tv James Comey A Higher Loyalty CSPAN May 6, 2018 7:15am-8:22am EDT
would bring not only balance back into the tax system overall, but they would raise revenue for people to lift to 20 million out of poverty overnights. >> afterwards errs on book tv every saturday at 10:00 p.m. eastern and sunday at 9:00 p.m. eastern and pacific time. all previous afterwords are available to watch her website, book tv.org. [applause]. >> evening and welcome and thanks for coming. on bradley graham, co-owner along with my wife, melissa and along with everyone here we are
very glad that you are here. putting on an event like this involves lots of people. things first goes to the folks here at george washington university. we at hand a p have been working for a number of years now to present large events with popular authors and we are very grateful to be able to have access to such a spacious and convenient facility) downtown dc our appreciation also to access which has joined in sponsoring this event, this official launch last year and it's become a fresh competitive addition to washington that journalism scene covering media trends and politics on an innovative platform. we are all very pleased to be presenting james comey this evening. the former fbi director has been
very much in the news since the release a couple of weeks ago of his book, "a higher loyalty" appearing on news programs run the country. he has detailed account for shell decision in the 2016 campaign that he made as the nation's top law enforcement officer and his subsequent interaction with president trump who famously fired him a year ago. he's also recounted stories from his childhood in new york and new jersey, college years at william and mary and his distinguished career which has alternated between increasingly senior job in the us justice department and positions in private practice with such firms as lockheed martin and bridgewater associates. james comey said he never expected to write about, but eventually chose to do so to drive a conversation about ethical leadership and our nation's core values. he's called president trump out
of step with those values, comparing him to a mambo boss who stresses personal loyalty over the lot and has little regard for morality or truth. not surprisingly, the president has had some choice words for james comey, calling him a leaker and a liar among other derogatory epithets. meanwhile, sales of "a higher loyalty" keep going up. [applause]. and tickets for events like this one so out in minutes. this evening you will get a chance to see and hear james comey in person and form your own impression without a filter. you will be in conversation with mike allen, one of washington's most prominent and tireless journalists took mike wrote for the "washington post" and some other news organizations before launching the daily boot-- newsletter playbook at
"politico" over a decade ago. he left "politico" in 2016 to establish axial's work is now executive editor and author every morning of the newsletter. ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming james comey and mike allen. [applause]. >> thank you very much, brad. we so admire the business that you and melissa have built, a great growing independent bookstore here in the nation's capital, just opened at the wharf coming soon to union market and your son, is here. backstage you told me there's something you hope to never do again in your life. >> wear a tie. [laughter] and what are my daughters reminded me she's getting married in july and i will have
to wear a tie. >> you have your wish until then you were saying that through all of this, roll out the different types of events that you have done you and i were both encouraged. today there is a very involved audience with a big sack of questions already and you said you like a live audience. >> because of the instant feedback. if you are not make it-- making sense you can hear it in the audience. if you made sense you can hear that as well. it's fun and also useful to get that interaction. >> brad was referring to the president's tweets and that your book party the other night one of the first people who was thanked was president trump. they think president trump for all of his tweeting. were you surprised he's been driving up your sales. [laughter] >> it was not i who thanked him for tweeting that me.
i wish he wouldn't tweet at me. i don't know what effect it has had on book sales. i been blown away and freaked by the weight-- rate at which it's going, but it makes me happy. >> like with michael was he learned and he blessed michael will's retirement to. >> i said once i'm kind of like a breakup he can't get over for some reason and i'm out there living my best life and he wakes up tweeting at me. [applause]. >> before we plunge and went to thank all of you for coming out your card a great time visiting with you. one of our things at the george washington university to listen or auditorium with this amazing space has brad said, to great young businesspeople keith urban and map with him or-- match with
him or and thank you to c-span carrying this live. with all the interviews you've done, c-span carried this live so thank you c-span. marla, executive director of platte iron books and thank you to all my colleagues that helped pull this off. as you got in that media spin cycle, what did you learn about yourself and what a july about the the media? >> i learned i don't love being recognized on the streets in airports and bathrooms and elevators all kinds of other places. >> well, when you are 6'8"-- >> my wife says i should be in a wheelchair with a straw hat, but that's not being i crave course live on. what i've learned about the media is a lot of people ask questions about a book they have not read. >> there will be a quiz.
director comey, this book is largely about leadership and part of your original idea was a leadership book. help us with this leadership paradox, how do you be confident enough to be humble? >> it requires enough sense of self, a basic conviction that i'm okay, that also allows you to realize i'm not okay enough and gives you the comfort to our from other people and show the humility necessary to listen to other people. it requires balance. too much confidence in its wipes humility off the board. too much insecurity makes it impossible to listen and learn from others so, i mean, when i use that term is a comforting yourself that also allows you to realize you're not good enough in the past two getting better is learning from other people. >> what ingredient would you say
is most often missing from leaders or maybe most often missing from your bosses? >> humility. i have known a lot of leaders and seen a lot of leaders and overconfidence is a great challenge of human existence, but especially in leadership and they were so challenged in learning from those of us below them and in taking joy in our achievements-- actually, i think that's the key to being a good parent is not to compete with your children, but to learn that you should take joy from how they do. so, that missing balance leavening the confidence. you got to have confidence to be a leader, but you have to have a measure of humility to balance out and to allow you to be better injured engaging with the people that work for you. >> you will teach a course of leadership and ethics with the college of william and mary. what is your one rule or lesson for ethics? what is the one thing i can keep in mind to make a spot decision when i have to? >> the most important thing, i
think, is to ask yourself sort of the golden rule which is a theme that runs through all the world's religion is am i treating this other as i would want to be treated is for me the most important touchstone. lots of other touchstones, but to meet the golden rule should be at the core of it. >> who in this whole russia thing has been a model of good behavior? [laughter] >> that's a great question. i would have to look through the government side for that, mike. i admire and i write a book which i hope you get a chance to read that jim clapper is the leader in government i most admired. [applause]. because he had that balance of confidence and humility and another one is he was both tough and kind and i think i saw that throughout my interaction with him including during the 2016 election thereafter.
>> we will start with the news and by the way we hope you will follow on the conversation #-- it will be an ongoing conversation. if you were negotiating with president trump's legal team on the terms of an interview which is what's going on right now what would you insist on? >> 's on the prosecutor? >> yes, sir, again. [laughter] >> i would in any interview with the subject, i would want to make sure i had unlimited time, a clear understanding and i would look to negotiate away any boundaries and ask any follow-up questions i wish and then i would want to make sure there's a clear understanding on the part of the subject of the interview that whether or not
it's in the grand jury still april-- false statement would be prosecutable in those of you the key things. open ended as time and subject of clear understanding that you are obligated to tell the truth and failing to do so will be at your peril. >> do you believe in the end the special counsel will interview president trump? >> i do not now. i don't know. i hope the special counsel is free together all the information he needs to get the truth. i don't know what the truth will be. i don't care as long as he gets the truth and it's hard in almost all investigations to imagine getting to that without some interaction with the subject, but whether he gets it or not i hope we is free to get to the truth. >> if you got president trump under oath, what would you ask? [laughter] >> that's a good question. i don't think i can answer because one thing i have been careful not to do is to talk about what i'd know about the rush investigation. >> you are private citizen. you read the paper in your big
news consumer. what would you like to know that the president can answer? >> i would want to know as much as i could about the facts around things like his interaction with me on february 14, because to understand if there's an obstruction case there setting aside the legal question if one can be brought against a sitting president i would want to understand state of mind as i have said the frustration of some journalists i don't know the answer to that. i can recount the conversation, but i don't know what was in his head, so if i were the interviewer i would ask lots of questions to get around my topic and explore it as deeply as i could. >> given the fact that we do know, does it look like president trump obstructed? >> my answer is i don't know and i can't responsibly answer that question because it requires an understanding of facts that i cannot see from where i sit that
what was to understand his state of mind the investigator would want to go around that understanding to medications before and after, what's a written record, lots of things that prevent me from being anything other than a witness. >> you write in the book it's possible that neither he nor his campaign willingly colluded with russia. very possible. >> first of all collusion is not a thing in the world, so the government investigators and prosecutors i don't know how that actually got into our lexicon, but the question is is there evidence that americans conspired with the russians or aided and abetted the russians. >> you are skeptical there is. >> welcome i don't know the answer to that question. are skeptical by nature and that was the subject of an fbi investigation that was ongoing the time i was fired and so i don't know what it's come up with. again, if left alone i'm confident this group of
investigators will find out what the truth is, but i don't know the answer. >> in retrospect given what you wrote in your memos should you have resigned before you are fired? >> no, definitely not and because i led an organization that is supposed to be both in the executive branch and not quite of the executive branch independent-minded, independent in its decisions about fact investigation, so i thought it-- my discomfort and interaction with president trump made it more important for me to stay, so i would not have resigned. >> i asked readers of the axios for questions. hundreds of them. one west do you think the people morally opposed to the president can serve him? >> can serve him? yes. the question is in what capacity at what cost to yourself because i do believe anyone close will be stained. >> what was the cost to you? were you stained?
>> i was fired. [laughter] i don't think i was stained. obviously, its top to be trapped in yourself. i don't think so, but people have to make a calculation-- not calculation, have to be keenly aware of the point at which they would move from serving the country to it enabling conduct they would find morally objectionable and that's a judgment each individual has to make themselves. >> what critique of you is most fair? >> critique of me as most fair, i actually don't think the stuff about sanctimony is fair. you would have to know me better to know that. i have a number of weaknesses that i wrestle with the work worked very during my life growing up with great help from my wife and family to make sure i'm not making decisions driven by ego, but i think probably the fairest critique of me is probably that i can be stubborn
and maybe that i can make decisions to quickly. i don't think i did hear kirk i think sometimes i-- convince myself of the indecisive when i'm being compulsive and i try to guard rail that with the team i keep around me, but those are fair critiques of me. i actually don't see those emerging in the clinton e-mail think because of the guard rails i had around me and the team, but those are my two answers. >> here's a question from a hilly area-- hillary supporter you told senators that you might have-- you were mildly nauseous when you pitted the election and i was looking for mortified, horrified, can you do something more than mildly nauseous if you tip the election? >> if you experience my sense of nausea, but it makes me feel sick to my stomach and so one of my kids pointed out that i should've said nauseated there
to be grammatically correct, but maybe part of it is i sure hope not and maybe i would feel more physical pain if i convinced myself we actually did, but it makes me sick to think that we might embed any-- because our lives are devoted to the institution to have no role there and we are stuck in the middle of it and it's the idea we had an impact is sickening. >> do you accept you may have two to the? >> it's possible. i don't know and a secretly i hope someday really smart academics come up with some explanation that rules out the fbi had impact, but part of what makes it nausea inducing is even looking back it would not change the choices or the way i think about those choices. they really sucked, and the fact that it might have an impact just adds to the pain. it doesn't change about how i think about what we face
sometimes you are stuck with bad or worse and you always have to seek bad over worse. >> you write in "a higher loyalty" about rudy giuliani who is your boss and what is the effect of president hiring rudy giuliani for his legal? >> i don't know. >> what you think he did? >> i suppose because he develop confidence-- i don't know i'm just speculating, confidence in rudy during the campaign. rudy is a very talented person. >> what can you do in this situation? >> i don't know. negotiate an end to the investigation. i don't know if that is accurate reporting. >> is that really how it works? >> not in my experience, no. nor would a relationship-- i don't know the relationship between bob mueller rudy giuliani, but nor would a relationship matter, so i don't know what it means. >> as deputy attorney general you appointed patrick its gerald in that stupid-- could easily be
case and what you think of the pardon and you think is a message of michael cohen or others? >> i think it's an attack on the rule of law. there's a reason president george w. bush for whom scooter libby worked declined to pardon him. president bush concluded justice was done. of the rule of law worked here. as an act of mercy community settings, but i now have a president 12, 14 years later say he deserves to be pardoned with no review our consultation as best i can tell with the prosecutors and investigators. i can think of a sensible reason to do that so i think it's an attack on the rule of law. whether it's a message to anyone in particular, i don't know. someone asked me if it was a message to me and my wife reminded me it's not about you, dear. i don't know if it's a message, but even if it's not a message to anyone, it is an attack on the rule of law because it's really important that people be
prosecuted for lying blatantly, which is what that was in the criminal justice system because without that the rule of law just melts away. >> what would happen to the investigation if president trump issued preemptive pardons imac i don't know. [laughter] that's all the time we have. thank you. [laughter] >> can you imagine that happening? like does that look possible? >> sure it's the world we are in. i can imagine myself saying that in any other environment, but i'm sure it's possible. i don't know what the effect would be, though, because i don't know enough about preemptive pardons and i also don't know to what extent are there-- smarter people would have to answer this for you than i, but if you preemptively pardon someone does it depend upon the description of the
pardon and are there room for state action, federal action? i don't know. >> based on the fact you think it's possible is remarkable like based on what's happened before, why do you think it's possible or do you say solely in this environment can you imagine that >> solely in this environment where you have a president who is actively undermining the rule of law and the institutions that we count on no matter what your political affiliation we count on as a country to uphold this democracy and the routine attacks on the justice department, fbi, the courts at least to me and a quick condemnation of the fbi acting like subs allegedly when executing court order search warrants, all of that together along with the presidents habit of not telling the truth repeatedly tells me that the president might do something like that. >> for those tweeting along it is #axios coldly.
would he think of the redline same the red-- the counselor should stay away? >> i don't know what to make of this. >> are those fair game in an investigation like this? >> is it fair game for an investigator to look at finances >> sure depends on if it's logically connected to the subject of the investigation. >> reporting shows the president reacted extremely viscerally when he found out there had been subpoenas about financial matters. >> i read the reporting i don't know if the reporting was accurate or what was behind his reaction. >> are you surprised that these issues did not come up for the presidents when he was in business before he was in office? >> which issues? >> issues about personal finance >> i gather there was substantial feature of his life in bankruptcies and other things, so personal finances-- i don't know exactly what your question is, but personal finances have been a big part of
his personal finances. >> no one can get inside robert mueller's had better than you. you told chuck todd you are duty bound not to talk about anything you learn during the investigation, so talk about only what has been made public censure departure may 9, 10 days until your big anniversary,-- >> my paper anniversary, i think >> special counsel was named a week after that. from filings, please, what do you find most constructive about this investigation was going? >> i can't offer that because i can't separate in my head my characterization of the facts that occurred after may 9, and before so i can't answer that and you can see the book i have tried not to talk about the investigation. >> you are a huge news consumer. as you look at coverage of the investigation, what does the
media get too hopped up about and what are we maybe overlook less than an experienced i would? >> i worry that the media were people consuming the media doesn't-- people don't realize that nothing is coming from the people who know what they're talking about. [applause]. and that's not-- i'm not picking on the media worked as not the media's fall, but the sources defense lawyers, people around them, in my experience, and not robert bowlers operation, which i think is tight as a drum and so none of us know what's going on in robert mueller's investigation. >> with you and-- when you are in office-- canonical-- [inaudible] >> other links can be nonclassified. what is your definition of a link? >> disclosure of protected
information. it can be brought in grand jury information, sensitive personal information, but something you are not supposed to give out to the media by rule and statute. >> and you never did that? >> nope. >> why did you give your memos to benjamin? >> i didn't give them to benjamin. i gave a memo to one person, daniel richman. >> why did you not go straight to the "new york times"? >> because i thought if i do it directly it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach because i had this huge crowd of journalists at the end of my driveway and how will i say no comments and how will i avoid interaction with people like you and so-- >> you are concerned about our feelings? >> no, just my ability to stay away from you. >> fair enough. you struggle with sensitivities around elections.
its 190 days before the midterm election where robert mueller's findings could be a big deal or do you think you'll take that into account? >> i don't know. he likely will because of the norms of the department of justice. despite what you have heard there aren't any rules about how we act in the run-up to an election. there's a memo from 2012 about election related crimes and i keep seeing journalist hyperlink to like that's the rules. that's not the rules. there's a norm and you avoid reaction in the run-up to an election that may have an impact if you can and i'm sure he will operate with that in mind. what conduct that will drive is hard to say. >> and how would you adjusted that? would there be a quiet period, do you think things will be done soon, i mean, how do don't-- those norms pay out when have a hundred 90 date deadline? >> i can answer in this case because you need to be able to
have a vision where the investigation is going to whether you can responsibly concluded well in advance of an election or whether it's reasonably by its own course carried me on the election and if so you don't make the decision based on the election, but you look at the investigation and the election site all else being equal can responsibly avoid public action am i have an impact. it's difficult to answer other than in the abstract way. >> what advice would you give him about coming out-- [inaudible] >> worked well for me. [laughter] >> touché. >> i doubt-- he doesn't need my advice on that because this norm is part of my existence as a federal prosecutor fbi director sans' sure it's part of his as well and you can give advice on that without knowing what are the alternatives, what can you
reasonably avoid, what's unavoidable. >> in your very brief interview with george stephanopoulos, you said president trump shouldn't be in sheep-- impeached. the voters should make that decision. i think some of your other interviews you discuss the calvary. what's your current view? >> what i meant and i think i screwed this up with george stephanopoulos, but i meant to express a sense-- of course impeachment should follow the law and the facts. it's a process laid out in our constitution. that should go where the facts of law take it. what i was trying to express with a sense of that in a way it would be too bad for a couple reasons. first, the president if he were impeached and convicted and removed from office it would drive a dysfunction divide into our public culture that would take us long time to to fix and
i think it would let the voters off the hook. i think the american people without regard to their political strife need to stand up and say forget guns, taxes, the supreme court justices, something matters that's above those in that our leader reflect our values. [applause]. >> that's super interesting. that is different. you think the process would be bad for america? >> i think in many ways the process would it derive-- would create a sense of illegitimacy, a big part of supporters of president trump that would be difficult to unwind and as i meant by drive our division's deep her fabric and that a healthier way in many ways to resolve this is that the american people especially those that don't normally vote stand up and say this is what we stand
for. that moment of clarity and inflection would be very good for america and you look at the history of our political division, we cyclically find times with terrible political division and 73 sets, world war ii reset a lot of the dysfunction divide of the 1930s. surely, we don't need that in the moment of clarity would come from an election would be my hope. >> what are the chances president trump will be on the ballot in 2020 the mac i have no idea. can i ask you? >> what are the chances-- >> apparently not. >> what are the chances he wins? >> i don't know that either. >> what do you think? >> it would depend upon things that i'm not an expert in, whether there's a third-party candidate, all those things. >> you said you don't know when you gave an interview to robert
mueller guess you don't know i mean is it more likely or less? >> in a normal world. [laughter] it would be very hard for the president of the united states not to submit to an interview in connection with an investigation that touches upon the conduct-- his conduct amount of people around him. in a normal world the american people would find that very difficult to accept. i'm only hesitating because we don't live in that world, so i don't know-- there are so many norms that have been broken that disturbed me greatly. a regular basis the president tweets i should be in jail. that's crazy. close your eyes. i keep saying to republicans close your eyes and imagine barack obama waking up some morning and saying someone that you don't like should be in jail. republicans would freak out about that, so where's that?
[applause]. that the long way of saying that's why i say i don't know the normal world everyone would freak out, but i don't know. >> but, you think he should? >> in what capacity are you asking me,? as american i would expect my president to respect the rule of law enough first of all not to attack the administration of justice on a regular basis and to cooperate with a lawful appropriate investigation. that's what i would expect. >> should hillary clinton have been charged with a crime? >> no. >> when she was interviewed under oath? >> did not matter she was under oath. the same thing with interview of president trump and whether you are under oath or not is still a crime to lie during that interview, so it's inconsequential in terms of the strategy of the interviewers. >> do you wish you had one?
>> do i wish he had one? [laughter] that's when i'm not going to answer, i don't think. >> you said your family members -- >> that's for sure. >> what would your life be like if she had one? >> i also don't know the answer to that. i think i would still be the fbi director. [applause]. the reason i say that is-- someone asked me to compare that to an it's too hard to compare the two accept secretary clinton is someone deeply enmeshed in the rule of law, respect for institutions, a lawyer, so given a backward and reasonably confident that even though she was unhappy with the decisions the fbi made she would not fire the fbi director as a result, but again i don't know that for sure. >> so, you write about your
earlier career as a prosecutor gets the mob and you talk about the silent circle of a sent around mafia bosses, enablers and accomplices. who are those people for president trump? >> i'm not prepared to answer that one, mike. i meant that-- i do think that resonates in for me that's why wrote it about president trump and the culture of his leadership, but i have seen in other environments investigated a lot of corporate fraud and that was a familiar feature of a leadership of a corporation engaged in criminal misconduct that silent circle of assent with the boss and controlling we will the boss says. >> who do you admire around president trump? >> i admire jim mattis a great deal and believe he is an american patriot and get up every morning hoping he's getting up that same morning.
for a long time i worked closely as fbi director with john kelly when he was head of southern command and developed a positive relationship with him. >> you have studied the dossier closely because it appears more accurate and inaccurate? >> i can to sort it for you that way what i can say is that core feature of the so-called dossier was an allegation that was richly cooperated by other intelligence gathered by the intelligence community namely the russians were engaged in an effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and i think about is the hub of the dicey eight with a variety of smokes that is tough to sort out the work was underway when i left to see a much of that we could rule in or rule out and so i can't say. >> but, it could all be true? >> sure. i just tried to go through my head. in large measure it could be true or be false.
>> the question from ed hunter who is here tonight. how concerned should we personally be a about cyber security beyond terrorism, are our investment in bank accounts safe? >> you should be very concerned because we have connected our entire lives to the internet come not just our financial world, but our help world, social world and if anyone wants to hurt us and the challenge because of the internet is not designed for security and it's only as good, frankly, as the weakest cumin and the link in the chain. the weakest human link in the chain, so yes, we should be deeply concerned. that said, i think there is reasonable security. it can't be secure. there is reasonable security in america's financial institutions >> how alarmed should we be about the infiltration of facebook?
>> alarmed on a number of levels and to this touches on a topic i'm not a expert in. there is the ability of people to participate in the shape not just our individual lives, but our public dialogue is profound. figuring out how to stop it is really hard. >> as a clear and present danger to the united states, how high do you rate those platforms given how easy they are to manipulate? >> what's the scale? i can make it up? okay. how high would read the danger? probably compared to other dangers that i worry about or used to be paid to worry about i would say medium. >> should their bid on earlier reckoning for the tech companies and accountability? >> i can't answer that, i mean,
i can't answer that softly, so i won't try. >> how fixable are the holes in these platforms? >> i don't know. i'm skeptical. i worry the nature is such that it is-- that the notion of a fix may be an illusion. >> abc's jonathan karl is here and he's my lifeline and he will do a little follow-up and a second. >> you are phoning a friend? [laughter] >> before i found my friend, when was the last time you talked to andrew mccabe? >> probably a month ago. >> what you think of what happened to him? >> i'm conflicted. i think he's a great person and public servants. i feel pain for him and his family. at the same time, though, i think the inspector general report in that process i hope it
shows people this is what an organization committed to the truth and accountability looks like, whether the result with andy causes pain or something you like it something that cares deeply about telling the truth and adding to the conflict is the way the president behaved in the connection with that was shameful that he managed somehow to stain, not just harm andy and his spouse who is an entirely separate human being despite the fact that she talked about-- they talked about he's an appendage and stained them in the department justice and the fbi in the inspector general process in the way he conducted himself, so it's a tragedy in summary levels, not just poor the mccabe's, but the institution of justice, so that's why i'm conflicted. >> lessons for leaders. was the biggest mistake you made as fbi director that did not involve a clinton are trump? >> if i'm answering that i
concede i made mistakes and connections with those matters? just want to be lawyerly. i made a ton of mistakes. i made a bunch of personnel mistakes. i carelessly created a problem with the government of poland. [laughter] in a speech i was giving about the holocaust and it was a distraction and a boneheaded play by me. i think i entered the debate about encryption in a stupid way i talked about my tendency to react to quickly. i saw these news as per type meant as apple and google were advertising basically warrent proof phones like that was a great thing is said of stepping back and thinking about it carefully of what i wanted to say i went into a press round the table and then i hit that meant we were off to the races and so i don't know how much time you have, but i could think of others.
>> abc jonathan karl, i appreciate him and i have phoning him for the obvious follow-ups i should have asked john? >> first a clarification-- thank you, director comey. you said even if you learned decisively that your actions swung the election you would not do anything differently. do i have that right? >> ya, as crazy as that sounds, yeah because the choice i face in late october, as i thought, was between a really bad option on a catastrophic option and e can't make that decision weighing that decision whose electoral process would be affected in what way. you have to decide, so given the values of this institution, what is the right thing to do here and one of my best people asked during the whole process, should you consider what you are about to do could elect donald trump president and i think her for
asking the question and i said not for a moment because down that path lies the death of the fbi, an independent entity because once we consider who will this help and hurt we are just part of the tribal warfare, so i know that answer sounds brazen, but that's why i give it. so, yes. >> want you could ask is how do we not help or hurt either candidate. >> well, you know what you are going to do will have some impact on the election because the norm is if you can avoid it. the situation i faced october 28, was i could not find a door that said here is no action. two doors, each inaction, i could speak or conceal the fact that we were restarting an investigation in a huge way having told the american people repeatedly that they could count on the fact we were finished and have done a great job and even though everyone complained from one part of the spectrum there was no there there and do so either way we were going to have
an impact of some sort, so my judgment was we have to push that aside and say given those two options, which is the least bad given this institution and its role in the american life. >> okay. i have a stupid question very quickly in a question about pardons. watch would it take for the special counsel to get access to president trump's tax returns? with that have to be something that the president himself would have to turn over or convince special counsel to go to the irs separately? >> i won't comment on this case in particular, but in general you can get a court order for tax returns. there is a process inside the department of justice to have that reviewed and improved, but it does not require the consent of the tax payer. >> we have been trying to get those tax returns. [laughter] >> i don't think that justice department includes you, john. >> on the parting question that
mike asked, the example would be richard nixon, i mean, pardon of nixon where ford pardoned nixon for any activities between january 20th, of 1969 and august of 1974. so, if the president were to party and say michael cohen for any activities from the day he started working for the trump organization, so i will say today, would that do away with michael cohen as a figure in this investigation or-- what kind of an impact with that have ..
they wouldn't be able to resist becoming a a witness and then f they committed, if they lied, they could be prosecuted for that but they could be pardoned for that. i have not thought well enough but that is how it would go in general. they could be compelled to be as a witness after that. >> but a pardon would necessarily in him as a figure into investigation or even a wave of pardons wouldn't necessarily end of the investigation into the president. >> not necessarily. if a witness potential defendant/witness is pardoned in a criminal investigation they give in to be a defendant but they could be compelled to testify. >> i thought it was interesting what the director comey was think about the midterms and the norms of not interfering and have it might mueller. do you want to follow on that? i know it's on --
>> are you encouraging him to ask me questions? [laughing] i remember well when ken starr issued his report and it was in many, many boxes of supporting the troops that were literally dumped on the house side of the capital. robert mulder is going to make a decision not dissimilar to your decision about what to do. is it going to sell to do-nothing m blow past the midterms? he's got a lot of evidence already right now that would be highly relevant to voters in the midterm elections. >> the requires a judgment call. norms are inherently a bit ambiguous so guided by that desire to not be involved in election, , make a judgment call as to what can i responsibly do and when, given where i am in investigation.
that's what it so hard for me to answer. in late october i could not find a way to avoid an action, and i desperately wanted to but i don't know what his degrees of freedom will be because no one except people in his team know where he is in this investigation. >> i want to pause and say what a great audience this is. very impressive how many people lined up, how long. these questions are thoughtful. i'm asking this because alex is a 15-year-old from the the lab school and alex says at what point did you lose your respect and trust for trump? [applause] >> who let that kid in here? [laughing] >> my concerns about the president's commitment to telling the truth sort of, it was a process over time really. i was concerned about it enough
it was important to document my first meeting but those also know the concern. i wanted to make sure the intelligence chief had an accounting of the meeting because they left before i i hd to do the private meeting. thereafter, it was an increasing concern by part i was interacting with them about things that touched him personally, that touch the fbi and our responsibilities, and he might lie like about them. so it was a process, pretty quick process but a process, that i would say by late january i was very concerned about it. >> what type of prayers did you use to strengthen yourself? this person at the note. in november 202016 i told told one of your assistant directors the retired fbi, the retired fbi agents like myself were praying for you. i am a fan of reinhold liber wrote serenity prayer.
which is, brought to my mind many times in the course of the last two years. and so looking for the wisdom and the patience to accept that which i can't change and the courage to change what i can was really important to me. >> what type of legal repercussions would arise if president trump decide to fire robert mueller? >> i don't know. that's a really interesting question because i think there's a good argument to be made that it would be utterly ineffective in practice, that you testify the entire fbi in the entire justice department. two reasons. first, that i don't know that the president followed the normal course, he would be able to find an executive who would carry out an order to fire robert mueller comments of the navy he does away with the regulation, appointed mulder and then fired him. something interesting might happen then.
because there is no deep state, but there's a deep culture and commitment to the rule of law that runs all the way down through not just do proper justice in the fbi but the military services in the intelligence community. it would be interesting to see what would happen next because i could imagine use attorneys offices picking up pieces of it, different fbi office of picking up of it. it would be very hard to do something that was that direct an attack on the rule of law giving the culture which is the ballast in this country. >> so your sing dear president trump, don't bother. >> first of all, i would hope it would be disastrous in the eyes of the american people would drop a card to their political affiliation but it would also be ineffective. so don't do disastrous things at all, don't do disastrous things that will make a difference. >> a question from nathan and andy. can you describe your working relationship with vice president dick cheney?
>> tense here. [laughing] we had, i seems -- again, seems like a very smart person but we had a complex that was intense, especially over the nsa surveillance programs. i tell the story in the book, so i won't repeat it here, but he looked me in i closer than we are and told me that thousands of people were going to die because of what i was doing. what i was doing was supporting the lawyers of the office of legal counsel till we cannot find a legal basis for much of this activity. and i said to him that's not helping you. that's just increasing the pain. it doesn't help me to think differently about the legal problem. >> who is a living leader that you admire? >> well, clapper i mentioned. i'll tell you a surprise, i came to admire barack obama. i was not a -- [applause]
i was not a political supporter of barack obama. i gave money to mccain and romney in part because the hell did me. [laughing] but also thought it was important that people of principle be the nominee from the other party. i worried wing nuts might take over that party. [laughing] my dealings with him were a national security issues and i came to respect that only the decisions he made, but the way he made decisions. and especially that ability to listen and to create an environment where people would speak to him. that man would listen for five or ten minutes without interruption, not just when joe biden was talking. [laughing] he would listen and then you'd ask questions drawn from the first minute, the third minute, the fifth amendment. extraordinary. he was listening and wanted to
get out of you so he would learn from it. extraordinary. so i became and admire of him as a leader. [applause] >> who's a leader you admire in business or philanthropy or academia? >> i worked for a great ceo of lockheed martin in bob stephens who came from the humblest of circumstances, was a grunt marine in vietnam who got his first job helping build aircraft and grew up to be the ceo of lockheed martin and never lost that ability to connect to people and to try to get the truth from them, so i admire him a lot. i'll stop there. in case a lift anyone off the list, i was going to say you next. [laughing] >> did bill clinton's meeting with loretta lynch influence your decision. >> yes. it wasn't, it was the meeting in conjunction with loretta who i like very much and had known a long time. her decision to announce that
she would not recuse herself but would accept my recommendation and that of the career prosecutors. at that point i decided, as much as i like loretta, this result will not have credibility with the american people if i announce it standing next to her. and so never thought i'd be, thought of this as a fife and your flood, never thought i'd be in the situation. but given where we are, bad and worse, worse would be standing there and having the american people have corrosive doubts about the credibility of the work by the obama justice department. bad would be something walking away about the recognition she would accept. do it simply. >> a story sink the justice department was looking at taking out of the prosecutors manual the language about the freedom of the press. >> i saw that and want to know more about that before i got to whip up. i just don't know.
i saw headlights of the story but i do know whether it's real, and you knew this because you're covered institutions. whenever you have a choice between malevolent and incompetence, always start with incompetence and realize they might be repairing the website or something and so i don't want to leap to malevolence. [laughing] >> so putting aside the motive, you clearly don't think it's a good idea? >> to put aside freedom of the press? >> no. [laughing] to take the language out of their manual. >> i don't know exact with the language is. you would want respect to the newsgathering or reporting function to be central to your investigative considerations. reasonable people can disagree about how you interact with media prosecutors and investigators automatic front in mind touching the media. >> i told you these questions were thoughtful entity. what advice do you have for current government employees on how to stay focused on the mission while under political pressure?
[applause] >> take the long view. remember, someday you'll have to explain to your grandchildren what you did during this time, and -- [applause] and it's what helped me in moments when i thought of because by pressure. i would close my eyes of so to the future and say how will i explained this? i get into, , what? because they yelled at me? i given because i was under pressure? when they're what the value are of this institution use or whatever it is, remember someday you'll actively upheld those values and that should give you strength. >> we have an advice question here if you don't mind doing your dear abby, ann landers. you have said that you hate can you said you don't hate donald trump p given what he said about you, that's impressive. [laughing] could you please help me not to hate donald trump? two exclamation marks.
[laughing] >> hating people gets gives tho much power over you. [applause] and one of the real dangers we face today is that the president's behavior will drag us all down, and so i'm not much on twitter but i am keen not to engage in back-and-forth and twitter and name-calling, and whether or not their space between slime and ball i don't care. that it's really important that we remember who we are and remember again you have to explain to your grandchildren someday i acted this way. so hating someone, there are people you need to hate what i urge you first hate their actions and don't give the person that central role in your life. [applause] >> we have another hashtag here, so in addition to hashtag axios
comey. did you get the letters from your former colleagues at the fbi? do you know we miss you? did you read them? site fbi live with the hashtag comey's homeys. [laughing] [cheers and applause] >> i read everyone, and you all made me cry. i could only read them like 20 at a time. you probably have some said some i i got. i have drawers full of them, and it increased my pain but also made me realize why i i felt te pain, because of the people. i love the people. >> jewelers fullilove from former colleagues? >> cards and hilarious pictures and t-shirts and mugs. by the way, i get no piece of a comey is my homey mug.
lordy, i hope there are tapes. i get none of that. [laughing] but they sent me, look, i said this when i testify. it's a life that if you have wasn't pattern. it's a lie that i was the strength from the workforce. one of proudest parts of my life was i love those people and they think in the main they felt it back and so it meant a lot to need all these things came in, but it was very painful. but but i promise you i would anyone. if you sent me a card i read it at a still have it. [applause] >> we are about to get the hook but this is another personal one. what is something you would like to share with the people of the bureau now that it's been just under a year since dot dot dot. many of us remember that day and we likely won't forget. >> never forget just how strong the culture of that organization is. and that's frustrating when
you're director who's trying to orient it in certain ways but minor ways. but remember that inertia is your strength and the strength of this country. that people haven't been there when i discovered that culture as ballast for america. if you have worked in the united states military services or in the intelligence community or the fbi, justice department, maybe don't get it. but all of those of you who have worked there and working there now field. no president sure is long enough destroy that. so just remember the long run. remember who you are. and again remember how proud you going to be to tell your grandchildren what you were like during this time. so you are great, just keep being it. >> the last card and then have goodbye question. 200 just from now when he historian gets to write the story of the 2016 election, and the beginning of the trump administration, what will he or she say about you? >> he was tall.
[laughing] >> you are 6'8". someone the other day someone asked you would leave in the movie and you said speedy summon much shorter. [laughing] >> goodbye question. there's a question from sally quinn. how is your family handling this? the fact that you are hated by left and right? >> thank you for that predication. [laughing] they're doing okay. my kids are fine. because we have worked really hard come off that was head on michael culture. to make ours that is not the center of her family and we can compartment allies. okay, and we talk about the next thing. the hardest for my wife, because she watches more than i. it gets are jazzed up. she was giving an interview with george stephanopoulos and he said have you lost friends over
this? she said not true friends. but yes, we've lost some. after she was done i said who's on that list? [laughing] she said i have a list. i have a list. it's hardest for her and she's what i worry about the most. >> you are rich now. how are you going to spend it? [laughing] >> i i had a fair amount of douh before this because i i was eit years in the private sector. what i will do is remember all of us. if you're in this audience you're fortunate as against most of the world. remember, our obligation to care for those who don't have what we have. i'm not going to talk a brag about what i do -- [applause] you will never see my tax returns, but you would see that commitment reflected there. >> a term he might have coined,
your family is upsizing. >> yes. i have no idea why. my youngest was about to graduate from high school, we have five kids, so my wife decided we need to move to a bigger house. [laughing] because, we were going to do this when i was director. the idea is we have to have a place where each of them and their significant other can stay, and room for the grandchildren and a ping-pong table. we have to attract them all. we don't have any grandchildren by the way. [laughing] but my wife is a a planner so e idea is we will become an attractant to our big family and we've got to do it now because if we try to fix it later -- you get the story. [laughing] >> penultimate question. 30 seconds for two questions. another question from sally quinn. the first one, the headline of your obituary for your epitaph?
how do you want to be remembered, is probably a nicer way. [laughing] >> i actually don't care about this stuff in my epitaph. if you know me you know i mean this. i want to be a great father, a great husband, a great grandfather, and a good friend and neighbor. the rest of it, i really don't, that can be done in the paragraphs were not there at all. that is my goal is to be that. my advice for young people would be, ask yourself the question, when i'm about to die what will matter? i guarantee you will not care about money or houses or cars or human honor of what newspaper clippings you have about yourself. it won't matter. >> a quick thank you and then -- [applause] and then the goodbye question. thanks brad and melissa and the team from politics and prose, flat iron books and javelin, the amazing team at axios. thank all of you for coming out.
thank c-span, and as we say goodbye, what is on your bucket list? what is one thing you've dreamed of doing and now you can? >> i ask a think there's anything on that list. i mean, i am a happy person. maybe that explains why this doesn't bother me more but i am married to my best friend. i have five amazing children. i actually don't have a bucket list. >> director comey, thanks for great conversation. [applause] >> thank you, all. [applause] >> and now on booktv a discussion on james comey's book "a higher loyalty." joining us to dissect within this book are two people very experienced