'He was right, I was wrong': Former FBI director James Comey admits he was wrong to defend FBI's use of the FISA surveillance process

James Comey
  • Former FBI director James Comey acknowledged Sunday that he was wrong to defend the bureau's use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process when applying for a warrant to surveil Carter Page, a former foreign policy aide on President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.
  • His statements marked a reversal from last week, when he said a Justice Department inspector general's report on the origins of the Russia investigation exonerated the FBI of wrongdoing.
  • In fact, the report revealed that there were 17 "significant errors and omissions" in the FISA applications involving Page.
  • "He was right, I was wrong," Comey told host Chris Wallace, referring to inspector general Michael Horowitz, who wrote the report. "I was overconfident, as director, in our procedures."
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Former FBI director James Comey acknowledged on "Fox News Sunday" that he was wrong to defend the bureau's use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process when applying for a warrant to monitor Carter Page, a former foreign policy aide on President Donald Trump's campaign.

His statements marked a reversal from what he said last week, which is that the Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz's report on the origins of the Russia investigation exonerated the FBI of wrongdoing.

"He was right, I was wrong," Comey told host Chris Wallace. "I was overconfident, as director, in our procedures. And it's important that a leader be accountable and transparent. If I were still director, I'd be saying the same thing that [FBI director Christopher Wray] is saying, which is that we are going to get to the bottom of this, because the most important question is, is it systemic? Are there problems in other cases?"

 

Horowitz's report revealed that the internal investigation into the Russia probe found 17 "significant errors and omissions" in the bureau's FISA applications involving Page.

"These errors and omissions resulted from case agents providing wrong or incomplete information to [the Justice Department National Security Division's Office of Intelligence] and failing to flag important issues for discussion," the report said.

Horowitz also found that an FBI employee no longer working at the bureau doctored an email to make it appear like Page wasn't a source for another government agency. Had the FISA court been aware of this, it could have been exculpatory for Page.

Testifying before Congress last week, the inspector general didn't mince words, saying "here are significant, serious failures" on the FBI's part when applying for the warrant to surveil Page.

Asked whether his report vindicated Comey, Horowitz replied, "It doesn't vindicate anyone at the FBI who touched this, including the leadership."

Comey downplayed on Sunday the role of the so-called Steele dossier in the FBI obtaining a FISA warrant to monitor Page. The Steele dossier is an explosive collection of memos alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. The information in it is largely unverified.

Comey said the dossier was "not a huge part of the presentation to the court," though he acknowledged that "it was the one that convinced the lawyers to move forward."

His statements seem to align with what Horowitz's report detailed with respect to the dossier's relevance.

"We determined that the Crossfire Hurricane team's receipt of Steele's election reporting on September 19, 2016 played a central and essential role in the FBI's and Department's decision to seek the FISA order," the report said. Crossfire Hurricane was the FBI's codename for the Russia investigation.

In other words, the dossier was "central" and "essential" to the FBI's decision-making process (emphasis ours) on whether to move forward in seeking a FISA warrant.

However, Horowitz also found that one portion of the first FISA application detailing Page's alleged coordination with the Russians on the 2016 campaign "relied entirely on" information from the Steele dossier.

Comey said on Sunday that he hadn't misrepresented the relevance of the Steele dossier in the Page FISA application process, but added that "if I was, then I'm sorry that I did that."

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