The FBI’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was “essential,” former FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the probe.
“In the main, it was done by the book, it was appropriate, and it was essential that it be done,” Comey said under questioning by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “Overall I am proud of the work, but there are parts of it we will talk about that are concerning.”
Comey was the top official leading a criminal investigation into whether Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the election when he was abruptly fired by President Donald Trump in 2017.
On Wednesday, he strongly defended the FBI’s handling of the investigation, though acknowledged that his initial claims were wrong that a wiretap of Carter Page, a former Trump adviser, was properly handled. He also said he wouldn’t have signed the FISA warrant application to wiretap Page.
“No. Not without a much fuller discussion about how they were thinking about their obligations to the court,” he told the committee.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz last year concluded the FBI made multiple errors when it asked the FISA court to approve the order to monitor Page in 2016 and 2017 and relied on a dossier despite evidence it was unreliable.
Comey described the problems with the wiretap as sloppy.
“The collection of omissions, failure to consider updates, to communicate between the team trying to figure out what’s true or not true in the Steele material, and the team investigating Carter Page — it’s embarrassing, it’s sloppy, I’ve run out of words,” Comey said.
“There is no indication — the inspector general would say it if he found it — that people were doing bad things on purpose,” he added, “but that doesn’t make it any less concerning or embarrassing.”
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