Stories

James Comey interview: The fired FBI Director talks to Mike Allen

James Comey
Photo: Ralph Alswang/ABC via Getty Images

Former FBI Director James Comey sat down with Axios' Mike Allen Monday to discuss the the juiciest parts of his new book, "A Higher Loyalty," and his time working under the Trump administration.

The big quote: Comey denied President Trump's repeated claims that he's a leaker. "I never leaked in office," he said, adding that his definition of a leak is a disclosure of protected information. He also warned against trusting the leaks and media coverage flowing from the Mueller probe. "Nothing is coming from the people who know what they're talking about," he said.

On Trump

  • If Comey had Trump under oath, he would "want to understand his state of mind" at points where he's been accused of obstruction of justice.
  • Trump's pardon of Scooter Libby was "an attack on the rule of law": "There's a reason that George W. Bush, for whom Scooter Libby worked, declined to pardon him ... I don't know whether it's a message."
  • On his reputation after working for Trump: “I don’t think I was stained.”
  • The people surrounding Trump he admires: "I admire [Defense Secretary] Jim Mattis a great deal and believe he's an American patriot." He also said he worked closely with chief of staff John Kelly for a long time and "developed a very positive relationship with him."
  • Why Comey doesn't hate Trump: "It's important that we remember who we are ... hate their actions, but don't give that person that central of a role in your life."

The Russia investigation

  • If Trump pardons Michael Cohen, Comey said Cohen would "no longer be a defendant in that investigation, but he could be compelled to testify" — in this case, against the president.
  • What would happen if Trump fires Robert Mueller? "There is no Deep State, but there is a deep culture and commitment to the rule of law" that runs through the military and intelligence communities, said Comey.
  • His advice to Trump: "Don’t do disastrous things at all, but don’t do disastrous things that won’t make a difference."

The 2016 presidential election

  • If Clinton had won "I think I'd still be FBI Director," said Comey. "Secretary Clinton is someone deeply enmeshed in the rule of law, respect for institutions."
  • As for whether he helped get Donald Trump get elected? "You can't think in those terms ... down that path lies the death of the FBI."

The FBI's reputation

  • "Never forget just how strong the culture of that organization is ... No president serves long enough to destroy that ... Remember how proud you will be to tell your grandchildren what you were during this period."