Former FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday criticized a judge who voiced skepticism about the prosecution of Paul Manafort, saying the judge’s comments about overstepping were themselves going too far.
“I don’t know how a federal judge could possibly know enough about an investigation … to offer a view like that,” Comey said in an interview with The Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig.
U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis last week told Justice Department prosecutors that he thought the financial crimes charges against the former Trump campaign chairman were really about “getting information that Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever.”
Comey also said that as an American, he thought President Donald Trump should cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe — but if he were Trump’s lawyer, “you’d have to be very thoughtful about that given that your client is somebody who lies a lot.”
And he said he didn’t know where allegations in a recent House Intelligence Committee report about the FBI’s handling of former national security adviser Michael Flynn came from. The report alleged that bureau agents thought Flynn was merely confused, not lying, about meeting with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. “He pled guilty!” Comey said.
In the wide-ranging conversation to promote his new book “A Higher Loyalty,” Comey reflected on everything from his initial encounters with Trump to the latest developments on Stormy Daniels and Rudy Giuliani.
He told Leonnig that he knew from the beginning Trump could come under criminal investigation, since the Russia probe would inevitably reach into the Oval Office: “We discussed it and contemplated the possibility very early on.”
Comey wouldn’t divulge whether the FBI had any leads on compromising information Russia could leverage over Trump, but he left the door open. “It’s possible — I wouldn’t say likely, but possible — that they had something like that,” he said.
And he also criticized Hillary Clinton for discussing classified material on an unclassified system — and for not creating a “healthy leadership culture” where advisers would counsel her otherwise.
He added that penetration of Clinton’s servers, particularly China, “was a serious concern of ours … but we couldn’t find the trail that established that any foreign adversary had gotten into her servers.”