WASHINGTON — Former FBI Director James Comey conceded that there was “real sloppiness” involved with the bureau’s effort to obtain warrants to secretly surveil a Trump campaign adviser in 2016, saying in a Sunday interview that he was “overconfident” with his trust in the bureau’s procedures.
“(The Justice Department’s inspector general) also found things that we were never accused of, which is real sloppiness, and that’s concerning. As I’ve said all along (it) has to be focused on. If I were director, I’d be very concerned about it and diving into it,” Comey told “Fox News Sunday” host Chis Wallace.
Asked by Wallace about comments Comey made last year that he was sure officials at the FBI were “responsible” when they prepared surveillance warrants applications for Carter Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the former FBI chief said he “was wrong.”
“I was overconfident in the procedures that the FBI and (Department of) Justice have built over 20 year years. I thought they were robust enough,” he said.
The comments from Comey come nearly a week after the department’s inspector general released a report on the origins of the Russia investigation. The report found that the FBI properly opened its investigation into Russian election interference but said there were major errors in how the agency conducted the probe, including the critical finding that exculpatory evidence about Page was omitted from the applications for surveillance warrants.
In 2016, the FBI sought and received approval from the court to surveil Page for nearly a year, starting shortly after he left the Trump campaign in the fall of 2016. The special court that granted the approval operates in secret and approves wiretaps under FISA — a law that is typically used to target foreign spies and terrorists.
The DOJ’s watchdog said there was no bias in the decision to seek FISA surveillance of Page, and that the significant errors and problems with how the FBI prepared the applications to the court were generally mistakes and not intentional manipulation.
Comey, following the release of the watchdog’s findings, defended the FBI and wrote in an op-ed that “although it took two years, the truth is finally out.”
President Donald Trump became just the second president in US history to fire his FBI director when he dismissed Comey in May 2017. Comey was leading the investigation into whether Trump campaign members colluded with Russians who hacked the 2016 election. The Trump administration said it was getting rid of Comey because of the way he handled the Hillary Clinton email probe.
Republicans and Trump have criticized the FBI’s surveillance of Page, and following Comey’s interview on Sunday, Trump weighed in on the matter, writing in a tweet that the former FBI director was only now “admitting he was wrong” in the wake of the report’s release.