Nearly two years after the 2016 election, former FBI Director James Comey says he is “still mildly ill” thinking about the impact he might have had on it.
“I hate the idea that we might have had any impact at all [on the 2016 election],” Comey said during an exclusive interview with WGBH News. “I secretly hope that some brilliant political scientist proves that our actions were irrelevant, but honestly it doesn’t change how I think about the decisions.”
“I wasn’t trying to hurt anybody or help anybody,” Comey said.
Comey discussed a wide range of topics in the interview, including the FBI’s recent investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which was capped at seven days.
“It’s idiotic if your goal is the truth to put a shot clock on the FBI,” Comey said. “But, if you’re going to do it, seven days is enough to do some significant amount of work if they’re allowed to do it.”
“And maybe I’m wrong, but it looks from the outside like it was restricted more tightly than the normal logical investigation would have been,” Comey added.
“The truth doesn’t hurt anyone, the [Senate and Supreme Court] are supposed to be devoted to the truth so I was a little frustrated by the shot clock to begin with,” he said.
Regardless of politics or policy, Comey, who has been openly critical of President Donald Trump who dismissed him in 2017, stressed the importance of values.
“We’ve always measured our leaders by their tether to this touchstone, which is the truth, and there’s so much lying by this president, there’s a danger that we’ll all become numb to it and allow that erosion of that touchstone,” Comey said.
However, Comey said he doesn’t believe the 25th amendment applies to Trump.
“I’m very concerned, and I believe he’s morally unfit to be the president, but I never saw any indication that he wasn’t functioning cognitively in a way that’s consistent with being a senior leader,” Comey said.
“I avoid discussing policy because I don’t care what people’s policy views are, given that what matters most is what [Trump] threatens — which is our values,” Comey said. “So my concern about his moral incompetence, I think, is one that all Americans should share.”
Comey discussed the call for his subpoena but said that he would prefer to have the conversation publicly.
“I just don’t like the whole closed door interviews in the dark kind of deal,” he said. “If people want to ask me questions, I’m a huge fan of transparency — you don’t even have to subpoena me. Just tell me what day we can both agree on a public testimony, and I’ll be there. You can ask me anything you want.”
Comey also discussed the actions of two FBI employees who were found to be using government devices to send messages to each other showing their biases towards then-candidate Hillary Clinton.
“One of the great sins of the FBI is to be a political person,” he said. “Everybody has political views … but it’s absolutely against our culture to bring it into the workplace.”
Comey said that the actions of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were “painful” and represented a lapse in judgment.
Strzock, who Comey described as articulate, passionate, and slightly arrogant “in a way that I admired,” was chief of the counter-espionage section and led the investigation into Clinton's use of a personal email server.
“My head almost popped when I saw that they were discussing these kinds of things on our devices,” Comey said.
Comey said that he never saw any indication of their bias or of their romantic relationship, during which they were cheating on their spouses.
“The notion that it was cooked somehow for Hillary Clinton because Peter Strzok was on her team is nonsense. There’s no doubt he had personal feelings that were strong, but I never saw a single indication of it in his work,” Comey said. “If I’d seen an indication, he would have been off the team.”
Turning way from politics, Comey briefly discussed the 28-year investigation into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art theft only to say that he vaguely remembered being briefed.
Comey said he does not have a sense of whether or not the paintings will ever be returned.
“And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you … but I’m not concealing some kind of secret view,” he said.