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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."

Go deeper

23 mins ago - World

Iran's nuclear dilemma: Ramp up now or wait for Biden

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The world is waiting to see whether Iran will strike back at Israel or the U.S. over the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran's military nuclear program.

Why it matters: Senior Iranian officials have stressed that Iran will take revenge against the perpetrators, but also respond by continuing Fakhrizadeh’s legacy — the nuclear program. The key question is whether Iran will accelerate that work now, or wait to see what President-elect Biden puts on the table.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

U.K. first nation to clear Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

A health care worker during the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial by Pfizer and BioNTech in Ankara, Turkey, in October. Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it's approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, which "will be made available across the U.K. from next week."

Why it matters: The U.K. has beaten the U.S. to become the first Western country to give emergency approval for a vaccine that's found to be 95% effective with no serious side effects against a virus that's killed nearly 1.5 million people globally.

3 hours ago - World

Biden says he won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President-elect Joe Biden during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.