tv Conflict Zone - Guest James Comey Deutsche Welle August 16, 2018 2:30pm-3:01pm CEST
mr greene. reforestation. interactive content teaching the next generation about environmental protection and were determined to build something cute for the next generation. of the multimedia environment series long. as we like director james comey was always pretty well known but when donald trump finally last year it boosted his footprint to measure a plane this week he's my guest here in berlin where he's promoting a book even as he faces you challenge you serve him subordination and violating procedures in the run up to the twenty sixteen presidential election so what's the truth. james comey welcome to covering some thank you for having me while you are touring
europe selling your book as a storm of criticism in washington over actions that you and the f.b.i. took in the run up to the presidential election in twenty sixty miles from the inspector general at the justice department where you are likely very politely told to get lost you didn't miss anything you did in the public for anything are you white or the white. flawed human i hope like we all recognize that we are and i think i meant what i said about the inspector general i respect their work i respect their criticism you just don't agree with any well that's a fair number of things i said i agree with but the two big criticisms are about the two most important decisions i made and i'd be lying if i said i think that criticism as accurate i do think it's fair though and reasonable. what about the criticism that really jumped off the page was the department's revelation that you used a private e-mail account in violation of official protocol spent
a year and a half investigating hillary clinton's handling of her own e-mail so this. it's not but it does reflect the fact that folks don't realize what clinton investigation was about it wasn't about her use of a non-governmental e-mail system it was about her handling of classified information and that's a very important best a geisha but totally different from whether you're using her g. mail which i was using to e-mail drafts of speeches to myself was never any accusation that i used any system to communicate classified information and it was inconsistent with justice department policy that's what they said that's what they say you broke the rules they said well that's a good question i don't think they actually say it that way they say it was they believe it was inconsistent with the policy the policy does allow what we say de minimus use of a private e-mail system to communicate i actually think mine was consistent with that but i'm not going to talk about that the point thing is there's
a difference between using a system to communicate classified content and using a system and i really don't see it i really don't see it as a conflict with the clinton investigation but i get why specter general included it why not just spoke to general chuck grassley for instance the chair of the senate judiciary committee june eighteenth he said it's disturbing that f.b.i. and police tasked with the best of getting secretary clinton including the former director peter i think strikingly similar comment that. conduct was on five occasions you either drafted official messages and all forwarded e-mails to your personal account. right i was f.b.i. director for four years and i would draft speeches for public distribution send them home to myself like work on them on a laptop and send them back to my government account when i was completed anybody who thinks of that is the same as the conduct we investigated in the clinton case was not paid attention but there is also an investigation into how you did handle classified right nancy i think take in memos that you sent outside the f.b.i.
according to a washington post report shortly after he was fired in may last year the i review concluded that some of the information to have you on the most was classified and that the f.b.i. felt compelled to retrieve that information you gave it to the information was not confidential apparently the last category of classified but it was classified you prepared to be investigated oh sure you have fact i've cooperated with them and talk to them and i eagerly await their report i think you broke the rules no no no no no and i think for you wait for the report i think what you'll see is i don't know what you ok i'll get the answers i think there is i did not in any way and it's the reason i want the review done one of the review don't want to report out and so that ends the silly doubts about me mishandling caused by the f.b.i. or if you got it wrong that well the f.b.i. is going to review the f.b.i. reviewed in the cline to investigate for mishandling of classified information the
answer to being the rules in following procedure which is what they criticized you for violating well there's no doubt that i deviated as they say from norms but there was nothing normal about the investigation of one of the two candidates for president of the united states during the election but is that an excuse for insubordinate and extraordinary actions which is what they used to know certainly not it's and it's an explanation as to why how we saw the decisions and why we chose bad over worse in each of the key circumstances don't except that you know. well they do they just weigh it differently they think the better it take take because the decision we had to make close to the election to tell congress we restarted the investigation inspector general's view is i had a choice between speaking or not speaking and i should have not spoken i get that and i respect that i think that under ways the damage to the institution that would have flowed from not speaking about something that was hugely important and would
have otherwise covered up a lot if it had become no longer. that would cover up a lot that had hidden from the american people that we have restarted that investigation ok i'd like to come on and talk about that kind of movement but the accusations first of all centered on the news conference you gave in july twenty sixth in which you announce the f.b.i. would not recommend criminal charges against hillary clinton your dowsett separately from the department of justice you told them just a few minutes before you did so i thought of my entire leadership team saw that was the way best calculated to protect the institutions of justice incredibly unusual fact i never heard of it before the f.b.i. announcing separate from the department of justice but given the situation of the attorney general was in my view that what situation she was in at the attorney general was in the view of a reasonable american compromised at that point and couldn't credibly announce the
closure of the investigation so i think she implicitly acknowledged herself by saying she would accept my recommendation and my view was and honestly it still is even though i understand the criticism then if i denounced it with the attorney general the american people would not have had confidence in the result and the best although still a bad choice but the best of the choices was to announce it separately you said mrs clinton's handling of her e-mails have been extremely khamis my question to you since when is it the job of the federal law enforcement officer to judge whether politicians or indeed any citizens behavior is careless our job is to investigate the conduct of the subject of the investigation and decide whether it warrants recommendation for prosecution if you had to know that you would be seized by the other side and used to mrs clinton's disadvantage but i had to know that my words would be seized on by everybody which is why i thought so long and hard about how to describe the conduct in a way a member the goal in a way that the american people have confidence that it was done in
a competent independent way money can't do that july twenty sixth press conference the inspector general said we found none of his reasons to be a persuasive basis for deviating from one established policy or that. this was showboating on your part something something president. bush about this was something to you know this is great for me don't you think i knew this was going to be bad for me personally this wasn't about showboating i did one press interview and one president of the f.b.i. my final year and a half and it was that one it had i mean you would get this of course we're investigating one of the two candidates for president of united states during the election so i get the inspector general saying it was a deviation from normal procedures got it it was nothing normal about the situation that's what made it so hard to figure out what to do given our norms you also criticize and you talked a bit about the october decision also criticized by the justice department
inspector just eleven days before the twenty sixteen election you announced that the investigation was going to get you for more e-mails on a laptop they were going to the husband clinton aide a laptop that the f.b.i. had located weeks earlier and not bother to look at why why the gap in term why wait so long to do nothing if this was such important information why wait a month. well let it gather dust i don't know the reason for that i know that it was discovered in the new york office some time of the under september and the people didn't bring it to me to ask me to make a decision until the end of the third week of october until the seizure and for a man who said you want to stay in politics your decision to reopen the investigation at that late stage eleven days before the election wasn't influenced by politics wasn't it i don't remember thinking about that but i'm asking myself in my book given the whole world thought she was going to be elected president could
that have influenced you and of course it could i don't think the decision what have been any different if donald trump was up twenty points in the polls but i'm asking myself given the assumption that she was going to be president could that have had an influence on you sure sure it could have again we tried very hard with a difference reconsidering what the public thinks and electoral prospects i don't remember thinking about electoral prospects explicitly i just don't you were worried about her becoming a legitimate job if you didn't. we are in the investigation and the result of that is donald trump is in the white house dryly and lawsuits in this foundation just recently as university came in because of his campaign staff indicted and you worried about mrs clinton entering the white house illegitimate. so things really are not a concern of modern day ars american citizen but not when you're director of the f.b.i. making a decision about investigation but you know concerned that she might win the
election you know she looked as though she was and that was one of the factors you know decision making process you know i hope i was clear on this i'll say it again i don't remember ever thinking i have to make this decision because she's going to be elected the question i'm asking myself in hindsight is given that everyone thought she was going to win and could that have influenced me and they answered of course it could have i don't remember it influencing me but again there's a danger of being reflective i don't think it would have changed the decision i think the f.b.i. had to speak and by the way to correct another thing you said everyone agreed that we had to reopen the investigation that was not the controversial decision that was telling everybody exactly. what do you do eleven days for the election do you speak about it or do you conceal it and my judgment was the institution would suffer horrific damage if we conceal that it will suffer just bad damage if we spoke about it but the effect of your. let me put this to you was just what hillary clinton's
right to a presumption of innocence which is a vital part of democratic justice system and i say this because a large number of people had to believe that if you were going to reopen this investigation and throw this kind of boulder into the political waters at this late stage you have to have something really important. so often the problem is really some smoking gun that that you have and otherwise how could you possibly justify the risk of torpedoing. well again you have to consider where you were right on top of the twentieth the department of justice and the f.b.i. had told the american people repeatedly we finish this investigation there's no prosecutable case there you can rely on that american people and that is no longer true and not in a frivolous way in a highly significant way which is why the department justice thought we had to reopen the investigation so what do you do reasonable people can see it differently my view is you can and not having spoken about it both the attorney general and i
and many others unspoken about it you cannot stay silent in the face of that information and guys never imagine a situation like this but when i asked people what would you do if you were in my shoes and why at the start of that living there prior to the election hillary clinton was ahead in the polls by right six percent in the national polls a week later after her lead at harvard what we also know is the late deciding voters went overwhelmingly towards trump so there is a. case even if it can't be proved your action changed the course of the election you can live with well i have to look at that i think you were mildly nauseous about the thought you might impact the election i wonder why only mildly well i guess we have to weigh our versions of knowledge here but it it makes me slightly sick to my stomach even now to contemplate the notion that we had an impact i hope not but what makes it even more difficult is it wouldn't change how i think about
it even if i went back in time. it just makes it more painful so i hope not i hope someday academics demonstrate their numbers already had it down and had no impact but honestly it doesn't change how you have to think about it sitting in your office october twenty eighth it just doesn't do nothing at all between it and the senate. harry reid wrote to you to complain of a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information is right was the since you came into possession of the slices and you end up related to this includes in your rush to publicize it in the most negative light possible he said and yet you continue to resist these calls to inform the public about critical information relating to trump that's true isn't it you were inconsistent no not in any respect in the premise of his i'm sorry but over this but i think if i stay silent on things people later say i agree to the notion that all we had about
hillary clinton was in your window is nonsense but what you have about the little chart you possess he said explosive information about close ties coordination between donald trump his top advisers and the russian government you know that's not true i really can't talk about anything that might be classified i can just say again that the characterization of the senator's letter is not accurate the decision that president obama had to make was not my decision was he this was whether to say something publicly about the russian interference effort which is a really important close decision the one that was not close is should we say something about it you did something i said president but i'll guarantee eligible best ignition that has just begun and we don't know what we have so those are two very different questions president obama decision was a hard one and sure by the time that they made the decision in october to say something my view was i can't avoid action at this point because the statement is no longer necessary. and yet you still thought it was worth going in on hillary
clinton i want to minimize your and you know it was worth deciding between speaking or concealing on october the twenty eighth and that my judgment was we had to speak because hiding the fact that what we had said in the summer under oath was no longer true was an unacceptable outcome so suspicious were the reports to g c h q the head of the organization flew to washington in the summer of twenty sixteen to brief the cia director john brennan james clapper the director of national intelligence later confirmed this flow information intelligence you said it's sensitive so there was a lot of sensitive material coming into you that's not that's not classified that's not i can say that i disagree with your preamble i don't believe it to be accurate but i can't sort for you know because the rules governing class sort of the nation what's true and not true the whole lot of reporting about this is not accurate but i can't go into it more than that but you didn't worry i thought that if the
investigation into the collusion with alleged collusion of the truck campaign with the russians bore fruit and don't trump won the election in what way that his mandate might be a legitimate. we didn't know enough to know whether there was anything to it so i actually don't even remember thinking about that we were beginning an investigation we knew the russians were the senior don't you know the russians are messing with our election the separate question was were any americans helping them and we didn't know that at the time and by the way that you had not a we had reason to investigate we knew the russians were doing something we had whispers of information that some americans might be working with them didn't you know that and again this is what people sometimes confuse hillary clinton was the subject of that investigation that opened began publicly and closed publicly in two thousand sixteen thousand trump was not the subject of any investigation during that election it was an investigation into this campaign and therefore by association it was sent to him as well well in
a sense it wasn't investigation of his campaign it was an investigation of discreet americans to try to see if there's any connection between the russian effort and his people. well these were people some of whom were associated with the campaign but there was not an investigation of the campaign but nevertheless even with what you had tens of millions of americans to vote without any of this knowledge what knowledge is the question i would ask what what would people have their do you suspect row suspicions that were being passed around the american intelligence community at that time so the f.b.i. director should have announced in two thousand sixteen that there were suspicions of wrongdoing by americans. that was actually never even seriously considered nobody brought that up and said we ought to be talking about a brand new kind of tells us again about americans and we don't know we're very thing wrong so i just i reject the premise that that was something we should have
disclosed i do think it's an important question about whether the obama administration should have said something earlier about the russian effort but there's no serious argument we should be talking about a brand new counterintelligence case that doesn't involve the candidate as a subject that's just beginning in the summer of two thousand and sixteen it's tough sanctions with donald trump you you have this reputation of being a very tough washington. you stood up to presidents you took on george w. bush his closest advisors over the surveillance program and yet you seem to be like this awkward pussycat seemingly only able to tell him a direct and he apparently asked you for your declaration of loyalty you danced around the subject and then you came up with this offer of honest loyalty again in hindsight there are things i think i could do differently and better but it's a very difficult situation to be with a brand new president of the united states alone and so i think you know hindsight
it ought to be too tough on myself i think i handled it in a reasonable way you told trump that he was not personally under investigation that was literally true but it was still there like you know it's his campaign wasn't under investigation by association he was on the investigation with it so you know not in that sense it was it was as you said technically true literally true but my general counsel argued that inevitably we're going to have to look at the campaigns conduct he's the candidate of the campaign and so inevitably you're going to get a situation where in some respect his conduct is going to be reviewed that was his argument to me so it wasn't a total free pass. you were giving me when you said you know. i was describing something that was accurate in an effort to diffuse a very up north complete well no i don't think that's the issue in my general counsel's concern was we will get to a place it seems inevitably we have to look at his conduct so we have to correct
that someday and what does that do when you create a duty to correct that was his concern as i recall your firing very long. i'm wondering why you are still serving in the stray should. you consider to be a serial liar you don't in fact he clearly didn't deal in facts only alternative facts it was never going to end well was it between you and him it was never going to be close but that's ok i was the director of the i think i was appointed to a ten year term and i thought my duty was to continue to serve out that term and protect the institution so it was going to be difficult as my interactions with him during those four or five months demonstrate but i thought that i was going to end up serving out my term you also serving in the tourney general jeff sessions in the army major problem when it came to remembering his contacts with russia and sooner or later you tainted by kissing the. i was thinking that i'm sure
potentially but i thought that was my duty the nature of the president actually increased my commitment to staying in my role and serving protect the f.b.i. and the american people so yeah i knew it was going to be hard and it was going to be all kinds of difficult situations but i thought what a coward i would be to walk away from that when i was supposed to be leading an organization that's by spirit and culture independent we're running out of time so i just want to touch on something briefly we're told that robert mueller the special counsel is going to ship at least part of his report by the end of the summer we know the president discussed firing at some point he's also talked about having the right to pardon himself not that he says he's done anything wrong it's like a group of judiciary since they're going to have the internal investigation declared illegal at least the most so somebody who's innocent typical of somebody who's
in this has nothing to worry about or do you think. these patterns of behavior reflect something else i don't know what it reflects and i believe or not as given my career i still don't draw the darkest inference the fact that someone acts this way doesn't necessarily mean that they're guilty of something it could just be this president's lifelong habit of attacking attacking attacking when he feels threatened but i don't know what it is honestly and i think he does feel threatened well i think it's a tourney he has said he and the president said he thinks he's being attacked by a deep state as far to which aren't that's nonsense but there's no doubt that he feels that way in the last years since you were fired even more or less inclined to believe that he's going to think about breaking with russia. i still don't know i don't know i don't know what the special prosecutor will conclude i don't i don't actually have an opinion i don't really i don't you know i have not seen the case
completed again it began in the late part of july in two thousand and six private citizen. opinion on this i don't and here's why i say that i'm not being silly i know none of the things that you've heard or i've heard in the media are coming from the special prosecutor and so everybody is uninformed about this it's all speculation he said we're told reports coming in the summer by who the special prosecutor is running tired of the tight ship so i don't know what he knows and no one does actually outside of his operation so i don't know what he'll find and i don't think people should care so long as he able to find the best view of the evidence and the truth that he finds that i'm not rooting for particular outcome but i honestly don't know what he'll find you were right when you get back to washington they're coming after you know i don't know who they has but the the i've no doubt the president's congress no i'm not worried that they are not worried about that at all no not even in the slightest.
no because i know the facts i know the facts literally zero concern on my part everybody challenge. your behavior all that's the nature of the so they don't know it's true so you just dismiss it you just dismiss the numbers and you're lumping them all together i respect and carefully abide the views of the inspector general the noise coming out of the congress are likely to get lost. you know that's not a fair characterization i politely said of them look i respect you people on the work you know and i wait there for when i see it differently that doesn't mean i'm right i'm never certain i'm right especially in the hardest decisions but i see it different and you even in hindsight and i believe that's ok show me another circumstance like this because i could have found when i used it as a model this was a five hundred year flood and i totally respect the people see it differently thoughtful people the political noise and the tweets and all that does not bother
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