Comey: 'Sloppiness' in FISA Applications Happened Because 'I Was Overconfident' in FBI Procedures

By Susan Jones | December 16, 2019 | 5:27am EST
Former FBI Director James Comey (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Former FBI Director James Comey (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

( - Former FBI Director James Comey went on "Fox News Sunday" to defend both the FBI and himself following the release of the Justice Department inspector general's report, which found "significant inaccuracies and omissions" in each of the four FISA applications on Carter Page, a Trump campaign volunteer.

According to IG Michael Horowitz, there were seven problems with the first FISA application and a total of 17 by the final renewal. One FBI agent, who changed critical information given to him by the CIA, has been referred for criminal prosecution.

But Comey on Sunday called it mere "sloppiness."

(President Trump on Sunday accused Comey of "unlawful conduct" and asked, "Where are the apologies to me and others, Jim?")

Host Chris Wallace told Comey, "The IG says you should feel no vindication."

Comey said it depends on how you understand the word "vindication."

What I mean is that the FBI was accused of treason, of illegal spying, of tapping Mr. Trump's wires illegally, of opening an investigation without justification, of being a criminal conspiracy to unseat -- defeat and then unseat a president. All of that was nonsense.

I think it's really important that the inspector general looked at that, that the American people, your viewers and all viewers understand that's true, but he also found things we were never accused of, which is real sloppiness, and that's concerning. As I've said all along has to be focused on. If I were director, I'd be very concerned about it and diving into it.

Comey previously insisted that the FBI followed the FISA process correctly and that the case of Carter Page was handled in a "thoughtful and responsible way" by both the FBI and the Justice Department.

Wallace reminded him of the 17 "inaccuracies and omissions" identified by Horowitz:

"He's right, I was wrong," Comey admitted. "I was overconfident in the procedures that the FBI and Justice had built over 20 years. I thought they were robust enough.

"It's incredibly hard to get a FISA, I was overconfident in those, 'cause he's right, there was real sloppiness. Seventeen things that should have been in the application or at least discussed and characterized differently. It was not acceptable. And so he's right, I was wrong."

Comey said if he were still FBI director, he would insist on getting to the bottom of it, "because the most important question is, is it systemic? Are there problems in other cases?"

During the interview, Comey pushed back on the IG's finding that the Steele dossier played a "central and essential role" in establishing probable cause to get a FISA warrant on Carter Page. Comey told Congress the dossier was "pat of a broader mosaic" of information, and on Sunday, he continued to insist the FISA application contained "lots of other material."

Comey also quibbled about FBI Agent Kevin Clinesmith, who -- according to the IG -- has been referred for criminal investigation for changing an email to hide the fact that Carter Page had worked as a CIA source, which explained some of his interaction with Russians.

Nevertheless, Comey insisted, "The inspector general did not find misconduct by any FBI people. He found mistakes and negligence and oversight."

"No, no, that's not true," Wallace interrupted. "In the case of Kevin Clinesmith, he has referred it for a criminal investigation."

"Right, but that's not been resolved," Comey said.  "This business with a lawyer changing some email to a partner on the team --" Comey started to say.

Wallace told Comey, "I mean, you make it sound like it's not much."

"No, no, it's very important," Comey said:

Remember how we got here. The FBI was accused of criminal misconduct. Remember, I was going to jail, and lots of other people were going to jail. People on this network said it over and over and over again.

The inspector general did not find misconduct by FBI personnel, did not find political bias, did not find illegal conduct. Inspector general found significant mistakes and that is not something to sneeze at. That's really important.

But the American people, especially your viewers, need to realize they were given false information about the FBI. It's honest, it is not political, it is flawed.

Comey conceded that the FISA court was given false information. "The FBI should have included or at least pushed to the lawyers so they could make a decision information that you just said, things like that, that another agency -- had not a source relationship but some kind of contact relationship (with Page)."

Comey told Wallace that Carter Page "was treated unfairly," not because of anything the FBI did, but "by his name being made public."

"He's a United States citizen, and it never should have been made public and that's an outrage."

Comey pushed back on "lies" told about the FBI.

The FBI is an honest, apolitical organization. Remember the treason, remember the spying, remember all of us going to jail, that was false information that your viewers and millions of others were given.

My own mother-in-law was worried I was going to jail. I kept telling her, look, it's all made up, it's all made up, don't worry about it, but I couldn't say that publicly for two years.

Well now, I'm saying it on behalf of the FBI, it was all made up, and I hope people will stare at that and learn about what the FBI is like, human and flawed, but deeply committed to trying to do the right thing.

In two tweets on Sunday, President Trump wrote:

"So now Comey’s admitting he was wrong. Wow, but he’s only doing so because he got caught red handed. He was actually caught a long time ago. So what are the consequences for his unlawful conduct. Could it be years in jail? Where are the apologies to me and others, Jim?"


"As bad as the I.G. Report is for the FBI and others, and it is really bad, remember that I.G. Horowitz was appointed by Obama. There was tremendous bias and guilt exposed, so obvious, but Horowitz couldn’t get himself to say it. Big credibility loss. Obama knew everything!"


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