In Senate testimony Thursday, James Comey portrayed himself as someone who was “confused,” “stunned,” lacking “presence of mind” and not “strong” enough during his tenure as FBI director.
Comey also pleaded ignorance, declaring “I don’t know” on 45 different occasions during his appearance in the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing looking into his dealings with President Donald Trump regarding Russia and the 2016 election.
While Comey repeatedly said he was “confused” by his firing, he painted a picture of himself as an FBI director who was unsure of himself while in office. Nine times in his testimony, Comey referred to himself as “confused.” Twice, he called himself “stunned,” and he twice said he didn’t have the “presence of mind” to do his job properly.
And, in answering questions, he six times warned the committee, “I could be wrong.”
In one particular instance, Comey testified that he was both too “stunned” and too weak to do his job:
Sen. Feinstein: “Now, here's the question: You're big. You're strong. I know the Oval Office, and I know what happens to people when they walk in. There is a certain amount of intimidation. But why didn't you stop and say, ‘Mr. President, this is wrong. I cannot discuss this with you’?”
Comey: “It's a great question. Maybe if I were stronger, I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took in. The only thing I could think to say, because I was playing in my mind -- because I could remember every word he said -- I was playing in my mind, what should my response be?”
“Again, maybe other people would be stronger in that circumstance. That's how I conducted myself. I hope I'll never have another opportunity. Maybe if I did it again, I'd do it better.”
In another, he said he was so “stunned” that he lacked the “presence of mind” to do his duty:
Sen. Rubio: “At the time, did you say anything to the president about – ‘that is not an appropriate request,’ or did you tell the White House counsel ‘that is not an appropriate request, someone needs to go tell the president that he can't do these things?’”
Comey: “I didn't, no.”
Sen. Rubio: “OK. Why?”
Comey: “I don't know. I think the -- as I said earlier, I think the circumstances were such that it was -- I was a bit stunned, and didn't have the presence of mind.
“And I don't know -- you know, I don't want to make you -- sound like I'm Captain Courageous. I don't know whether, even if I had the presence of mind, I would have said to the president, ‘Sir, that's wrong.’ I don't know whether I would have.”