WASHINGTON – Former FBI Director James Comey already has a few critiques to offer of Attorney General William Barr's handling of the investigation into Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign.
In an interview Wednesday on "CBS This Morning," Comey sharply disputed Barr's claim last month during a congressional hearing that "spying did occur" during the FBI counterintelligence investigation into potential links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government's efforts to sway the election.
"I have no idea what he’s talking about," Comey said of Barr's spying comment. "The FBI doesn’t spy, the FBI investigates. We investigated a very serious allegation that Americans might be hooked up with the Russian effort to attack our democracy."
Comey advised Republicans concerned about FBI spying to "breathe into a paper bag."
"If we had confronted the same facts with a different candidate, say a Democrat candidate, where one of their advisers was talking to a foreign adversary's representative" about interfering in an election, "they would be screaming for the FBI to investigate."
"We should have been fired if we didn't investigate this," he said.
Barr has vowed to open an investigation into the origins of the investigation into the Trump campaign and whether political bias may have played a role.
On Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said he is working with Barr on the review of the investigation. But he said "spying" is "not the term that I would use."
President Donald Trump fired Comey in May 2017 and concerns that he had done so to stop the investigation helped lead to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller's nearly two-year investigation found that the Russians interfered in the election in "sweeping and systematic fashion," but did not find evidence of a criminal conspiracy with the Trump campaign. But the report also outlined potential acts of obstruction of justice by the president and said, "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
When Mueller declared the investigation completed, Barr released a four-page summary of Mueller's conclusions, weeks before the redacted 44-page report was made public.
"It struck me, especially after I read the Mueller report, as misleading," Comey said of Barr's summary. "I'm not suggesting it was intentionally misleading, but It was inadequate to summarize that work."
Have you been surprised by Attorney General Barr's summary letter?— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) May 8, 2019
"Yes... it struck me, especially after I read the Mueller report, as misleading. I'm not suggesting it was intentionally misleading but it was inadequate to summarize that work." -- @Comey pic.twitter.com/P6PCxw0aui
Comey took particular issue with Barr's assertion that because Mueller laid out the facts of his investigation into potential obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump "without reaching any legal conclusions," that Mueller had left it up to him "to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime."
"That's not what Mueller did," Comey said.
Rather, Mueller actually was laying out the evidence of obstruction and signaling "to a future prosecutor after this individual is out of office you ought to take a serious look at charging him," Comey said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'The FBI doesn't spy': Comey slams Barr for spying claim, 'misleading' Mueller summary