political hack.
Whether I was in some way– acting in an abandoned way. And that’s painful. But at the end of the day, you acquire to achieve a accommodation and achieve it in a conscionable way. You can’t ascendancy what bodies anticipate about you. You’d like bodies to acquire your reasoning, and I’d be lying if I said I don’t achievement bodies will appear outta this thinking, “Oh, okay. I acquire better.” But the end of the day, you gotta attending at yourself in the mirror. And you’ve got to achieve the decision– the adapted decision, but best of all for the adapted reasons.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So– so it’s– January 2017. The intelligence association and the F.B.I. acquire accomplished their abstracts about what– what Russia did during the acclamation and so you acquire to go acquaint the president-elect. But first, I guess, the day before–
JAMES COMEY: Yeah.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: –you abrupt Admiral Obama. Booty us axial that room.
JAMES COMEY: Sure. It was right– January 5th in the egg-shaped office. Administrator Clapper, the arch of the– the administrator of civic intelligence, the arch of the C.I.A., the arch of the N.S.A., and myself met with Admiral Obama, Carnality Admiral Biden, and their arch civic aegis aggregation in the egg-shaped office, sitting in the sitting breadth by the fireplace.
The admiral and the carnality admiral in arm chairs with their aback to the broiler and I was sitting hardly off to the adapted so the admiral would acquire to attending hardly larboard to see me. Administrator Clapper was sitting in the centermost and he abreast them on the accusation of the collective intelligence association appraisal and the abstracts about what Russia had done.
And there were a array of questions, abnormally focused on, “So how do we stop it from accident in the future,” questions about sources and accessory and how assertive we were. And he conveyed that it was a collective high-confidence assessment, which is complete unusual. From analysts from the– altered agencies that the Russians had did this, their goals were to bedraggled up the American democracy, to aching Hillary Clinton and to advice acquire Donald Trump.
And we were action to abrupt it– he explained that the abutting morning, to the assemblage of eight, the leaders of the Abode and Senate– intelligence committees and the apostle and majority baton and boyhood baton on both sides. And afresh we were action to New York and abrupt the president-elect and his team.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You say aerial confidence. That agency you’re sure?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, that’s the abutting the intelligence community– you never say you’re abiding in the intelligence business. The top akin is aerial confidence. There’s low confidence, boilerplate confidence, high. This was the top of the chart. So you never say you’re abiding in the intelligence business because you– you never appetite to be over-confident. But this was– their faculty that accustomed the array of sources and methods we had, we had this nailed.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And in that meeting, that’s what Russia did. You additionally discussed with the admiral this advice you had about the president-elect complete in the Steele dossier?
JAMES COMEY: Right. Administrator Clapper explained to the admiral and carnality admiral that there was added complete that had– came from a reliable antecedent and that we had included as an addendum in the report, that it was abundantly separate, that we didn’t accommodate it into the report, but it was abundantly reliable that we anticipation it oughta be allotment of the complete report.
And there was a allocation of it that was decidedly dejected that accompanying to allegations about animal conduct of– before– Admiral Trump was a candidate. And the admiral asked– Admiral Obama asked, “What’s the plan for appointment that material?”
And he explained that we had absitively that Administrator Comey would accommodated with the president-elect abreast afterwards we abreast the president-elect and his aggregation on the accepted accusation so that he could assay it– in a added private, added acute ambience with the president-elect.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That was James Clapper. How did Admiral Obama accede to that?
JAMES COMEY: He didn’t say a word. Admiral Obama has a abundant poker face. But he artlessly turned– so if I’m Admiral Obama, he affronted hardly to his left, looked at me, and went like this– and looked aback at Administrator Clapper. So affectionate of gave me a– Groucho Marx is how I anticipation of it, bifold countenance raise. Didn’t say a word, but announced to me at least– and I could be misreading it, ’cause I don’t apperceive Admiral Obama’s countenance raises, that array of– accord and concern. Like, “Good luck with that.” And– and that was it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Could it acquire been you again?
JAMES COMEY: It’s possible. But– you know, again, I could be misreading it. But I apprehend it as, “You poor bastard.” And about like, “Whoa,” and– but, you know, he didn’t explain it and so, like I said, I– I adeptness be misinterpreting it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Was there any best there? Why– if this was dejected and this authentic allotment of the dossier– unverified– still counterfeit by the way?
JAMES COMEY: Yes. So far– aback I got fired, it was unverified.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why acquaint him?
JAMES COMEY: Because we, the intelligence community, including the F.B.I., knew this advice about allegations about prostitutes in Russia. We had been told by the columnist that they were about to run with it. And afresh two specific reasons. The– the way we assignment in the counterintelligence business is if a antagonist has compromising advice on addition that they adeptness use, one of the agency we defeat the antagonist is acquaint the actuality who adeptness be blackmailed, “We– the government, we already apperceive about this.
So you’re not action to be able to adumbrate it so they don’t acquire advantage on you.” And afresh second, he’s action to be admiral of the United States and the arch of the complete controlling branch. How could we, the leaders of the intelligence community, apperceive something– whether it’s authentic or not about him personally, that’s action to become public, that the Russians may acquire and not allotment it with him. And so the argumentation of it– was able that we should allotment it. And the logic, frankly, was able that I should do it alone, although I didn’t adulation the idea. And so we absitively to do it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you all go up to New York the abutting day, January 6th, for the affair in Trump Tower. You had– one added warning– from the secretary of Homeland Security.
JAMES COMEY: Right, as I explained in the book, Jeh Johnson, who’s been a acquaintance of abundance aback we were federal prosecutors in Manhattan in the backward ’80s, declared me afterwards the affair in the egg-shaped arrangement with Admiral Obama. Jay had been in the meeting– and aloof to acquaint me that he was abashed about this plan for me to abrupt the president-elect abandoned about this material.
And I said, “Me too.” And he said, “Have you anytime met Donald Trump?” And I said, “No.” And he said, “Be careful, Jim, be complete careful.” And it’s one of those things that you accede a acquaintance saying, it’s not absolutely allowance me, except to achieve me feel alike added nervous, the agglomeration in my abdomen bigger. But, yeah, Jay declared me– and I don’t apperceive whether he was calling at Admiral Obama’s request, but he seemed to be giving articulation to the countenance raise.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So what does “be careful” beggarly in that context?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I don’t know. That’s why we– thanks, bud. It’s not absolutely allowance me. I– I took it as, “Just acquire your words carefully. Don’t say added than you accusation to, beneath than you accusation to, try to get it aloof right, achieve your goal, and afresh get outta there,” is how I took it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So as you headed into Trump Belfry that day, were you nervous?
JAMES COMEY: Yes.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What were you abashed of?
JAMES COMEY: Well, I’m about to accommodated with a actuality who doesn’t apperceive me, who’s aloof been adopted admiral of the United States. By all accounts, and from my watching him during the– the campaign, could be volatile. And I’m about to allocution to him about allegations that he was complex with prostitutes in Moscow and that the Russians taped it and acquire advantage over him.And I was abashed that I’m about to acquire a bearings appear breadth the president-elect thinks the F.B.I.’s out to get him somehow. People, in my experience, tend to action assimilate you their worldview. And alike acceptance I did not intend to jam Donald Trump with this, my cerebration was, accustomed his access to the world, he may anticipate I’m affairs a J. Edgar Hoover and acquire that I’m aggravating to brandish this over him to get advantage on him. And so I worried– I’m action to not abandoned ruin any accord I adeptness acquire with the president, but added importantly, actualize a bearings breadth the admiral and the– and the F.B.I. are at war alike afore he becomes president.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you arch up to the top of Trump Tower– set the scene.
JAMES COMEY: We went in through the aback access through– an access of– residences. So we snuck around– the columnist didn’t see us action in. We went up and met in a appointment allowance about aural the Trump Organization. It was a appointment allowance with a canteen bank and they’d abashed a big blubbery blind to block the bank from the hallway.
And I absolved in with the administrator of the C.I.A., the administrator of the N.S.A., and the administrator of Civic Intelligence. And we waited for the president-elect to come. A babyish appointment room, looked kinda accustomed to me. And a few account afterwards he absolved in, President-elect Trump, forth with the admission carnality admiral and their civic aegis team.
And a accumulation of them sat at the table with us and a accumulation sat at the bank abaft me, adjoin the curtain. And Administrator Clapper ran the affair and did it absolutely as he had done it with the assemblage of eight beforehand that morning on Capitol Hill and with Admiral Obama the day before.
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GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: It was the aboriginal time you met Donald Trump. What was your impression?
JAMES COMEY: My consequence was he looked absolutely like he did on television, except he looked beneath to me than he did on television, but contrarily absolutely the same. And the acumen I say that is best bodies attending hardly altered in person. I don’t apperceive whether that’s bad or good, but he looked the way I’d apparent him attending on television.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Which was?
JAMES COMEY: He had– impressively coifed hair, it looks to be all his. I confess, I stared at it appealing anxiously and my acceptance was, “It best booty a heck of a lot of time in the morning, but it’s impressively coifed.” He looked– his tie was too long, as it consistently is. He looked hardly orange up abutting with babyish white—half moons beneath his eyes, which I acquire are from tanning googles. And contrarily looked as I had accepted him to attending from tele– as I anticipation he looked on television.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You alike clocked the admeasurement of his hands?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. I– I say that in my book ’cause I’m aggravating to be honest, ’cause that’s the accuracy there had been all this altercation and biting about duke size, I can’t bethink the details. But as I befuddled his duke I fabricated a agenda to assay the admeasurement and it seemed like he had average-sized hands.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Afresh comes the briefing. What did you acquaint them, what was their reaction?
JAMES COMEY: Administrator Clapper laid out, as I said, absolutely as he had for Admiral Obama and the assemblage of eight. “Here’s what the Russians approved to do. They approved to aching our democracy, they approved to aching Hillary Clinton, they approved to advice acquire you. We–” he– was complete specific about this, “We did no analysis, because the intelligence association doesn’t, of American politics.
We activate no appulse on the vote calculation but we didn’t– we don’t acquire an assessment to action on whether the Russian accomplishment had an appulse on the election.” And he laid it all out and the– the– Admiral Trump’s aboriginal question– President-elect Trump’s aboriginal catechism was to affirm that it had no appulse on the election.
And– and Administrator Clapper explained, as I anticipate he already had, “No, we didn’t do that analysis. We activate no Russian abetment of vote count. We didn’t do an assay of whether their assignment was able in alteration votes, alteration the– the affect of the electorate.”
And afresh the conversation, to my surprise, abashed into a PR chat about how the Trump aggregation would position this and what they could say about this. They absolutely started talking about drafting a columnist absolution with us still sitting there. And the acumen that was so arresting to me is that– that’s aloof not done.
That the intelligence association does intelligence, the White Abode does PR and spin, and the afire lesson, as I explained in the book, of the Iraq war is you don’t mix the two. That we accord you facts and afresh we leave and afresh you aggregate out what you’re action to acquaint bodies about them, if anything. But it abashed adapted into this, “Let’s aggregate out what to say about it,” kinda deal.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You additionally said you were addled by what they didn’t ask?
JAMES COMEY: Complete much. No one, to my recollection, asked, “So what– what’s advancing abutting from the Russians?” You’re about to beforehand a country that has an antagonist advancing it and I don’t bethink any questions about, “So what are they action to do next, how adeptness we stop it? What’s the approaching attending like? Because we’ll be custodians of the aegis of this country.” There was none of that. It was all, “What can we say about what they did and how it affects the acclamation that we aloof had.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You– you said as this was happening, you had a anamnesis to your aboriginal canicule as a prosecutor?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. Again, I– put this in the book ’cause it’s the truth. I had a anamnesis to my canicule investigating the Mafia, La Cosa Nostra. And– and I couldn’t aggregate out why aback it aboriginal pushed into my head, so I pushed it away, saying, “That’s crazy.” And afresh it came aback again.
And I pushed it aback and it came aback again. And I anticipate what it was was the attributes of La Cosa Nostra is an accomplishment to achieve anybody allotment of the family. There’s an announcement in the Mafia– there’s a acumen amid a acquaintance of castigation and a acquaintance of ours. A acquaintance of castigation is addition on the alfresco of the family, a acquaintance of ours, a “amica nostra” is the way they talked about it in Sicilian, is allotment of the Family, basic F.
And I anticipate the acumen it was advancing into my arch was I acquainted this accomplishment to achieve us all– and maybe this wasn’t their intention, but it’s the way it acquainted to me, to achieve us all “amica nostra.” We’re all allotment of the messaging, we’re all allotment of the effort. The bang-up is at the arch of the table and we’re action to aggregate out calm how to do this. And I anticipate that’s why it brought that aberrant anamnesis aback into my head.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you anticipate you shoulda said article then?
JAMES COMEY: Maybe. I mean, I– I– I anticipate that’s a reasonable question. I should’ve said, “Hey– Mr. President-elect, the way it works is we in the intelligence association shouldn’t be actuality for this.” I– I acceptance that’s a reasonable question. I anticipate the acumen I didn’t, I achievement is accessible to folks, is that I was about to– we had aloof delivered, “The Russians approved to advice get you elected.”
And I was about to breach abaft to allocution about allegations of the admiral actuality complex with prostitutes in Moscow. And I thought, “That’s gotta be my focus.” And so I didn’t– I didn’t apperceive breadth it entered my apperception consciously. I didn’t absorb a lot of time thinking, “Should I be giving them a assignment about how to collaborate with the intelligence community.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you anticipate that appointment assertive the admiral that the Russians did baffle in the election?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t– I don’t know. I don’t anticipate so, accustomed things he’s said thereafter and some of the things he’s said about the intelligence association afterwards that. I anticipate it assertive associates of his staff, but as to him, I– accustomed what he said afterwards, I don’t anticipate so.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Did he say annihilation abroad about the broader briefing?
JAMES COMEY: In that session? No. Not that I remember.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And afresh you went– everybody abroad larboard the room–
JAMES COMEY: Yeah– Administrator Clapper– I anxiety him Accepted Clapper, ’cause he was a retired general. Accepted Clapper said– and– “Mr. President-elect, there’s some added complete that we anticipate it makes faculty of Administrator Comey to abrupt you on– privately. And– and we’ll all alibi ourselves in a babyish group.”
And the president-elect afresh said to me, “Okay, how small.” And I said, “Well, I was cerebration aloof the two of us, sir.” And afresh his admission arch of staff, Reince Priebus, said, “How about me, Reince Priebus, and the carnality president?” And I said, axis to President-elect Trump, “It’s up to you, sir. I basic it to be a babyish group, but it’s absolutely up to you.” And afresh he said– I don’t apperceive whether he knew what I was action to allocution about it, but he said– “No, no, aloof the two of us, aloof the two of us, acceptance everybody.” And afresh the accumulation filed out.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Aloof the two of you. What do you acquaint him?
JAMES COMEY: I didn’t acquaint him anything. Aboriginal he began by cogent me– adage nice things to me about how he anticipation I’d conducted myself advantageously during the Clinton e-mail assay and that he knew that bodies at the F.B.I. anticipation complete awful of me and he hoped complete abundant that I was action to breach as F.B.I. director.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Unprompted?
JAMES COMEY: Un– oh, unprompted. And I didn’t say, “Thank you,” because my appearance was I already acquire the job. Congress states a ten year appellation in adjustment to ensure continuity. And so I accede the nice words, but I didn’t appetite to achieve it acquire like I was applying for a job that I already had and advised to acquire for addition six years.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So to be clear, at that point, he was blessed with how you had handled the Clinton e-mail investigation?
JAMES COMEY: Well, at that point, he said that. Now, whether– whether that– I came to achieve that a lot of times what he said was aloof affectionate of pleasantries to activate a conversation, so I don’t apperceive whether he absolutely anticipation I had handled it well. But he said, in substance, “You handled it well, you conducted yourself honorably.
And I apperceive the bodies at the F.B.I. absolutely like you. And I absolutely achievement you’re action to breach as director.” And that– aback that was finished, I afresh affronted to the affair and said, “Sir, there’s a allocation of the complete that we basic to abrupt you abreast to achieve abiding you’re acquainted of it because– the– we acquire the media may be– gonna broadcast it complete soon.”
And afresh I started to acquaint him about the accusation was that he had been complex with prostitutes in a auberge in Moscow in 2013 during the appointment for the Absence Universe celebration and that the Russians had– filmed the episode. And he disconnected complete defensively and started talking about it, you know, “Do I attending like a guy who needs hookers?”
And I afflicted he was allurement that rhetorically, I didn’t acceptance that, and I aloof abashed on and– and explained, “Sir, I’m not adage that we acclaim this, I’m not adage we acquire it. We aloof anticipation it complete important that you know.” And I explained, “One of the F.B.I.’s jobs is to assure admiral from coercion. And if there is any effort, one of the things we do is a arresting appointment to let the actuality who adeptness be the ambition of that browbeating apperceive that this is out there, bigger accouter us to avert ourselves adjoin the adversary.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you acquaint him you anticipation it wasn’t authentic or you didn’t apperceive if it was authentic or not?
JAMES COMEY: I said, “We’re not adage that– I’m not adage that I acquire the allegations, I’m not adage that I acclaim it.” I never said, “I don’t acquire it,” because I– I couldn’t say one way or another. But I said, “We are not– I’m not adage we acquire the allegations,” or I might’ve acclimated the chat “credit the allegations.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How ablaze did you get?
JAMES COMEY: I anticipate as ablaze as I bare to be. I did not go into the business about– bodies peeing on anniversary other, I aloof anticipation it was a awe-inspiring abundant acquaintance for me to be talking to the admission admiral of the United States about prostitutes in a auberge in Moscow. And so I larboard that allotment out. I anticipation I’d accustomed abundant to put him on apprehension as to what the aspect of the complete was.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What was the attending on his face?
JAMES COMEY: He was complete arresting and started to barrage into– for affidavit that I don’t understand, started action into the account of bodies who had accused him of affecting them improperly, animal beforehand and how he hadn’t done this, he hadn’t done that, he hadn’t done that.
And I abashed the chat was about to crash, because I was anniversary that he was reacting like, “We’re investigating you and we’re action to go aggregate out whether you were with prostitutes in Moscow.” And– and so I said article in actuality about how we don’t– it– “We’re not investigating you, sir. This is not article that we’re– we affliction about, except that you apperceive that this is out there.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you acquire his denial?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t– I don’t know. I don’t– the attributes of an investigator is you don’t acquire or disbelieve. You ask, “What’s my evidence? What is the affirmation that establishes me whether someone’s cogent me the accuracy or not. And ask this allegation–” I candidly never anticipation this words would appear out of my mouth, but I don’t apperceive whether the– the– accepted admiral of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on anniversary added in Moscow in 2013. It’s possible, but I don’t know.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How awe-inspiring was that briefing?
JAMES COMEY: Absolutely weird. I mean, I don’t apperceive whether it was awe-inspiring for President-elect Trump, but I– it was about an out-of-body acquaintance for me. I was amphibian aloft myself, attractive down, saying, “You’re sitting here, appointment the admission admiral of the United States about prostitutes in Moscow.” And of course, Jeh Johnson’s articulation is banging about in my head. Admiral Obama’s countenance accession is banging about in my head. I aloof basic to get it done and get out of there.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you acquaint him that the Steele Abstracts had been financed by his political opponents?
JAMES COMEY: No. I didn’t– I didn’t anticipate I acclimated the appellation “Steele Dossier,” I aloof talked about added material.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Did he– but did he acquire a adapted to apperceive that?
JAMES COMEY: That it’d been financed by his political opponents? I don’t apperceive the acceptance to that. I– it wasn’t all-important for my goal, which was to active him that we had this information. Again, I was ablaze on whether it’s authentic or not, it’s important that you know, both because of the counterintelligence acumen and so you apperceive that this maybe action to hit the media.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So how did it end?
JAMES COMEY: It assured not connected afterwards I said– it abandoned took a few account afterwards I fabricated ablaze to him, “We’re not investigating you.” And– I anticipate he asked article like, “Is there annihilation else?” And I said, “No, sir.” And afresh we befuddled easily and I absolved out.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You had been warned, at atomic by some bodies on your staff, not to acquaint him, “We’re not investigating you.” Was that a mistake?
JAMES COMEY: It adeptness acquire been– a mistake. The accepted admonition of the F.B.I. had argued, “Look, it’s absolutely authentic that we don’t acquire a case accessible on President-elect Trump. We’re attractive at added people.” And– and– but his altercation was, “There’s a botheration with you adage that for two reasons. First, accordingly as we move forth in the assay as– as to whether anyone was animate with the Russians, the campaign’s action to acquire to be a focus and the candidate’s consistently the arch of the campaign, so accordingly we’re action to acquire to attending at him. And second, you’re action to actualize a assignment to correct. But if you acquaint him he’s beneath assay and that changes, don’t you acquire to go aback and acquaint him-“
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And you anticipation that was a reasonable prospect?
JAMES COMEY: I didn’t apperceive at that point in time whether that would change or not. But– and I said to the accepted counsel, look, I get that, that makes faculty to me. But I’m complete abashed about alpha a new administering with the admiral cerebration the F.B.I. is out to get him.
Now in hindsight, accustomed the challenges I had with Admiral Trump and his frustrations that I wouldn’t about say he’s not beneath investigation, I anticipate the bigger altercation is it was a mistake, I should’ve listened to the accepted counsel. But anyhow, that’s how I anticipate about it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Admiral Trump anticipation you were afraid him down?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t apperceive that. But I– it seems reasonable, accustomed his appearance of the world. Remember, that was what I abashed about is that he would anticipate I was affairs a J. Edgar Hoover, to appear in there and jam him by adopting the anticipation of salacious, compromising material.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But you acquainted you had no choice?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I anticipation the argumentation was too able that– how could we acquire this advice and burrow it from the admission admiral of the United States? And look, if it’s true– again, we don’t apperceive whether it’s authentic or not. But if it’s true, and as odd as it sounds, it could possibly be true, we acquire to assure him. We acquire to assure the presidency. And so allotment of our– our role as the F.B.I. is let him apperceive that they may appear at you with this.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: If it’s true, how can you assure him?
JAMES COMEY: Well, if it’s true– if addition knows article bad about you that they’re action to maybe use adjoin you and you’re in the government and– and I’m the F.B.I., if I appear to you and acquaint you, “We apperceive all about this,” it’ll achieve it harder for them to get you to do actuality based on this secret. Because you apperceive that we know. And so it makes– it reduces the advantage of the adversary.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Abiding enough, a few canicule later, it does become public.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Buzzfeed– publishes the entire– Steele “dossier”– as you all had feared it would happen. And that’s aback you get your aboriginal buzz anxiety from Admiral Trump.
JAMES COMEY: Yes, that’s right. So the afterward week, the– as you said, the– the media appear the entire– affair and Admiral Trump declared me at my arrangement at the F.B.I. and he was complete agitated about the aperture of this complete and basic to accurate his affair about it.
And I explained to him that it wasn’t– that it wasn’t government material. That it had been able by clandestine parties, the F.B.I. hadn’t paid for it, the F.B.I. hadn’t commissioned it, and it was all over Washington. “And as you’ll remember, sir, as we told we, the media has this and is abutting to advertisement it. So we shouldn’t anticipate of it as a aperture of– of classified information. It wasn’t classified and it– that it wasn’t government information.”
And afresh he launched into– I didn’t ask about the business with the prostitutes, but he launched into an account as to how I should apperceive that wasn’t authentic and that he remembered now, from talking to accompany who had been with him, that he’d never backward abrupt at the hotel, he’d aloof afflicted clothes there and went to the Absence Universe pageant.
I don’t apperceive whether any of this true, but this is what he said. And afresh went adapted aback afterwards blockage overnight. And afresh he said, “Another acumen you apperceive it’s not authentic is I’m a germaphobe. There’s no way I’d let bodies pee on anniversary added about me.” And that me bent me so abundant by abruptness I absolutely let out an aural beam and– ’cause it was aloof one of those– I was abashed by it.
And– and I bethink thinking, “Well, should I say that, ‘As I acquire the action sir, it doesn’t crave an abrupt stay. And accustomed that it was allegedly the presidential apartment at the Ritz Carlton, I would brainstorm you could be at a safe ambit from the activity–‘” all these things are bouncing about my head. But instead of adage it, it aloof led me to think, “The world’s gone crazy.
I’m the administrator of the F.B.I. and I’m continuing at my window, attractive out on the blurred Pennsylvania Avenue.” And I bethink this moment like it was yesterday. And I can see the lit– Washington Cairn that’s ascent from my angle point of the F.B.I. aloof over the Trump– new Trump hotel. And I aloof bethink thinking, “Everything’s gone mad.” And then, accepting able his explanation, which I hadn’t asked for, he abashed up. And I went to acquisition my arch of agents to acquaint him that the world’s gone crazy.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And in fact, he did breach abrupt in Moscow.
JAMES COMEY: I don’t know. But– but again, I– I– I don’t apperceive those facts. But he told me he did not.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So– so– at– at– at this point, you’ve had– two complete conversations with the president. The aggregate of it is about his declared activities with prostitutes in Moscow.
JAMES COMEY: Yes.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And as you say, that seems a little crazy.
JAMES COMEY: It did to me. You could’ve asked me, aback I became F.B.I. director, if I could brainstorm those conversations. Like, it’s adamantine to brainstorm them alike sitting here. But– it is– it is absoluteness today.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The admiral is inaugurated a anniversary later. I appetite to try to get axial your arch afresh at that moment, because now you’ve had these encounters with the president. He’s taken the adjuration of office, you’re thinking–
JAMES COMEY: I’m cerebration I accusation to be complete authentic to assure the adeptness of the F.B.I. Because I now know– I’ve had two one on one conversations with the admiral of the United States, which is a complete abnormal thing. Both of them afflicted on his conduct abandoned and active the F.B.I.
I accusation to achieve abiding to accumulate that ambit to assure the F.B.I.’s independence, which had been congenital aback Hoover. I mean, Hoover was consistently over accepting drinks with presidents and accomplishing all kinds of stuff– that was– not appropriate. Gathering information, all that array of affair on political figures. And the F.B.I., aback Watergate, had created itself as an complete force in American life, so I accusation to be a guardian of that.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And that afflicted you– a brace of canicule afterwards aback you got arrive to the White House. You’d been arrive for a reception?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, the– the– the weekend of the inauguration, on Sunday, which was additionally the day of the Civic Football League Appointment Championships. I bethink that because of the time of the event. At 5:00, the admiral acquaint the law administering leaders of the agencies that had helped assure the inauguration, which is a absolutely nice affair to do. And it was at 5:00 in the dejected allowance at the White House.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You didn’t appetite to go?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I didn’t appetite to go for two reasons. First, I abashed complete abundant about that adeptness of the F.B.I. And, remember– and I’m abiding anybody alert remembers, there were a able lot of bodies who anticipation that I had helped acquire Donald Trump by what I had done at the end of October.
And so why would I appetite to go to a accessible reception– a potentially accessible accession with the admiral two canicule afterwards he takes office? And afresh second, I basic to watch football and the championship amateur were on and 5:00 was adapted in the middle– I’d absence the end of one adventurous and the alpha of another.
My agents said, “No, you acquire to go. You’re the administrator of the F.B.I. It would be an insult to the added agencies– abstruse service, esplanade police, if you don’t go. And you can band the football amateur and aloof don’t allocution to bodies about them.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And so you–
JAMES COMEY: And so I went.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: –you do go and you airing in. You’re there as the admiral walks in. What happens next?
JAMES COMEY: I absolved into the dejected room, which is a big dejected egg-shaped room. And I apprenticed looked around, aggravating to aggregate out where– which way the admiral would access and I ample breadth the doors were. And so I went to the far adverse end, adapted at the window, breadth you can attending out and see the Washington monument. And I– so I was now as far abroad as physically accessible afterwards action out the window from the president. And I apprenticed to breach there and–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Adamantine for you to hide?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, and I about got abroad it actuality though. And– the– you would anticipate that you would apprehension me, this giraffe continuing at the end of the room. But I was continuing abutting to the arch of the abstruse service, who is a accustomed sized person, and the admiral and carnality admiral appear in and the– the agents has set up these klieg lights, so I apperceive the media is coming.
And afresh the media accumulation comes in and the admiral starts speaking on camera and his eyes alpha across-the-board the room. And I bethink the movement of his eyes ’cause I was– obviously, anticipation I was action to be spotted. And he went able me with his eyes and acclimatized on the man adapted abutting to me, the arch of the abstruse service.
And I was adequate and surprised. And he declared the administrator of the abstruse anniversary forward, fabricated a big– display, hugged him, and afresh had him angle with him in advanced of the cameras. And afresh he began talking. And, I apperceive this seems crazy to people, but I was sitting there thinking, “So how did he absence me?”
I’m 6’8?. And afresh I– I attending and adapted abutting to me is this dejected curtain. And I’m cutting a dejected clothing the doesn’t bout perfectly, but abutting enough. So I’m thinking, “How abundant is that? I got a little camouflage.” And so I alpha affective over and I apprenticed myself adjoin the dejected curtain, authentic story.
Thinking — this is my save. This will save me from accepting this accessible embrace with the president. And so afresh he starts speaking afresh and his eyes alpha action again. And my appearance formed until the complete moment it didn’t and he sees me and says, “Jim, he’s added acclaimed than me,” and afresh calls me forward. And I bethink the walk, it seems like a thousand yards aloft the– the– the– dejected room– the egg-shaped dejected room. And my family’s had a lot of fun watching my face as I airing across, ’cause they apperceive that’s my “oh no” face.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that’s not absolutely what Patrice said, is it?
JAMES COMEY: Well, I didn’t appetite to say it on television. She said, “That’s Jim’s ‘oh shit’ face.” And so I’m walking advanced cerebration that, thinking, “How could he anticipate this is a acceptable idea? That he’s action to try to hug me, the guy that a able lot of bodies think, although that’s not true, but anticipate I approved to get him adopted admiral and did. Isn’t he adept of television, this is disastrous.”
And I’m cerebration all this as I’m walking and I acquire this awkward attending on my face. But I was bent there’s not action to be a hug, ’cause I’m not a adept of television but I knew that would be a complete problem. And so I extend my duke and he grabs my duke and he pulls in and back. So he–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So he was action to hug you?
JAMES COMEY: He was action for the hug, action for the hug. And so I’m not an almighty able actuality but I assignment out and so I bind my abs and my aggregate and I’m thinking, this– “Unless he’s a lot able than he looks, he’s not accepting a hug.” And so he pulls and he doesn’t get the hug.
Our accoutrements are abutting and he gets aloof far abundant that I get article worse than a hug. Because he’s aloof able to angular up to put his face by my adapted ear– unfortunately, the cameras were on the larboard ancillary of my face. And so the able apple saw him kiss me. And he didn’t kiss me, he said, “I absolutely attending advanced to animate with you. But the able world, including my admired family, saw the admiral of the United States kiss the man who helped get him elected.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So– and I apperceive this is speculative, but what do you anticipate is action through his mind? You’ve abreast him twice, you’ve announced with him twice. We apperceive what the answerable has been. You’ve been talking to him about Moscow. Has he abandoned that?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t know. ‘Cause I don’t– I formed with him for bristles months, I acquire some acumen into the apperception of Donald Trump. And so I’ll accord you my best acceptance as to it– what I anticipate it is. I anticipate it’s about establishing ascendancy and authoritative anybody allotment of the family.
And so, although there would be hits from all-embracing him, he would embrace me– he’s all-embracing me, authoritative me his F.B.I. director. He had fabricated the abstruse anniversary administrator breach with him up there, about on display. And afterwards the declared kiss, which wasn’t a kiss, he approved to get me to breach as well, about to show, “These are my people.”
And I backed off, like, “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy,” which axial my head, I was thinking, “I’m not suicidal.” And so afresh I backed, backed, backed up to the end. But if I had to guess– and I could be wrong. But– my acceptance is it’s about establishing, “These are my people.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: He follows up with an allurement on January 27th?
JAMES COMEY: Yup. I’m at lunch. I about never went to cafeteria as F.B.I. director. I would airing up to the cafeteria and get a sandwich and eat it at my desk. So I’m at my desk, bistro my cafeteria and working. And my assistant, Althea James, says, “There’s a call– advancing from the White House.” And they put it through and it’s the admiral allurement me if I appetite to appear over for banquet that night. And I said– I had a date with Patrice to get Thai aliment that night, but I didn’t acquaint him that. I said, “Sure, sir.” And he said–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why not say no?
JAMES COMEY: Well, it’s the admiral of the United States calling to ask me to a dinner. And I was adventurous it was a accumulation banquet that– ’cause it– it absolutely didn’t access my apperception that the admiral would accommodated alone, again, with the F.B.I. director.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, but you had been appealing scrupulous. You wouldn’t comedy basketball with Admiral Obama, you abandoned met with him on a non-policy affair already and that was afore you were F.B.I. director. You absolutely basic to accumulate a wall–
JAMES COMEY: Yup.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: –between the F.B.I. and the White House. Can’t you aloof say no?
JAMES COMEY: Maybe? Although, allotment of the ambiance was I had– I remember, I had this affair about accepting a war with the admiral and I’d done the abrupt on hookers affair privately. And so I knew that there would be a anguish about, “Where is the F.B.I.?”
Plus, I afflicted it would be a accumulation event. And I had been to accumulation claiming with Admiral Obama. He would acquire a anniversary banquet for the arch appointees in the administration. I was one, the administrator of Civic Intelligent is another. So I had gone to those.
And so it absolutely didn’t action to me to say no. I was uncomfortable, but it didn’t action to me. And so I aloof said to him, “Sir– certainly, sir.” And he said– “6:00 or 6:30?” And I said, “It’s up to you, sir.” And he absolutely say, “And if you’re– if you’re active tonight, I can do it tomorrow. I’m actuality all weekend.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you knew afresh it wasn’t a accumulation dinner?
JAMES COMEY: Able-bodied no, ’cause I afflicted he accusation be accepting leaders over to get to apperceive them in groups. And the– and so I said, “Sir, whatever you– whatever you like.” And he said, “Well, why don’t we achieve it 6:30?” And I said, “Sure.” And afresh I declared Patrice, bankrupt our date, and– as luck had it, I had– an appointment with Clapper, who had larboard the government but we were giving him a acceptance as honorary F.B.I. agent.
And I told him about this allurement and he told– comforted me by saying, “Yeah, I’ve heard lots of added bodies are accepting calls to appear for dinner.” And so afresh in my arch I was– “Okay, so it’s a accumulation thing. He accusation be accepting a accumulation affair tonight, a accumulation affair tomorrow night. That’s fine.” And so I went over there expecting– a army of people.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And what did you find?
JAMES COMEY: I stood in the access to the blooming room, which is abutting to the dejected room, and chatted with two Navy admiral who were there.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: This is the residence?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, in the residence. And looked about the allowance and apprenticed saw that all the appliance had been abashed in the– in the centermost of the room. There was a babyish egg-shaped table and there were abandoned two chairs and I could see two abode cards. And I could see from breadth I was standing, one said, “Director Comey.” I acquire the added was the president. And so that’s aback I knew that it wasn’t a accumulation banquet to get to apperceive the leaders of our altered agencies, that it was aloof the two of us.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What did you anticipate was action on?
JAMES COMEY: Article that fabricated me afflictive and my best intuition at that point was it’s allotment of an accomplishment to achieve me allotment of the team, to achieve me “amica nostra.” And that it fabricated me acutely uncomfortable. And so I aloof waited. There was no– there was no adage no at this point.
And the admiral showed up and had me sit bottomward and it affronted out aloof to be the two of us and that the purpose of the meeting, the banquet was for him to abstruse from him a affiance of loyalty. That aptitude was right, it was to achieve me a acquaintance of ours.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: As you were acquainted with him, he– he was aloof accepting acclimated to the accouterment of–
JAMES COMEY: Yeah.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: –of the White House?
JAMES COMEY: I anticipate he was. I anticipate he was. He– he was– he took on– on the plates was a card– a calligraphy card, so– complete nice script. You consistently see these at the White House. And it listed the agenda for the banquet we were about to have.
And so he– I remember, he captivated his up and said, “They address these by hand.” And I said, “A calligrapher?” And he affectionate of gave me this attending and he said, “They address them by hand.” And so I– I kinda let it go. And– and afresh he talked about– one of the things he said was how comfortable the White Abode was, the residence. And he said, “I– and I apperceive luxury.” And– which I credit. And– he said, “It’s– it’s absolutely beautiful.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How connected did it booty to get bottomward to business?
JAMES COMEY: Not long. I anticipate it was allegedly during the salad, afore the shrimp scampi. He redirected the conversation– I anticipate we started talking about how the admirable the White Abode was. He redirected the chat by saying, “So what do you appetite to do?”
And I kinda gave him this attending and afresh he explained what he meant. And he said, “You know, a lot of bodies would appetite to be F.B.I. administrator and accustomed all you’ve gone through, I would acquire if you appetite to airing abroad but it would attending like you’d done article amiss if you did that. But I ample I should accommodated with you and– and see what you appetite to do,” which was absolutely odd because I think, by that point, at atomic three times, he had said he hoped I was blockage and looked advanced to animate with me. But there was no acceptance of that.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you anticipate he basic you to walking away?
JAMES COMEY: No. No, I anticipate he basic me to say, “Sir, I’d complete abundant like to accept to serve and be your F.B.I. director.” And afresh he would say, “Okay, but I accusation loyalty, I apprehend loyalty,” which is absolutely what he did say, the– the added part. So I anticipate it was about– again, this is aloof a acceptance but it’s an accomplished guess, that addition had told him or he had assured that he gave the F.B.I. administrator job abroad for chargeless by cogent this guy you achievement he’s action to stay. You oughta get him in advanced of you and achieve abiding he’s a acquaintance of ours. And– and acquire him affiance he’s action to be loyal, ’cause the F.B.I. is a alarming organization.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So he asks you what you appetite and says what he wants?
JAMES COMEY: Correct.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Which was?
JAMES COMEY: He said, “I apprehend loyalty, I accusation loyalty.” And I did not reply. I just– we’re– actually, the– we were allegedly aloof about as abutting as you and I are now, allegedly absolutely the aforementioned at this babyish table. And I aloof stared at him and had this little anecdotal with myself inside, saying, “Don’t you move, don’t you cartel move. Don’t alike blink.” Because I was so addled by– bent by it, but I knew I couldn’t say yes, I couldn’t nod, and so I aloof froze and stared at him.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why not say no?
JAMES COMEY: That’s a fair question. I anticipate because I was bent absolutely by surprise. And again, I’m operating in an ambiance breadth I don’t want– I’m action to be administrator for addition six years. This man’s the new admiral of the United States, I do not accusation a war with him.
I acquire to acquisition a way to assignment with this administering and assure the belief of the F.B.I. And so– and allotment of it was aloof arduous surprise. I couldn’t anticipate of a able response. And by the added time he came aback to it, he didn’t accede at all. We aloof stared at anniversary added and afresh he went on eating. And afresh he came aback to– he didn’t– he noticed that I didn’t answer. He came aback to it afterwards in the dinner. And by then, I had my acquaintance about me and had a bigger answer. GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What was the added time?
JAMES COMEY: The added time was afterwards in the conversation. He said, again, “I accusation loyalty.” And I said, “You will consistently get bluntness from me.” And he paused and afresh he said, “Honest loyalty,” as if he was proposing some accommodation or a deal. And I paused and said, “You’ll get that from me.” And, of course, in amid those two– the adherence sandwich, in amid those two, I had– I had an befalling to explain to him the F.B.I.’s role and how important it was for the F.B.I. to be complete and how I anticipation about it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But did you cantankerous a bandage there– did you cantankerous a bandage aback you promised him honest loyalty? Did– would it be fair for him to think, “Wait, I acquire a accord here.”
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I– I don’t anticipate so. Accustomed the ambience and the added things I’d said, I thought– and look, it was a accommodation on my allotment to try and abstain a absolutely awkward conversation, get out of an awkward conversation.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Was it a mistake?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I don’t know. But– maybe, maybe. And maybe I should’ve said in the moment, “Sir, as I told you, the F.B.I. has to be–” and afresh accord him the accent again, maybe. But– and so maybe I should’ve been– yeah, that’s fair feedback. Maybe I should’ve been tougher or added direct, abnormally accustomed what I apperceive now.
At the time, I acutely couldn’t see the future. But accustomed what I apperceive now, maybe it would’ve been bigger to accord a added explicit– say, “Sir, I can’t affiance you loyalty. Accustomed the attributes of my role, I can affiance you I consistently acquaint you the truth,” which I had already told him. “That’s my role. And that I’m not allotment of it.”
I should’ve accustomed that able accent then. But in the moment, frankly, it didn’t action to me. And I– maybe I didn’t acquire the audacity to do it. I basic to get out of this chat afterwards compromising myself. And I acquainted like, accustomed all I’ve told him already, he has to acquire what I beggarly by honest adherence and he’s badinage himself if he thinks I aloof promised that I’m– I’m “amica nostra.” But– in hindsight, you’re allegedly right. I allegedly should acquire done it differently.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How aberrant is it for you to sit actuality and analyze the admiral to a mob boss?
JAMES COMEY: Complete strange. And I don’t do it lightly. I– and I’m not aggravating to that, by the way, beforehand that Admiral Trump is out breaking legs and– you know, afraid bottomward shopkeepers. But instead, what I’m talking about is that administering adeptness consistently comes aback to me aback I anticipate about my acquaintance with the Trump administration.
The– the adherence oaths, the bang-up as the ascendant centermost of everything, it’s all about how do you serve the boss, what’s in the boss’ interests. It’s the family, the family, the family, the family. That’s why it reminds me so abundant and not, “So what’s the adapted affair for the country and what are the belief of the institutions that we’re ambidextrous with?” It’s all about here.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What was the blow of the able allocution like?
JAMES COMEY: I anticipate I declared it in the book as, like– watching a jigsaw addle claiming with a attempt clock, that the admiral would– it wasn’t a chat in any allusive sense, ’cause a conversation’s what we’re accepting breadth you do some talking, I do some talking.
It was him talking about the complete time, which I’ve apparent is article he frequently does. And so it would be address in this direction, address in that direction, address in a altered direction. And a connected alternation of assertions that– about the commencement crowd, about how abundant my commencement accent was, about all the chargeless media– becoming media, I anticipate was his term, that I got during the campaign.
On and on and on and on. Anybody agrees, anybody agrees, I did this, the– I never assaulted these women, I never fabricated fun of a reporter. And– I’m abiding you’re apprehensive what catechism did I ask that would alert those? None, zero. I didn’t ask any questions that I recall.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You anxiety them baffling, accidental lies.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, that’s the things that’s– abnormally to addition who’s– who’s been complex in assay in the amends arrangement my able life, is– to accord you an example, he– at the alpha of the meeting, he tells us– tells me Reince Priebus, his arch of staff, does not apperceive we’re meeting, which I anticipation was st– I bethink it because I thought, “How could the arch of agents not apperceive the president’s affair with the F.B.I. director?”
And afresh afterwards in the aforementioned meal, abreast the end, he says, “Reince knows we’re accepting dinner, so aftereffect with Reince.” Just– so one of those things is not true. One of those things is a lie, but it reminded me of the commencement army thing. Right, that it’s– his commencement army was bigger than that Barack Obama’s aboriginal inauguration.
That’s aloof not true. That’s not a perspective, that’s not a view, that’s aloof a lie. And– and yet he would say it and, “Everyone agrees, anybody says, anybody believes,” and the– the crisis array of occurred to me is– ’cause you don’t acquire a adventitious to speak. That’s abrasion over you, abrasion over you, abrasion over you.
Did you aloof accede to that? Did you aloof accede that he didn’t achieve fun of a disabled anchorman because you– because you didn’t speak? Well, you did acquire a adventitious to allege because there was no gap at all in the words. But I– I acquire an appointment with him two weeks afterwards breadth I apprentice from that and try to arrest him to acquaint him I don’t accede with him. But in this conversation, my aboriginal detail conversation, he’s aloof rolling on, talking about all kinds of things.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re listening. Are you thinking, “President Trump’s a liar?”
JAMES COMEY: Yes, yeah. I– and I– and I had, obviously, apropos about that earlier, accepting watched him on the advance that he is addition who is– for whom the accuracy is not a aerial value. And– and obviously, there were examples of that in the dinner.
The Priebus affair is– is an archetype of it. The– the commencement affair is an archetype of it. I’m abiding there are others in the conversation. But yes, that he is– that sometimes he’s lying in agency that are obvious, sometimes he’s adage things that we may not apperceive are authentic or apocryphal and afresh there’s a spectrum in between.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And afresh unprompted, he brings up the aureate battery again.
JAMES COMEY: Correct, yeah. He brings it up and says he may appetite me to investigate it to prove that it didn’t happen. And afresh he says– article that absent me. ‘Cause he said, you know, “If there’s alike a 1 percent adventitious my wife thinks that’s true, that’s terrible.”
And I– and I bethink thinking, “How could your wife anticipate there’s a 1 percent adventitious you were with prostitutes peeing on anniversary added in Moscow?” I’m a awry animal being, but there is absolutely aught adventitious that my wife would anticipate that was true. So what affectionate of alliance to what affectionate of man does your wife anticipate there’s abandoned a 99 percent adventitious you didn’t do that?
And the acumen I’m account this is I remember– I wasn’t alert to him, ’cause I’m active this through my head, like, how could that possibly be true? And I said to him, “Sir–” aback he started talking about it, “I may adjustment you to investigate that,” I said, “Sir, that’s up to you. But you’d appetite to be authentic about that, because it adeptness actualize a anecdotal that we’re investigating you personally. And second, it’s complete difficult to prove article didn’t happen.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And did he acquire that?
JAMES COMEY: He said he would anticipate about it. And he said, “I achievement you’ll anticipate about it too.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You apprehension article else– during that dinner. You say the admiral didn’t laugh.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, not at all. And I was addled by it. So addled by it, it backward with me, that I’ve never apparent him laugh. Not in public, not in private. And at a banquet with someone– I mean, I’m not a actor but I occasionally say article that’s funny that bodies cackle with anniversary other.
But I never saw annihilation that resembled a laugh. And I could over adapt that, I could be– additionally we’re missing article that– that maybe he’s– he’s breaking up in stitches with added bodies added than the F.B.I. director, but I additionally tried– afterwards I got fired, I thought– that backward with me. And so I went and approved to acquisition examples of videos breadth he’s bedlam and I could abandoned acquisition that absolutely wasn’t a 18-carat laugh.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The banquet ends, you anon address it up. Why?
JAMES COMEY: Because I knew, accustomed the attributes of the chat and the attributes of the actuality I was talking to, that to assure the F.B.I. and to assure myself, I would accusation to bethink complete accurately what we talked about it. And as the F.B.I. director, you acquire bags of conversations.
And– and so the detail can get absent over time. I knew that, accustomed that I abashed he adeptness not acquaint the accuracy about our appointment and accustomed that it afflicted on him personally, that I thought, “You know, I accusation to acquire a accounting almanac of this.” And so I went home, on my claimed computer, and created a announcement and kept a archetype of it in my claimed safe at home and larboard addition archetype of it at the F.B.I. Because it was about both absorption the F.B.I. and absorption me.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you anticipate Admiral Trump got what we basic out of that dinner?
JAMES COMEY: No. And I anticipate he knew that because it was a afterwards point aback he was balked with me that I wouldn’t get out– as he said, get out that I’m not beneath investigation, breadth he approved to anamnesis the adherence pledge, I think, from the context. Breadth he said, “You know, I’ve been complete loyal to you, ’cause we had that thing.”
And I– I anticipate what he was accomplishing was aggravating to anamnesis our appointment at that banquet and it advancing up in his anamnesis as, “Actually, the guy didn’t affiance to be loyal to me. He promised me honest adherence and– and that’s absolutely what he’s giving me now by cogent me, ‘You oughta acquire your advocate anxiety the Administering of Justice.’”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: About 10 canicule afterwards you’re aback in the White House. You’re– affair with Reince– ahead the arch of staff– aback he adapted you go accommodated with the admiral again.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. This was a aftereffect affair to the banquet from the 27th. And it’s us talking about a array of topics, some of which were classified, but one of which was, so how should it work? How does the F.B.I. appropriately collaborate with the White House. And I was acceptance it has to be through the Amends Department, it’s important that there be a approved channel, except for civic aegis emergencies or civic aegis action issues.
And at the end of that conversation, which was advised to explain– and Priebus, to his credit, seemed to appetite to get it right. But at the end, he asked me whether I basic to see the president. And I said, “No, that’s okay. I’m abiding he’s got affluence to do.” And he said, “I’m abiding he’d adulation to see you.” And I said, “No, n– that’s fine.”
He said, “Sit. Sit.” And afresh he larboard and– went bottomward the hall, allegedly to the Egg-shaped Office, and came aback and said, “He’s in the Oval. He’d adulation to see you.” And I said, afterwards expression, “Great.” And afresh he takes me bottomward to the Egg-shaped Arrangement and the admiral was aloof finishing a chat with the then-s– Columnist Secretary Sean Spicer. And I came in and sat down.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me stop you there. You’ve been in the Egg-shaped Arrangement several times in your career. You served several presidents. How is it different?
JAMES COMEY: It was different– able-bodied I noticed adapted abroad the curtains were different. He had abashed bright, gold curtains, which I activate out afterwards were absolutely Bill Clinton’s Egg-shaped Arrangement curtains, alibi me, aback changed. And– but best arresting was that he was sitting abaft the adamant desk, the big– the president’s desk, which I had absolutely never apparent Presidents Bush or Obama do during a meeting.
They would be there sometimes for buzz calls, I gather, but aback I was there they consistently sat in the accessible sitting area, which fabricated faculty to me as addition who tries to get bodies as a baton to acquaint you the truth. It’s abundant easier in an breezy setting. But I noticed he was abaft the board with– both accoutrements on the table top, on the desktop. And so I sat– so there’s a gigantic block of copse amid us, I sat in a little board armchair adapted up adjoin the desk. And the chat started and– and Reince was aggravating to beacon it, in part, appear the Steele dossier, and the admiral wasn’t absorbed in that.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why did Reince appetite to allocution about that?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t apperceive for sure. I don’t– I don’t know. He seemed to appetite to accompany the affair up. I– I don’t– I don’t apperceive exactly. I–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you mentioned article about– aback you brought up the Steele abstracts again, you mentioned that the genitalia about– the prostitutes was– unverified. You don’t apperceive whether they’re authentic or not. What about the blow of the Steele dossier? Has it arrested out? Is it a aboveboard document?
JAMES COMEY: The acceptance is, I don’t know. Aback I larboard the F.B.I aback I was accursed in aboriginal May of aftermost year, an accomplishment was underway by the F.B.I. to try to verify as abundant as pos– aphorism in or aphorism out what– and that assignment was still ongoing. So I don’t apperceive what the acceptance is. It came from a aboveboard source.And as I said, its axial apriorism was corroborated, that there was an accomplishment by the Russians to access the acclamation and that there had been some access amid bodies associated with the Trump advance and the Russian effort, in authentic the Papadopoulos advice that started the F.B.I.’s investigation.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So access amid the Trump advance and Russia had been corroborated by the time you larboard the F.B.I.?JAMES COMEY: I anticipate all I can say is that– the– the assignment was still underway, the assay began because of inf– reliable advice that George Papadopoulos was accepting conversations about accepting advice from the Russians. That’s allegedly as far as I can go at this point.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So breadth did the chat go?
JAMES COMEY: The admiral was talking about article that had happened during an airing of a anniversary he did with Bill O’Reilly on Fox–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh the Super Bowl anniversary —
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. The Super Bowl pre-game appearance where– and I hadn’t asked any questions about this, but the admiral was aloof talking about it, he had accustomed an acceptance to Bill O’Reilly that had been abundant criticized aloft the political spectrum aback he had said, in acceptance to a question, that he admired Vladimir Putin and said, “That doesn’t beggarly I’m action to get forth with him.”
And afresh O’Reilly responded, “But he’s a killer.” And the admiral responded, in substance, “But we’re killers, too. You anticipate our country’s so innocent.” I balloon the exact words, but that’s the basis of it. And that moral equivalence, amid the bodies of our government and Putin’s thugs, had generated a lot of controversy.
And so the admiral was, as I said aback I declared the dinner, aloof in a address talking about how that was a abundant answer, what was he declared to do, it was a adamantine question, he gave his best answer. And aloof action on and on and on. Basically we’re all accordant with this if we don’t speak.
And accepting apparent it appear during the banquet I thought, “I can’t let that happen,” ’cause I don’t anticipate it was a adamantine question. I anticipate the added allotment of his acceptance is terrible. And so he gave me an aperture at some point by adage like, “Yeah, you accede it was a acceptable answer–”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So the admiral wants you to say this was a acceptable answer.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. In fact, he was cogent me it was a acceptable acceptance and afresh said– gave me an aperture by saying, “You anticipate it was a abundant answer. You anticipate it was a acceptable answer.” And afresh he was starting to move on. And I jumped in and I said, “Mr. President, the aboriginal allotment of the acceptance was fine, not the added part. We’re not the affectionate of killers that Putin is.”And aback I said that, the acclimate afflicted in the room. And like a adumbration aloft his face and his eyes got this strange, kinda adamantine look. And I anticipation in that moment, “I’ve aloof done article abnormal maybe.” And afresh (SNAP) it anesthetized and the affair was over. And, “Thanks for advancing in,” and– and Priebus absolved me out. It was like–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You had addition mob flashback.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I did. Although in that moment I was thinking, “I aloof succeeded,” although I hadn’t advised to, in catastrophe any claimed accord amid me and the admiral by th– by arresting him and additionally criticizing him to his face. And I went aback and told my agents that it happened, and afresh I thought– and told them, “That’s not a bad thing, because it will advice us accumulate a ambit that we accusation to accumulate from him.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You– you saw it adapted there, and we talked about this earlier– why is Admiral Trump so afraid to anxiety out Vladimir Putin?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t know. I’m addled by it and I’m addled by it both in accessible and in private. Because I can acquire the arguments why the admiral of the United States adeptness not appetite to criticize the baton of addition country because there’s consistently acceptable affidavit to try and anatomy bigger relationships, I suppose, alike aback that added baton is addition who is killing his own citizens and agreeable in– in attacks adjoin our country. But you would anticipate that in private– talking to the F.B.I. director, whose job it is to baffle Russian attacks, you adeptness accede that this antagonist of ours is an antagonist of ours. But I never saw. And so I don’t apperceive the reason. I absolutely don’t.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you anticipate the Russians acquire article on Donald Trump?
JAMES COMEY: I anticipate it’s possible. I don’t know. These are added words I never anticipation I’d complete about a admiral of the United States, but it’s possible.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s stunning. You can’t say for assertive that the admiral of the United States is not compromised by the Russians?
JAMES COMEY: It is beauteous and I ambition I wasn’t adage it, but it’s just– it’s the truth. I cannot say that. It consistently addled me and still strikes me as unlikely, and I woulda been able to say with aerial aplomb about any added admiral I dealt with, but I can’t. It’s possible.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: February 14th, you’re aback in the Egg-shaped Office?
JAMES COMEY: Aback again. Valentine’s Day. For–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why?
JAMES COMEY: We were there for a briefing, which was a complete acceptable idea, to accord the new admiral an compassionate of the agitation blackmail in the United States, which is the F.B.I.’s primary responsibility. And so I was there was the carnality admiral and leaders of the adverse agitation agencies in a ambit of chairs ar– again, he’s abaft the desk, in a ambit of chairs about the board to acquaint him, “Look, here’s what we’re abashed about in the United States.”
And– so I did best of the talking during that appointment and gave some, I thought, some appealing abrupt acumen into some threats that we don’t allocution about a lot, but the admiral was affectionate of quiet, which is unusual, and unengaged. And– and afresh assured the affair by thanking everybody and s– and pointing at me saying, “I aloof appetite to allocution to Jim.” And absolved everyone, including the carnality president.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: They didn’t appetite to leave.
JAMES COMEY: Able-bodied I apperceive the advocate accepted didn’t appetite to leave because– he ac– he was– I’m sitting here, he was sitting off to my adapted and the aperture by the grandfathering anxiety was off to my left. Admiral was sitting breadth you are. And the advocate accepted came about and stood adapted by my armchair and lingered. Clearly, his anatomy accent leads– to my apperception said he didn’t appetite to leave.
And afresh the admiral said, “Thanks, Jeff. I aloof appetite to allocution to Jim. Accede you.” And afresh he absolved off. And afresh agents had been sitting on the couches and chairs abaft us, and one of the bodies aback there, been– Jared Kushner, the president’s son in law, and he came to my larboard bend and stood afterwards the advocate accepted larboard and started chatting with me about the e-mail investigation, aloof pleasantries about how adamantine that accusation acquire been, and abiding as well. And afresh the admiral said, “Thanks, Jared. Accede you. Aloof appetite to allocution to Jim.” And so– he was excused.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re abandoned in the Egg-shaped Office?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah.
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GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What happens next?
JAMES COMEY: I didn’t apperceive what was action to appear next, but I knew that whatever it was, it was really, absolutely important that I bethink aggregate that was said, and as best I could the exact words that were said. Because why would you bang out the advocate general, who’s my boss, and the carnality admiral of the United States to allege to me? Article was action to appear that was action to be important to remember–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: He knows he’s action to say article that others shouldn’t hear.
JAMES COMEY: That was my read, that it’s– it’s so abnormal that– aboriginal of all, it’s abnormal for the advocate general– alibi me, for the F.B.I. administrator and the admiral to be abandoned at all. But to bang out the carnality admiral of the United States and the advocate general, who I assignment for, so you could allocution to me alone, article was up that was absolutely important. And that it adeptness able-bodied be that he knew what everybody was action to allocution about was article that he shouldn’t be talking about with the others. And so my antennae were up and I just– listened.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And what he basic to allocution about was Mike Flynn.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. That’s how he began it. “I appetite to allocution about Mike Flynn.” And he started acceptance to me– that Flynn was a acceptable guy and that he had to be let go ’cause he was– had aria to the carnality admiral and he– said he had added apropos about him, which he didn’t in that affair spell out.
And afresh he– got a little bit distracted, the chat abashed off to leaks a little bit. And he talked about how bad leaks were of classified information. And I agreed. And we talked about that for a bit. And while that chat was action on, Reince Priebus opened the aperture to my left, by the grandfathering clock, and I affronted and I can see continuing cat-and-mouse was a big accumulation of people, including the carnality president. And the president– coiled him abroad and had him abutting the door. And afresh afterwards the abeyance came aback to Flynn.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So that– that prompted him to get aback to business.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. Get aback to the point. He– he had wandered off on an important affair of leaks and– and advancement me to allocution to the advocate accepted about actuality added advancing in advancing leaks of classified information, all of which is fine. And afresh the abeyance got him aback to Mike Flynn, and that’s aback he asked me– said he hopes I can let it go.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And aback he said that, you thought?
JAMES COMEY: He’s allurement me to bead the bent assay of his, now former, civic aegis advisor.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Direction?
JAMES COMEY: I took it as a direction. He’s– his words were, though, “I achievement you can let it go.” But the ambience breadth I’ve been– breadth everyone’s been kicked out, and it was aloof the two of us, the admiral of the United States, I took the announcement of achievement as, “This is what I appetite you to do.” This–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The admiral says he didn’t say that.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. Able-bodied what am I action to do? He did. That’s why I was– aback he tweeted that there adeptness be tapes, I was– I meant what I said aback I said, “Lordy, I achievement there are tapes because I apperceive what happened in that– in that meeting.” And I testified about it beneath adjuration cerebration there adeptness be tapes. And so I’d be a crazy actuality to achieve it up. And I wrote it bottomward anon afterwards that meeting.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: He– he– he afterwards said there weren’t tapes in a cheep several weeks afterwards afterwards it abashed out there for a long, connected time. Which anniversary do you believe?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t know. I– I mean, I would acquire one of the reasons, although it was a delayed revelation, that I basic to get out into accessible in– that he had– that we had had this encounter, he’d asked me to let it go, is that if there were tapes abandoned a adapted prosecutor was action to go get ’em. And so I don’t know. I acquire no acumen into whether Aloft Administrator Mueller and his aggregation subpoenaed the White Abode for tapes. I acquire no idea.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So he says, “I achievement you can let it go.” What do you say?
JAMES COMEY: He had said, “He’s a acceptable guy, I achievement you can let it go,” I anticipate those are the exact words. But he said– and I aloof said, “I accede he’s a acceptable guy,” or I said, “he’s a acceptable guy.” And so afresh full-stop. And there was a abrupt pause. And afresh the affair was over.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Should you acquire said added there? Should you acquire said, “Mr. President, I can’t altercate this with you. You’re accomplishing article improper?”
JAMES COMEY: Maybe. I mean, that– that’s additionally a fair criticism. Maybe I should have. Although, as I’ve anticipation about it since, if he didn’t apperceive he was accomplishing article improper, why did he bang out the advocate accepted and the carnality admiral of the United States and the leaders of the intelligence community? I mean, why am I abandoned if he’s– doesn’t apperceive the attributes of the request?
But it’s accessible that in the moment I shoulda– you know, addition actuality would acquire said, “Sir, you can’t ask me that. That’s a bent investigation. That could be obstruction of justice.” Again, it’s one of these deals breadth I’m so– alike acceptance I knew article important was action to happen, it didn’t action to me he was action to ask me to bead a bent investigation. And so a little bit of it is the shock of it, and allotment of it is aloof from the ambiance I anticipate I had a acceptable gut faculty that he knows what he’s doing.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: With that direction, was Admiral Trump obstructing justice?
JAMES COMEY: Possibly. I mean, it’s absolutely some affirmation of obstruction of justice. It would depend and– and I’m aloof a attestant in this case, not the investigator or prosecutor, it would depend aloft added things that reflected on his intent.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I admiration if you alike should acquire agreed at that point that Flynn is a acceptable guy. By February 14th, did you apperceive that Mike Flynn had aria to the F.B.I.?
JAMES COMEY: Yes. Yeah.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So was it a aberration to alike accede with the admiral on that point?
JAMES COMEY: Maybe. I mean, I– I actually– acceptable bodies do lie, and my faculty of Flynn was he was a acceptable guy, that I sat with him and chatted with him aback he was arch of the Aegis Intelligence Agency. And so the actuality that addition lies doesn’t necessarily achieve them a bad person. But I anticipate mostly it was me aggravating to get outta the conversation, accord him a allotment of what he said that’s controllable so that I cannot accord him the rest.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But you knew at this point that Mike Flynn was in some jeopardy.
JAMES COMEY: Yes.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Austere jeopardy.
JAMES COMEY: Yes.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Did the admiral apperceive that?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t know. That is acutely an breadth that a adapted prosecutor would appetite to investigate. I don’t apperceive the acceptance to that.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: There’s been some advertisement that– at– at– at one point you told the Congress that the agency who interviewed Mike Flynn didn’t acquire that he had lied.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I saw that. And that– I don’t apperceive breadth that’s advancing from. That– unless I’m– I– I– said article that bodies misunderstood, I don’t bethink alike intending to say that. So my bond is I never said that to anybody.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So at this point– the admiral is now, accustomed what you anticipation was a direction– you didn’t footfall in and say, “Listen, you shouldn’t do that, Mr. President,” at some point in your mind, as you’re autograph these notes, acquire you abashed to accession affirmation of a accessible crime?
JAMES COMEY: Well, yes, in a sense. I mean, I am recording it bec– for the s– aforementioned acumen I recorded the beforehand one, but it’s alike added important that I almanac this one because the chat will acceptable appear aback some day and he may able-bodied lie about it. And so I accusation to bethink absolutely what was said there. It could be affirmation of a crime. It was absolutely important that it be able-bodied documented.
I aggregate it with– my colleagues at the F.B.I. But article abroad was true, it was important that we did not intend to accept his direction, we were not action to let it go, no aggregate what he said. And so it was absolutely important that we not let the board yet apperceive this had happened, because we abashed it adeptness arctic them in some way if you apprehend the admiral wants your case to go away.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re captivation this evidence. You allotment it with your deputy, your accepted counsel.
JAMES COMEY: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You don’t allotment it with the advocate general.
JAMES COMEY: No.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why not?
JAMES COMEY: We thought– rightly, he was about to recuse himself on annihilation accompanying to Russia and so that didn’t achieve sense. The harder catechism was, should we acquaint the actuality who is acting in the role as abettor advocate general, which was a U.S. advocate who was there temporarily? And absitively that didn’t achieve any faculty either, that we would delay until we got a new– there’s annihilation to be done, aback there was no way to approve it, the abstraction of tapes didn’t action to us, that we would be accepting new administering a that abettor advocate accepted level. And afresh the administering would aggregate out how they were action to administer all the Russia stuff.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So at this point it’s about as if there’s an assay aural the investigation.
JAMES COMEY: Able-bodied there’s a box aural the assay breadth we’re captivation a allotment of advice so that we can aggregate out what to do about it later. So it’s– we are walling it off, aback we couldn’t think– the leaders of the F.B.I. couldn’t anticipate of what analytic investigations you would do now, that you bare to do adapted now, so there would be no abuse in captivation it and afresh addition out what to do with it as the assay went on.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So i– i– i– if the admiral hadn’t accursed you, would that advice still be boxed up?
JAMES COMEY: Oh no. No. ‘Cause we’d have– we’d acquire gotten advice at some point as to how they were action to beforehand the Russia assay and afresh acquire to aggregate out what assay we could do to try to approve that. What would we do with that? But battlefront me absolutely accelerated it, in a way it wouldn’t acquire been accelerated before.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What were you cerebration as you larboard the Egg-shaped Arrangement that day?
JAMES COMEY: That article absolutely important aloof happened and that I was a little– addition one of those outta-body experiences, like, “Really? The admiral aloof kicked out the advocate accepted to ask me to bead a bent investigation.” Wow, the apple s– continues to go crazy.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Calls you been– calls you aback a brace weeks later. The abutting buzz anxiety was– and that was aloof affectionate of a check-in. Right?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. Said the apple had gone crazy. I was about to get on a helicopter and the admiral declared me aloof to, he didn’t say this, but I heard it in my own arch as just, “Hey, what’s up?” And it was to acquisition out, “So how are you doing?” I said, “Great, sir. How are you doing?” And it was aloof a check-in.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And that was Beforehand 1st. Did you anytime attending back– at– at the day and– and– get any faculty of what adeptness acquire prompted that buzz call?
JAMES COMEY: No, I never did.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: He afresh declared you again– it was absolutely a few weeks later– Beforehand 30th. He’s added agitated now–
JAMES COMEY: Yes.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why?
JAMES COMEY: I anticipate two reasons. M– best acutely that there had been a audition where, at the Administering of Amends direction, I had accepted for the aboriginal time that we had open– adverse intelligence assay to acquire whether any Americans associated with the Trump advance were animate with the Russians. And– and so that acutely bent his attention.
And afresh I anticipate there connected to be a lotta actuality in the anniversary about the Russia investigation. So he was calling me to acquaint me how arresting he activate that and it was accepting in the way of his adeptness to achieve deals for the country. And he basic to lift the cloud, he declared it a cloud. And so basic me to get out that he wasn’t beneath investigation.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So if he’s not beneath investigation, you’ve told him, why not acquaint the country?
JAMES COMEY: Able-bodied for– for the affidavit that the F.B.I. accepted admonition was anxious about me in the aboriginal instance cogent afresh President-elect Trump he wasn’t beneath investigation, it– it was– potentially ambiguous and additionally would actualize a assignment to complete that. And there was a claiming additionally with, so what’s the absorbed principle? If they ask, “Is the carnality admiral beneath investigation,” do you acceptance that?
And afresh if they say, “Is the advocate accepted beneath investigation,” do you acceptance that? And– breadth do you stop? And so the Administering of Amends was cerebration about it and had decided, in affiliation with my testimony, that they would abandoned accredit me to say there was an assay but not to animadversion on who was beneath investigation. But they did one added thing, they had me acquaint the leaders of the intelligence committees absolutely who we were investigating, the– which is unusual, the identities of the Americans which did not accommodate the president.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What allotment of you is cerebration also, “I am accession affirmation on the president”?
JAMES COMEY: Able-bodied allotment of me is cerebration that because of the obstruc– abeyant obstruction issue, but additionally I connected to acquire that there was force to the F.B.I. accepted counsel’s altercation that we’re action to acquire to attending at the president. I– alike if you– alike if you took the– the f– my chat with him about Flynn as a abeyant obstruction, you put it off to the ancillary and said, “Well that’s altered than the Russia investigation,” alike on the Russia assay there was continuing s– and stronger force to the altercation that you’re accordingly action to attending at his conduct, ’cause he’s the arch of the campaign.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And for at atomic a aeon of time they’re aggravating to anatomy a belfry in Moscow.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: April 11th. Final buzz call.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. This was a aftereffect breadth he’s– I anticipate it’s the abandoned buzz anxiety or acquaintance that I had with him that complex no conference talking about how alarming I am and how abundant it is– or he aloof began by cogent his frustration– no. His articulation was frustrated, his– he began by asking, “So what did you do with my appeal to get out that I’m not beneath investigation, to lift the cloud?”
And I explained to him that I had referred it to the acting abettor advocate accepted and I hadn’t heard back. And that– that was arresting to him. And afresh I explained to him how it should work. He should acquire the White Abode admonition acquaintance the Amends Administering if he wants to acquisition out– he has a appeal to make. And that was the aftermost time I batten to him.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But isn’t that breadth he said, “We had that thing”?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. He said, “‘Cause I’ve been complete acceptable to you. I’ve been loyal to you,” words like that. “We had that thing. You know?” And afresh he pulled up short, because the– there was no agreement of loyalty.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: In his apperception aback he says, “We had that thing,” does he anticipate he fabricated you F.B.I. director, kept you F.B.I. director, that’s why you owe him?
JAMES COMEY: I– I– I could be amiss about this, but I’ll acquaint you what my acceptance was, he’s extensive for the– the ambition of that adherence dinner, that he’s canonizing that he had a banquet with me and he’s starting to say, “I’ve been complete loyal to you and you promised to be loyal to me.”
And afresh he pulls up abbreviate because if he’s replaying the banquet in his head, he remembers the awkward beam and afresh he remembers that awe-inspiring conception about consistently be honest and afresh honest loyalty. And again, I could be amiss about that, but my gut told me that’s what he’s extensive for and he’s affairs up abbreviate because, “We both apperceive I never promised to be loyal to you, in the way you acquire it.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And afresh on Friday, May 9th, your administering as F.B.I. director– alibi me– afresh on May 9th your administering as F.B.I. administrator ends.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. Aback I’m in Los Angeles at the– F.B.I. acreage arrangement in Los Angeles, about to go to a assortment recruiting event.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And what happened?
JAMES COMEY: I was accomplishing what I did many, abounding times visiting F.B.I. offices, I was walking about thanking everybody personally. And there was a accumulation of advisers who didn’t acquire desks that I could visit, they were the careful advisers and afresh the communications allowance employee. And so they were all s– in a accumulation in a big, axial allowance and I was continuing talking to them.
And the allowance had televisions on the bank at the complete back. And I was in the boilerplate of thanking them for actuality allotment of the F.B.I. and its mission and acceptance everybody owns the mission, they are no abutment employees. And I saw, “Comey resigns,” on the aback screens. And one of the abounding great–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Resigns?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, it said, “Resigns.” And one of the abounding abundant things about the F.B.I. is we acquire some amusing pranksters in that organization, and so I anticipation it was a betray by addition on my staff. So I about-face to the– them and I said, “Someone put a lotta assignment into that.” And afresh I connected talking.
And afresh the– that afflicted on the screens, which showed the altered networks, afflicted to, “Comey fired.” And the– now I’m staring it and the– the admirers could see my face change, so they alpha axis about attractive at the back. And I said, “Look, I don’t apperceive whether that’s authentic or not. I’m action to go acquisition out.”
“But what I appetite to say to you won’t change whether or not– that’s true.” And afresh I able talking about the mission of the F.B.I., how everybody has to be allotment of it. And I thanked them for their work, I befuddled all their hands, afresh I went into a allowance to acquisition out acquire I been fired, because I did not apprehend to be fired.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And who told you?
JAMES COMEY: Eventually my assistant, Althea James– there was an complete actuality bottomward on Pennsylvania Avenue animadversion on the advanced aperture of the F.B.I. with a letter from the president. And she somehow got the F.B.I. badge to go bottomward and get it, scanned it, e-mailed it to me. And this took allegedly a bisected hour or so. Said, “Yeah,” I’ve been fired. “President of the United
States, there’s a letter from him adage I’m accursed able immediately.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re attractive at that letter, what’s your aboriginal thought?
JAMES COMEY: That’s crazy. How could that be? But they also, I think, s– absorbed to it a letter from the advocate accepted and a letter from the– the abettor advocate general, purporting to lay out the affidavit I was fired. And so I anticipate it at– I anticipate I saw those absolutely the aforementioned time, and my acceptance was, “That makes no faculty at all.”
And– and afresh I took a anxiety from Patrice who declared adage the kids and she had apparent it, “What’s action on?” I said, “I don’t know. We’re aggravating to acquisition out.” My acquaintance Pat Fitzgerald declared from Chicago, I said the aforementioned thing. And afresh John Kelly, who was afresh the secretary of Homeland Security, declared me.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Now White Abode arch of staff.
JAMES COMEY: Now White Abode arch of staff.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What did he say?
JAMES COMEY: He was complete upset. He was complete affecting and said he had apparent the anniversary and that he advised to abandon because he wouldn’t assignment for bodies who would amusement addition like me in such a base way and that he was action to quit.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What did you acquaint him?
JAMES COMEY: Amuse don’t do that. Amuse don’t do that, John. And I knew him able-bodied and still– knew– anticipation awful of him then, still anticipate awful of him, and I said, “Please don’t do that. This admiral needs bodies of appearance and assumption about him, abnormally this president. Amuse don’t do that.” And I said, “We accusation you to breach and serve for the country.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: If he declared you today adage he advised to quit, what would you acquaint him?
JAMES COMEY: I understand. I– I anticipate you’ve– you’ve sacrificed as abundant as you absolutely can of yourself for the country. And– no one would begrudge you leaving. You’ve done your complete best. It’s– it’s appear at a amount to you, but– that no one can accusation you.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I appetite to get aback to the adventure — but one added question. I anticipate it’s to an important point that– aback you’re talking about actuality an ethical leader, at what point do bodies serve in adjustment to assure the institution, to assure the country, and at what point does it cantankerous over into enabling bad behavior?
JAMES COMEY: That is the catechism that bodies acquire to ask themselves. And– and there’s no accessible way to ascertain it in the abstract, that you– the claiming of this admiral is that he will stain anybody about him. And the catechism is, how abundant stain is too abundant stain and how abundant stain eventually makes you clumsy to achieve your ambition of absorption the country and confined the country? So I don’t know. And it– it– it would be adamantine for anybody to acceptance that. But everyone’s gotta acceptance that individually.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Could you brainstorm if you hadn’t been accursed on May 9th– if you hadn’t been accursed on May 9th, would you still be animate for Admiral Trump?
JAMES COMEY: Yes. I– I would– yes, I would. I– as I told Admiral Obama, I was abashed it and I– I would be im– an black F.B.I. director, but in a way appreciative of the alignment and in my role in aggravating to assure it. And the accepted F.B.I. administrator is a acquaintance of mine, is an atonement person.
I’m so animated that he’s serving, ’cause I apperceive he cares about the institutional belief the way I do. It’s hard, you gotta consistently anguish about efforts to accommodation you and accommodation your institution. But in the end, to acceptance your question, that’s– that is catechism and that’s one that everybody has to acceptance individually.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You say you were abashed as you apprehend the letter. Weren’t you angry?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I don’t bethink actuality angry. I bethink aloof thinking, “This is a lie.” The actuality about, you know, actuality accursed because of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, that makes no faculty at all. And then, of course, I apprenticed saw on the anniversary that, you know, the White Abode adage that the F.B.I. was in accouterment and the workforce– it was adequate that I was fired. Added and added lies. And so I was abashed about the organization, abashed about the people– who I’m declared to accommodated with adapted afterwards that and confused. I don’t bethink actuality affronted in that moment.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Additionally had to acquisition a way to get home.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. It– ’cause I’m no best F.B.I. director, so how do I get home? I– I absolutely gave anticipation to renting a convertible and active about 3,000 miles, article I’ve never done. I’ve had accompany drive aloft country, but I’m not distinct or crazy so I didn’t do it. And I larboard it to the– who– my deputy, who anon had become the acting administrator of the F.B.I., to aggregate that out.
And the– the arch of my aegis detail, who’s an amazing person, said, “Sir, we’re action to aggregate this out. But if I acquire to put you in handcuffs, we’re demography you aback on the F.B.I. plane.” And I said, “Well look, I appetite to do whatever is adapted beneath the law and the regulations, so you all aggregate that out.” And they ample out that they had an obligation to assure me and so they would accompany me aback on the plane.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re in that clandestine jet basically alone.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What did you do?
JAMES COMEY: I bankrupt F.B.I. rules. I was no best an abettor so I wasn’t breaking the rules. So I took a canteen of red wine out of my attache that I was bringing aback from California, a California pinot noir, and I drank red wine from a cardboard coffee cup and aloof looked out at the lights of the country I adulation so abundant as we flew home.
And afresh I– as– we got abutting to the airport in Washington, I asked the pilots could I sit up with them, ’cause I’d never done it. Been all over the apple with these pilots and sat in the passenger’s seat. Hundreds of flights, I’d never sat up there and watched them do their work. So they put the headphones on me and I sat on a jump bench amid the two pilots and watched them acreage forth the Potomac. And– and afresh we befuddled easily with tears in our eyes and afresh I larboard and get apprenticed home.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s it. The acme of your able career, it’s over–
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. Yeah. Over in a flash. Yeah. Makes no faculty at all. But–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you– apprehend then, or could you apprehend then, the after-effects of you actuality fired?
JAMES COMEY: No. I was a bit aloof at the time. And I thought, “It’s crazy to blaze me.” I’m arch the assay of Russian access and decidedly whether the– anyone in the Trump apogee had accommodating and conspired with the Russians. That makes no faculty at all. And the affidavit they’ve accustomed achieve no faculty at all, are acutely a pretense.
But I was aloof abundant that I aloof thought, “Well that’s the president’s accustomed adapted to blaze me and so I gotta aggregate out what I’m action to do with the blow of my life.” And so I was aggravating to put it out of my apperception and aloof beddy-bye and exercise and attach out with my wife and kids. And it wasn’t until the admiral tweeted at me that Friday morning afterwards I was accursed that, “James Comey bigger achievement there aren’t tapes of our conversations,” that I sorta airtight aback to the present.
In fact, it wasn’t alike then. I airtight aback three canicule afterwards in the boilerplate of the night. I woke up in the boilerplate of the night and the anticipation hit me like a abating bold, like, “Wait a minute. If there are tapes, he will be heard on that band in the Egg-shaped Arrangement allurement me to let it go. There is acceptance or could be acceptance for the affair we anticipation we’ll never be able to corroborate.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Of a accessible crime.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. Of accessible obstruction of justice. Somebody’s gotta go get those tapes. I assurance the F.B.I., right, ’cause they’ll see what I see. But I don’t assurance the administering of the Administering of Amends to do it. And so–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why not?
JAMES COMEY: Able-bodied the advocate accepted was recused and the abettor advocate general, in my view, had acted dishonorably by putting out this affectation about why I was fired. So I thought, “Well he’s ‘amica nostra.’ Right? He’s allotment of the ancestors now. I can’t assurance him.” And so what can I do? I can do article now.
I’m a clandestine aborigine and I acquire in my safe bench an characterless announcement about that conversation. And I’m a clandestine citizen, I can acquaint bodies about conversations with the admiral that are unclassified. And so I’m action to do it. And so I asked a acquaintance of abundance to get it out to a reporter. And my ambition was to alert the Administering of Amends to accredit a adapted prosecutor, go get the tapes. That’s all I was cerebration about was the tapes. Go get the tapes. Go get the tapes–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You– you accurate every appointment you had with Admiral Trump action aback to the time he was president-elect from the Trump Belfry meeting.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. I anticipate there’s a accounting almanac of– we– and I’ve larboard it out, we– he and I had one chat on the phone, it was about a classified affair that was absolutely adapted and– and so I don’t apperceive whether I did a announcement on that. But about every appointment I documented, either with a memo– and some of them were classified– memos and so I acutely created them at the F.B.I. and larboard them at the F.B.I.
But for the characterless encounters, I wrote them up on my claimed computer, printed them on my printer, with my paper, and kept a archetype here. But because I additionally appetite to assure the bureau, I larboard a archetype at the F.B.I. But accede advantage I kept a archetype here, because I was banned from the property.
One of the orders that was issued is I was never to be accustomed aback on F.B.I. property, like I had dead somebody. So my agents had to box my actuality up and accelerate it home. But I had the announcement in my safe, my characterless memo. And I thought, “If I get that out, that’ll put amazing burden on the Administering of Amends to acquire somebody go get the tapes afore Admiral Trump could abort them–”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And those tapes, in your mind, would be affirmation of a accessible crime.
JAMES COMEY: Yes. And I would be heard on those tapes in that chat with the president, and he would be heard saying, “I achievement you can let it go.” And I would be heard saying, “I accede he’s a acceptable guy.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: President’s tweeted innumerable times calling you a leaker– because of that. Aboriginal of all, what’s your acceptance to Admiral Trump?
JAMES COMEY: Look, it’s true, I mean, I’m the one who testified about it, that’s how bodies apperceive about it, that I gave that unclassified– this is a able nother chat about whether you can aperture characterless information, I don’t appetite to get complex in that. I gave that characterless announcement to my mind, who was additionally acting as my lawyer, but this wasn’t a advocate task, and asked him to accord it to a reporter. That is absolutely appropriate.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why not do it yourself? Why not do it openly, transparently?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. For one complete applied reason. At the end of my driveway was a band or media and my anticipation was, “If I do it myself, it’ll be like agriculture seagulls at the beach.” That if I accord it to one anchorman afresh what’s my acceptance to all the others about why I won’t acceptance their questions? How do I fence it off–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But– but how do you– how do you weight that aggravation adjoin the belief of actuality added open?
JAMES COMEY: I– able-bodied I– I acceptance that’s fair criticism, but my acceptance was, “I’m action to get the advice out.” I apperceive the advice is authentic and if I’m anytime asked about it, of beforehand I’ll acquaint the accuracy about it. Which is– the aboriginal time I was asked about it I did.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Admiral also– several altered tweets calls you a liar.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And?
JAMES COMEY: What am I action to do? Yeah. Bodies acquire to achieve their own judgments about added people. I would ask people– aback I– whenever we would appraise a attestant you’d consistently say, “So what’s their anatomy of work? So what are they like? What’s their arrangement and practice? Is their adventure internally consistent? Did they certificate it?” All of those questions. But I’m not action to achieve that altercation for myself.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The day afterwards you were fired– admiral is affair in the Egg-shaped Arrangement with the Russian adopted minister. Calls you a nut job. Says the pressure’s been adequate now, the burden on him has been relieved. What did you anticipate aback you saw that?
JAMES COMEY: Wow, was my reaction. Aboriginal of all, what are the Russians accomplishing in the Egg-shaped Office? One, as a adverse intelligence actuality I’m thinking, “That’s crazy–” afterwards any Americans actuality present, one. And, two, it– the pretense is melting away, the bit about, “You were accursed because of how you handled the e-mail investigation,” is melting away. You were accursed because of the Russia investigation. That’s the actuality of what I heard those words as.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And afresh that Lester Holt interview.
JAMES COMEY: Right. Aforementioned thing. The pretense has now melted.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So if there is affirmation of a crime, you appetite it out there, you appetite there to be an investigation, you basic a adapted counsel.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I did.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why exactly?
JAMES COMEY: Because I basic addition afterwards political conflict, addition who is not “amica nostra,” to acquisition the facts. And I don’t apperceive what they’ll find. I don’t apperceive whether Bob Mueller s– and his bodies will achieve that Admiral Trump committed a abomination or not. I don’t absolutely care, so connected as it’s done in the adapted way, confidently, candidly and independently.
And I apperceive the F.B.I. would be that way, and now I apperceive the prosecutors will be that way. And whatever they find, the American bodies can await on because they will acquisition the truth. Again, I don’t sit actuality saying, “I achievement the assurance is that,” or, “I achievement the accuracy is this.” I aloof appetite them to acquisition the truth. And I’m assured that they will, unless he’s interfered with in some way.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve been interviewed by Robert Mueller?
JAMES COMEY: I’m not action to allocution about my acquaintance with the adapted counsel.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re chargeless to do to that. Correct?
JAMES COMEY: Yes, but I additionally appetite to achieve abiding that I– don’t– I don’t do annihilation that adeptness get in the way of their adeptness to be effective.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you anticipate there’s any adventitious that– that autograph this book will get in the way?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t know. I achievement not. I mean, because I’ve approved to be consistent. What you anguish about with interviews or with– with– with a attestant autograph a book is, does their adventure change? And again, that’s the advantage of the memos, is that I’ve approved to be authentic to the memos and not actualize inconsistent statements.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And you additionally had to affirm to Congress about all that– a few weeks later. That was a affecting moment– for the country, it appeared to be a powerful, claimed moment for you. What were you aggravating to do there?
JAMES COMEY: I was aggravating to allege at the alpha of that to the bodies of the F.B.I., because one of the things that happened with me actuality banned by the admiral from the acreage is I never got to say, “Goodbye,” to those people. And aback I said the actuality was lies about the F.B.I. actuality in accouterment and actuality animated to get rid of me, I meant it.
I was very, complete abutting to that workforce and they were complete abutting to me. And I apperceive this ’cause of the boxes and boxes of belletrist and cards they’ve beatific me. But I never got a adventitious to say, “Thank you,” and to anatomy it and say, “keep up with your mission,” those kinds of things. And so I thought, “This is the chance.”
And I wrote the complete advice that the Senate board basic in beforehand so that I could allocution in my aperture to the bodies of the F.B.I. And I basic to do it from heart, and so I didn’t use any notes. A s– accommodation I was regretting continuing there with collywobbles in my abdomen afore walking out. And it was affecting for me because I adulation that organization, I adulation the mission, I adulation those people.
And– and so saying, “Goodbye,” to them was an affecting affair for me. And I about didn’t get through it. I started to asphyxiate up talking about them. But I knew it would beggarly a lot to them, and I knew it would action me a admeasurement of closure. And it aloof absolutely wasn’t what the Senate board basic to hear, but I thought, “I acquire an befalling now,” and so I took it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: It is so ablaze how abundant you adulation the F.B.I. Are you altercate you didn’t aching it?
JAMES COMEY: No. I’m convinced– able-bodied I acceptance it’s accessible to altercate yourself, but I’m assertive that it was aching as little as accessible by advantage of what I did and that it would acquire been aching added in added ways. But no, I– I anticipate authoritative the decisions I had to achieve aching the organization.
The F.B.I.– you know, and the admiral of Donald Trump hurts the organization. The organization’s not politicized, that actuality is all nonsense. It’s an apolitical organization, but it’s answerable now to amazing attack. And I trace that all the way aback to the alpha of the e-mail investigation.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And can it survive the attacks?
JAMES COMEY: Yes, it can survive the attacks. It’ll booty a while to recover, and accident will be done to the country, because the aspect of the F.B.I. is a adapted abettor animadversion on a aperture and talking to a abomination victim and acceptable them to appear advanced or continuing up in a attorneys and cogent a jury, “I activate this in the left-hand drawer of this fraudster’s desk,” and actuality believed at the aperture and in the courtroom.
And the connected attacks, connected attacks, risks abrasive that. And that’s why– my affair about the attacks on the F.B.I. is not a political thing, we all accusation that alignment as a country. Anybody should appetite the F.B.I. to be that added in American life. And adapted now it’s the Republicans who are advancing it.
Democrats are accomplishing a able lot of advancing aftermost year because the teams are on altered sides. We acquire to recognize, we appetite an alignment that is not on anyone’s side. That’s in the civic interest. And I achievement bodies can acceleration above, appear aback to the appellation of the book, acquire a college adherence aloft your association to the things that aggregate for the country.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Afore we broke, you mentioned that they didn’t assurance the Amends Department. What do you achieve of the advocate general?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t apperceive what to achieve of him. I mean, I abandoned formed with him complete briefly afore I was fired. My faculty of him, maybe it’s arbitrary to him, was that he was over akin for the job. And– that the job was f– much, abundant bigger than he was. And that he was action to attempt in it. That’s my sense.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And you additionally said that the abettor advocate general, who’s now active the Russia investigation, you said what he put out in abutment of your battlefront was aloof a pretext, and the pretense afresh fell away. So can the American bodies acquire aplomb in the man who’s authoritative the Russia investigation?
JAMES COMEY: Yes, in this sense. Aboriginal of all, the American bodies can acquire complete aplomb in Robert Mueller. As I said– earlier, he and I are not abutting friends, but I’ve accepted him and watched his work–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve had dinner, played golf?
JAMES COMEY: Yeah. I anticipate we played golf already in our 25 years. And– sorry, and– and I’ve had banquet with him maybe already or twice. So I apperceive him and I can s– and I– we’re friendly. But I apperceive his assignment best of all. And I’ve watched it closely. He’s not on anybody’s side. He does not affliction about annihilation except the truth. And so they can acquire abundant aplomb if Bob Mueller is let– larboard in abode to do his job, he will acquisition the truth.
And again, I don’t apperceive what that will be. He may achieve that there is annihilation that touches Admiral Trump or any of his arch people. And that’s fine, so connected as he’s able to acquisition that truth. And so that’s the best important thing. And I additionally anticipate the abettor advocate general– I don’t apperceive this, but has acceptable abstruse a aching assignment from the way he handled my firing. And so it gives him all the added acumen to act advantageously in administering Administrator Mueller.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What will– what will it beggarly if Admiral Trump is tries to blaze Robert Mueller?
JAMES COMEY: It would, I hope, set off anxiety accretion that this is his best austere advance yet on the aphorism of law. And it would be article that our complete country– again, Democrats and Republicans, that is college than all the accustomed fights about policy. That is about the belief of this country and the aphorism of law. And it would be to the abiding abashment of partisans if they were clumsy to see that college akin and to assure it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you anticipate the abettor advocate general’ll backpack out that order?
JAMES COMEY: No. I don’t. I think, accustomed his acquaintance with me, that– that he has an befalling in administering Bob Mueller to restore some of his able reputation. And I’m m– awful assured that he would debris to accept that order.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And if Robert Mueller decides to accompany a case, would you be a attestant for the prosecution?
JAMES COMEY: Sure, if he asked me to be. I’m a actuality witness. That relates to– I’m sure, to an obstruction investigation. Breadth that’s action to go, I don’t know. But potentially, I’d be– I’d be a witness.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Are there things you don’t apperceive that you haven’t said that could accident Admiral Trump?
JAMES COMEY: Things that I don’t apperceive that I haven’t said?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Thing– I’m sorry. Are there– are there things that you apperceive but haven’t said that could accident Admiral Trump?
JAMES COMEY: That’s a acceptable question. I don’t anticipate so. I don’t anticipate I’m captivation aback on you. I’m not talking about the capacity of investigations. But I larboard a connected time ago. And there’s been a lotta assignment done aback the day I was fired. And so I don’t– I acquire no abstraction what Bob Mueller has.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But you apprehend the papers. You chase the investigation. Do you anticipate bodies affronted to Admiral Trump colluded with the Russians?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t apperceive is the honest answer. That– that was th– what we were aggravating to investigate at the time. Was anyone acceptable the Russians, conspiring with the Russians? There’s no agnosticism there was smoke about that. Whether there’s fire, I– I didn’t breach connected abundant to know.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You address that Admiral Trump is unethical, untethered to the truth. Is Donald Trump unfit to be president?
JAMES COMEY: Yes. But not in the way m– I generally apprehend bodies allocution about it. I don’t buy this actuality about him actuality mentally amateur or aboriginal stages of dementia. He strikes me as a actuality of aloft boilerplate intelligence who’s tracking conversations and knows what’s action on. I don’t anticipate he’s medically unfit to be president. I anticipate he’s about unfit to be president.A actuality who sees moral adequation in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies consistently about affairs big and babyish and insists the American bodies acquire it, that person’s not fit to be admiral of the United States, on moral grounds. And that’s not a action statement. Again, I don’t affliction what your angle are on accoutrements or clearing or taxes.
There’s article added important than that that should affiliate all of us, and that is our admiral accusation actualize anniversary and attach to the belief that are at the aggregate of this country. The best important actuality truth. This admiral is not able to do that. He is about unfit to be president.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re the aloft administrator of the F.B.I. You’ve served in arch positions in the Administering of Amends for Republican and Autonomous presidents. And you anticipate Donald Trump is unfit– s– the basal bandage standard, unfit to be president?
JAMES COMEY: I do. I do. And I– I– I achievement one of the things that comes outta the Trump administering his aboriginal appellation is a acceptance that, as abundant as we action about those action issues in this country, what’s at the aggregate of this nation, we are aloof a accumulating of ideas. And at the aggregate of those account is that there is a affair declared truth.There is the aphorism of law. There is integrity. Those things aggregate afore any fights about policies. And bodies who acquaint themselves, “Well, yes, Donald Trump is bent but I’m accepting the adapted Supreme Court amends or the adapted authoritative rollback,” are badinage themselves because if we lose that binding to the truth, if that stops actuality the barometer at the affection of our accessible life, what are we?
Where are we as a country? So I anguish sometimes bodies anticipate I’m talking about politics. Not in the way we commonly allocution about in this country. But I achievement in the best important way. Belief matter. This admiral does not reflect the belief of this country.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: If you are right, what is the remedy? Should Donald Trump be impeached?
JAMES COMEY: Allegation is– is a catechism of law and actuality and politics. And so that’ll be bent by bodies gather–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re a citizen. You acquire a judgment.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I’ll acquaint you, I’ll accord you a aberrant answer. I achievement not because I anticipate impeaching and removing Donald Trump from arrangement would let the American bodies off the angle and acquire article appear alongside that I acquire they’re assignment apprenticed to do directly. Bodies in this country accusation to angle up and go to the voting berth and vote their values.
We’ll action about guns. We’ll action about taxes. We’ll action about all those added things bottomward the road. But you cannot have, as admiral of the United States, addition who does not reflect the belief that I acquire Republicans abundance and Democrats abundance and Independents treasure. That is the aggregate of this country. That’s our foundation. And so impeachment, in a way, would abbreviate ambit that.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But– but if Robert Mueller finds affirmation of obstruction of justice, what is the remedy?
JAMES COMEY: Well, sure. Tha– I– I didn’t beggarly to say that I appetite them to stop accomplishing their assay or whatever flows from that. But in a way, as a citizen, I anticipate we owe it to anniversary added to get off the couch and anticipate about what unites us. I anticipate about the bodies who accurate Trump, and accept to abutment Trump.
A lotta them appear from families with a appreciative history of aggressive service. And that’s a admirable thing. What did their fathers and grandfathers action and die for? Not for clearing policy. Not for a tax policy. Not for Supreme Court justice. They fought and died for a set of ideas. The aphorism of law. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. The truth.
That’s what they fought and died for. And at some point, we acquire to focus on that and achieve abiding that whoever’s arch us embodies those and we adjudicator that baton by their binding to those values. Afresh we’ll go aback to affronted like bodies and dogs about all the things we commonly action about.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I’ve talked to a lotta bodies who’ve watched you for a connected time– formed with you, adore you. And some of them appear out with– with this storyline on James Comey. “Here was a guy who admired actuality F.B.I. director. He basic to accumulate that job added than annihilation abroad in the world. That’s why he didn’t allege up on several altered occasions aback he should’ve announced up– about Admiral Trump. And that’s why he’s speaking out now. He got fired. He’s angry.”
JAMES COMEY: I get that. I mean, I get why bodies would anticipate that. That’s aloof not adapted though. I mean, if all I cared about was accepting the job and action along, accepting along, it’s adamantine to explain some of the things I did during 2016. My ambition with Admiral Trump was to try and acquisition a way to assignment with a new administering and assure the candor of the F.B.I. That was my goal. I’m abiding I did it imperfectly. You’ve acicular out w– I anticipate analytic agency in which I could’ve done it bigger or differently. That was my goal.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: At any point did you think, “I should resign”?
JAMES COMEY: No. In fact, at any point I thought, “I acquire to breach to assure this institution.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you anchored for a s– cheep storm from Admiral Trump?
JAMES COMEY: Sure. I don’t chase him on Twitter, but I’m abiding it’s action to come. And that’s okay. I mean, that’s okay.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You abutting the book with a complete active angel anecdotic the Trump presidency. What is that?
JAMES COMEY: I anticipate of it as a backwoods fire. That backwoods fires do amazing damage. His admiral is doing, and will do, amazing accident to our norms and our values, abnormally the truth. And so that’s bad. And abhorrent things appear in backwoods fires.
But I’m an optimistic person. And so I acquire to see the befalling in a backwoods blaze ’cause what backwoods fires do is acquiesce things to abound that never could’ve grown. Were awash out, didn’t acquire the ablaze or the baptize to grow. And so I see already things growing and blooming that didn’t afore this fire.
I see the kids boot in the streets, including my own kids, about guns. I see all kinds of civilian association accepting engaged. I see parents talking to their kids about accuracy cogent and ageism and bent and respect. That was not accident three or four years ago. And so there’s a lot of acceptable growing.
And I additionally see the Courts and Congress accepting complex in agency they hadn’t before. So I acquire to see opportunity. I anticipate this backwoods blaze will leave us bigger and stronger, as did the aftermost backwoods fire. Watergate was a backwoods fire. It re-balanced ability amid the branches of government. I anticipate we’re action to see that. And I anticipate we’re action to be bigger for it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Brace years back, you gave a accent I anticipate to the F.B.I. cadre saying, “If we abatement in adulation with our own virtue, we can go sideways.” At any point over the aftermost two years, did you abatement casualty to that? Did you abatement in adulation with your own virtue?
JAMES COMEY: I don’t anticipate so. But I abashed about it constantly. And– and the guardrail for that, because that’s a big anguish I acquire about myself, was to beleaguer myself with bodies who will hit that. Hit at the certainty. Hit at the pride to achieve abiding I’ve anticipation about things well.
I achievement bodies apprehend the book for a cardinal of reasons. It’s about administering and shows the accent of surrounding yourself with bodies who will blow at you, who will assert that you see the accuracy about added stuff. But best of all, about yourself ’cause I acquire a lotta strengths, I acquire a lotta weaknesses. And I appetite to achieve abiding the bodies about me apperceive that and advice me guardrail adjoin those weaknesses.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How does this end?
JAMES COMEY: How does– you beggarly m– how does my captivation end?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s say two th– f– aboriginal of all, for the country, how does this end?
JAMES COMEY: I anticipate best likely, in a complete important presidential election– the abutting presidential election, breadth I do achievement bodies of all political stripes will apprehend what unites us is absolutely added important than what divides us. And that we acquire to acquire a leader– I don’t affliction what affair a leader’s from. We acquire to acquire a baton who will actualize the s– values– the belief of this country. That’s how I achievement it ends.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And for James Comey?
JAMES COMEY: I’m action to teach. I’m action to biking about and allege about leadership. I appetite to be useful, abnormally to adolescent people. It’s absolutely fun to accredit with adolescent people. Allocution about bodies who will blow and crowd you. But I appetite to action them a eyes of here’s what it should attending like.
I’ve never absolutely gotten there, but here’s what it should attending like. Don’t withdraw. Get into the accessible square. Be allotment of the action of this country ’cause we accusation you so badly. And aback you do it, anticipate about what affairs best of all. And that is the belief complex in your institutions.
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