The former director of the FBI has spoken out after the release of an Inspector General report last week that exposed issues with the bureau’s surveillance methods as it was investigating Donald Trump’s campaign associates.
James Comey said he was “overconfident” in the FBI’s procedures after the report revealed 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in a series of applications used to authorise the surveillance of Carter Page, a policy adviser to Mr Trump during the 2016 election.
The report did not find “documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions” in the FBI’s investigation.
“I was wrong, I was overconfident as director in our procedures,” Mr Comey said on Fox News Sunday. “It’s important that a leader be accountable and transparent.”
The report debunked many of the president’s long-held conspiracy theories about the FBI and its conduct during the 2016 election, from the government spying on Trump Tower to the bureau recruiting members of his campaign to serve as informants. However, it did detail serious missteps by the FBI, as well as the Justice Department.
Both were found to have misrepresented information about Christopher Steele, a British former intelligence officer who wrote the controversial dossier that alleged links between the president and Russia.
Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace pressed Mr Comey about the damning elements of the report, to which the former FBI director responds that the Inspector General “doesn’t conclude that there was intentional misconduct by these career special agents”.
“He says it’s one of two things that he can’t decide: gross negligence or it was intentional misconduct,” Mr Wallce replies.
“Well, I’ve read his report,” Mr Comey says, “he says ‘we are not concluding that there was intentional misconduct by FBI personnel”.
He adds: “[The Inspector] doesn’t find intentionality but that doesn’t make it any less important. As director, you are responsible for this. I was responsible for this and if I was still there I’d be … figuring out how did this happen, and is it systemic.”