Former FBI Director James Comey on Monday criticized a House Intelligence Committee report that found no evidence of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, saying the FBI had a “basis for investigating” the matter.
“There was a basis for investigating, meaning there were facts to support an investigation” into alleged ties between Russia and members of Trump’s campaign, Comey said in an interview with the PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff. “To say there was no evidence just wasn’t the case.”
Comey joined a chorus of critics who have slammed the report in recent days. President Trump touted the finding on Twitter, repeating his frequent claim that the Russia probe was a “total witch hunt.”
In the NewsHour interview, Comey, who is on a media tour to promote his new book, also defended his decision-making surrounding the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server during the 2016 election.
The former FBI chief said he was trying to “do the right thing” when he sent a letter to Congress less than two weeks before the election announcing the bureau had reopened its probe into Clinton’s emails. Comey said the alternative option — not going public with the FBI’s actions — would have been “catastrophic.”
“We were stuck in the middle of a no-win situation,” Comey said.
Clinton and many Democrats have argued that Comey’s letter to Congress helped Trump win the election. Comey, who was fired by Trump last May, has insisted he wasn’t taking sides in the race.
Other highlights from the interview:
- Comey said he launched an investigation to find out if someone at the FBI leaked information to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani about his decision to go public with the reopened Clinton probe. Two days before Comey sent his letter to Congress, Giuliani predicted the Trump campaign had a “pretty big surprise.” Giuliani, who joined Trump’s personal legal team this month, has said he was not talking about the Clinton probe.
- The former FBI director said he regretted including a description of Trump’s physical appearance in his memoir, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership.” Comey called his description of Trump’s skin color and hand size a “distraction” from the book’s central message on leadership, and that he did not intend to take a shot at the president.
- Comey acknowledged that leaking happens at the FBI but said he didn’t think it was a “huge problem,” as Trump often argues. “It matters, but the FBI is not a sieve. It happens because we have 38,000 people,” Comey said.