James Comey's Interview on WBEN

INSIDE: Transcript/Audio of our interview with FBI Director plus analysis

April 19, 2018 - 7:00 am

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Former FBI Director James Comey joined WBEN's A New Morning hosts Susan Rose and Brian Mazurowski to discuss his new book, A Higher Loyalty, and the controversy surrounding his firing at the hands of President Trump last year.

ANALYSIS:  Political analyst Kevin Hardwick on the Comey Interview

Susan Rose: James Comey, why now? You're a witness in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Are you risking anything by speaking publicly before this probe is over?

James Comey: It's good to be with you. I don't think so. My testimony -maybe someday I'll be a witness- but the testimony I would give has already been locked down, as prosecutors would say. I testified under oath at length about it last year in the Senate and, even before then, it was locked down because much of it is in memos I wrote at the time. And so, as a former prosecutor, I don't think there's much risk at all that, by talking about what I said a year ago under oath, I created a problem as a witness.

Rose: But, you know, (former President Nixon Attorney) John Dean's testimony helped bring down the Nixon administration. He waited until the investigation was over to tell his story.

Comey: Yeah. And maybe a different person would have made a different decision. I thought it would be a cowardly thing to wait, given that speaking won't jeopardize the investigation, and that I thought I had something useful to say, especially now about leadership -which is what the book is about and not about Donald Trump- and that there would be very little risk to the investigation. And by the way, the special prosecutor and the FBI knew for a long time I was going to be writing a book and I submitted the manuscript to the FBI for review. There was no request that I not do it. 

Brian Mazurowski: You said this book isn't about the president but all the headlines are obviously going to be about Donald Trump. Is your goal of writing this book -you said it's about leadership- unachievable now that you kind of no longer have this non-partisan image? 

Comey: Yeah, I don't think so. I think people who read the book, they'll realize two things: That I'm telling the truth when it's not about Donald Trump. It's about stories that helped me form a picture, including stories where I did things I'm not proud of, that helped me develop a picture of what ethical leadership should look like. Even if you think I'm an idiot, I'm a pretty fair-minded idiot and I'm not on either side. I know the headlines will be about Donald Trump but I hope people will look past those headlines and read the book.

Rose: Your leak of memos...What does that message send to the rank-and-file FBI agents who feel like the agency is being dragged through the mud?

Comey: Yeah, uh...I have to respectfully take issue with your predication. I didn't leak memos. I gave a single, unclassified, personal memo I had in my safe at home to a friend and asked him to share the substance of it with a journalist. I guest colloquially we can call it a leak but legally that's not a leak. A private citizen can talk to the public about their unclassified conversations with the president. That's what memoirs are full of for generations in this country. Look, I get why people question why I did that. I thought it was real important I did it in that moment because I thought there were tapes. President Trump had tweeted about tapes and something needed to be done to force the justice department to go get those tapes.

Mazurowski:  Is this entire discussion, this book, this interview right now, turning the FBI into a political agency?

Comey: Oh, heck no. In fact, the FBI is the opposite of that. People ask about the politicization of the FBI...the FBI is not politicized. It's being attacked politically but it is a resolutely apolitical organization. Again, if people take the time to actually read the book, they will see that.

Rose: You're going to have a lot of time on your hands. Would you ever consider running for office?

Comey: Never

Rose: Never?

Comey: I'll say it again so my wife gets it twice...never.

Mazurowski: Listening to some of the interviews you gave including the extended one with ABC, you mentioned you went back to Loretta Lynch's meeting on the plane -sort of that point that kind of started this whole journey off for you- If that meeting never happened would you still be FBI Director today? 

Comey: *pause* That's a great question. Maybe...I don't know. It depends *chuckle* I can't live imagined lives. It would turn on a whole bunch of different things. I might still have. Well, we would have still closed the Hillary Clinton investigation. We would have still been in the same position at the end of October, whether or not I did a press conference. And so, probably I would be in the same boat if I could live that imagined life again. I think I'd still be out of a job.

Rose: Five years from now, what will the American people think about James Comey? 

Comey: I hope they don't think much about James Comey at all. I hope they are having a conversation among themselves about American values and they don't remember. I have no interest in being famous. I want to be a great father and grandfather and teacher. That's my next thing. I want to be a professor. I'll be totally cool if they don't remember me. 




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