Transcript: James Comey’s interview with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by Zable, Apr 16, 2018.

  1. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat Fan

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    The following is an excerpt, from the start of the interview:

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you for doing this.

    JAMES COMEY: Oh, it's my pleasure. Thanks for coming.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Simple start. Why did you write this book?

    JAMES COMEY: I r— I was never going to write a book. But I decided I had to write this one to try and be useful. That was my goal after I was fired, to be useful. And it occurred to me maybe I can be useful by offering a view to people, especially to young people, of what leadership should look like and how it should be centered on values. And so—

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You lay out qualities of an ethical leader. What are they?

    JAMES COMEY: First and foremost, it's someone who realizes that lasting values have to be at the center of their leadership. Whether they're in government or in the private sector or leading a university, they have to focus on things like fairness and integrity and, most of all, the truth. That the truth matters.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And you have— there's almost a sense of— of alarm underneath the whole book. You say it's a dangerous time in our country?

    JAMES COMEY: I think it is. And— I chose those words carefully. I was worried when I chose the word, "Dangerous" first. I thought, "Is that an overstatement?" And I don't think it is because—

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why not?

    JAMES COMEY: I worry that the norms at the center of this country— we can fight as Americans about guns or taxes or immigration, and we always have. But what we have in common is a set of norms. Most importantly, the truth. "We hold these truths to be self-evident," right? Truth is the fourth word of that sentence. That's what we are. And if we lose that, if we lose tethering of our leaders to that truth, what are we? And so I started to worry. Actually, the foundation of this country is in jeopardy when we stop measuring our leaders against that central value of the truth.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Are we losing it?

    JAMES COMEY: I think we are in part. But I think the strength of this country is that we're going to outlast it. That there will be damage to that norm. But I liken President Trump in the book to a forest fire. Going to do tremendous damage. Going to damage those important norms. But a forest fire gives healthy things a chance to grow that had no chance before that fire.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: How do we put it out?

    JAMES COMEY: We put it out in two ways. We put it out first by not becoming numb to the fact that the truth is being assailed every day. By not deciding that it's just too much to pay attention to because that's the path to losing truth as the central value in this country. So all of us have to constantly be involved and call it out when we see the truth endangered, when we see lying. And then next, we need to get involved. The American people need to stand up in the public square and in the voting booth and say, "Look, we disagree about an awful lot. But we have in common something that matters enormously to this country. And our leaders must reflect those values."

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And— and why the title, “A Higher Loyalty?”

    JAMES COMEY: Well, in part, the title comes from a bizarre conversation I had with the president in dinner at the White House in January of last year, where he asked for my loyalty personally as the F.B.I. director. My loyalty's supposed to be to the American people and to the institution. But more than that, it grows out of a lifetime of my trying to be a better leader and figure out what matters in a leader, and realizing from a whole lot better leaders than I, that there must be a loyalty to something above the urgent, above the political, above the popular. We have to think, "What are the values that matter in the institution I'm involved with and in the country that I care a lot about?"

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You look at your career over the last four decades, you're like the Zelig of modern law enforcement?

    JAMES COMEY: I stick out 'cause I'm so tall. I appear in every picture—

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Y— that's only part of it. You've taken on the mob, Martha Stewart, right in the middle of huge controversies over government surveillance, over torture. What are the big lessons you take away from that?

    JAMES COMEY: The big lesson from that and I've had a strange and wonderful career. And I don't know how I've ended up in all these spots. But the lesson I've learned is that it's important when you're involved in a difficult situation with loud voices to in your mind, rise above it and ask, "So what matters in the long run? What does this institution stand for? What does my country stand for?"

    It helps you see things more clearly and realize things like truth matters, integrity matters. Those ethical values are what are going to last. And when you have to explain what you've done someday to your grandchildren, that's what will matter. Your grandkids won't understand that people— angry at me, or the vice president of the United States was telling me people were going to die because of me.

    What they'll want to know is, "What was your North Star? Why did you make the decision you made?" And I hope your answer's going to be, "'Cause I took the time to think about what matters. What my institution stands for and what my country stands for."

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Right at the beginning of your career, you're involved in prosecution of major mafia figures. How does that form you?

    JAMES COMEY: Well, it's a tremendous education to get— a view inside La Cosa Nostra, the mafia, both in the United States and in Sicily. And to realize that the mafia is an organization like any other organization. Has a leader, has underlings, has values, has principles. They're entirely corrupt. And it is the antithesis of ethical leadership.

    But I didn't know it at the time. But it was forming my view that the truth has to be central to our lives and that leadership has to be focused on important and ethical values. And not what's good for the boss, how do I accomplish what's good for the boss and get the boss what he wants.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Truth at the center of our lives. That's the— at the center of the Martha Stewart case as well?

    JAMES COMEY: Yes. The Martha Stewart case was a case that I initially hated.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why?

    JAMES COMEY: And didn't want any part of. We had a lot of big cases going on at that point in time. WorldCom, Adelphia. Enron was going on. We were trying to investigate corporate fraud, massive corporate fraud, and send a message to the American people that the system isn't rigged, the rich aren't going to get away with frauds, and that's really hard and important work.

    And in the middle of this, walks on this case involving a famous person who appears to have lied during an investigation of insider trading. And my initial reaction was, "You know, that's kind of a small thing. That'll be a big distraction. People will throw rocks at me. But more than that, it'll take away from this other work we're doing."

    And folks don't realize this, but I almost hesitated and almost didn't bring the case against Martha Stewart, in hindsight, because she was rich and famous. And decided that if she were anybody else, any other ordinary person, she would be prosecuted. And what helped me come to that conclusion was I remembered a case I'd been involved in against an African American minister in Richmond when I was a federal prosecutor there, who had lied to us during an investigation.

    And I begged this minister, "Please don't lie to us because if you do, we're going to have to prosecute you." He lied. And at the end of the day, we had to prosecute him. And he went to jail for over a year. And as I stood in my office in Manhattan, I'm looking out at the Brooklyn Bridge, I remember this moment. And I'm thinking, "You know, nobody in New York knows that guy's name except me.

    "Why would I treat Martha Stewart differently than that guy?" And the reason would only be because she's rich and famous and because I'll be criticized for it. The truth matters in the criminal justice system. And if it's going to matter, we must prosecute people who lie in the middle of an investigation.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You don't lie to investigators, you don't lie under oath?

    JAMES COMEY: You can't or the rule of law breaks down. And there once was a day when people were afraid of going to hell if they took an oath in the name of God and violated it. We've drifted away from that day. And so in its place has to be a fear that if you lie and the government can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, they will prosecute you in order to send a message to all the others who might be called upon to give evidence. You must tell the truth. It matters enormously.​

    Read the rest of the transcript here: http://abcnews.go.com/Site/transcript-james-comeys-interview-abc-news-chief-anchor/story?id=54488723
     
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  2. Zable

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    In the interview, Mr Stephanopoulos asked Mr Comey whether he thought Donald Trump was unfit to be president. Excerpt:

    JAMES COMEY: … Where are we as a country? So I worry sometimes people think I'm talking about politics. Not in the way we normally talk about in this country. But I hope in the most important way. Values matter. This president does not reflect the values of this country.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: If you are right, what is the remedy? Should Donald Trump be impeached?

    JAMES COMEY: Impeachment is— is a question of law and fact and politics. And so that'll be determined by people gather—

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You're a citizen. You have a judgment.

    JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I'll tell you, I'll give you a strange answer. I hope not, because I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they're duty bound to do directly. People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values.

    We'll fight about guns. We'll fight about taxes. We'll fight about all those other things down the road. But you cannot have, as president of the United States, someone who does not reflect the values that I believe Republicans treasure and Democrats treasure and Independents treasure. That is the core of this country. That's our foundation. And so impeachment, in a way, would short circuit that.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But— but if Robert Mueller finds evidence of obstruction of justice, what is the remedy?

    JAMES COMEY: Well, sure. Tha— I— I didn't mean to say that I want them to stop doing their investigation or whatever flows from that. But in a way, as a citizen, I think we owe it to each other to get off the couch and think about what unites us. I think about the people who supported Trump, and continue to support Trump.

    A lotta them come from families with a proud history of military service. And that's a wonderful thing. What did their fathers and grandfathers fight and die for? Not for immigration policy. Not for a tax policy. Not for Supreme Court justice. They fought and died for a set of ideas. The rule of law. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. The truth.

    That's what they fought and died for. And at some point, we have to focus on that and make sure that whoever's leading us embodies those and we judge that leader by their tether to those values. Then we'll go back to fighting like cats and dogs about all the things we normally fight about.
    Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Site/transcript-james-comeys-interview-abc-news-chief-anchor/story?id=54488723
     
  3. BD Calhoun

    BD Calhoun Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Like Mueller, Comey was a central figure in 9/11 cover ups. He signed off on warrantless surveillance of Americans, torturing captives, and defended the Bush administration’s detention of an American citizen for three years without charges or right to counsel. So when he talks about "the rule of law," it makes me want to throw up because he's full of crap.

    The truth is the people investigating Trump should have been locked up themselves.

    The fact that he even considered not prosecuting Stewart because of her social status further speaks to his character, as well as our corrupt law enforcement system.
     
  4. Angela Channing

    Angela Channing Soap Chat Superstar

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    I saw some of the interview on the news today and Comey didn't seem to be pulling any punches. He is a Republican right-wing zealot which makes the extent of his attack on Trump all the more surprising.
     
  5. Zable

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    The fact that Mr Comey publicly shared that he had even considered not prosecuting Ms Stewart because of her social status spoke volumes about his character.

    Perchance you have one or the other mischaracterized?
     
  6. BD Calhoun

    BD Calhoun Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I'll give him credit for being forthright about it, but the fact that he even entertained the idea of letting her off shows the corrupting influence of these agencies. Justice is far from blind.
    Of course, even if I were to put that aside, his aiding the Bush Administration in subverting the Constitution is all I really need to know about Comey's character.

    Telling the truth about Trump doesn't automatically make Comey one of the good guys.
     
  7. Angela Channing

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    I think both Comey and Trump are Republican right-wing zealots which is why I never expected Comey to attack Trump vociferously and comprehensively.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
  8. Zable

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    Agreeing to be Mr Trump’s head of Homeland Security & White House chief of staff is all that it will take for John Kelly to be similarly judged, I’m sure. How many will not care to try and find out the true measure of the man? How many will scorn anecdotal stories such as Mr Comey’s, who tells of receiving a phone call from Mr Kelly soon after learning he’d been summarily fired, and diminish it as being any number of things ranging from hypocrisy to hubris?

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What did he say?

    JAMES COMEY: He was very upset. He was very emotional and said he had seen the news and that he intended to resign because he wouldn’t work for people who would treat someone like me in such a dishonorable way and that he was going to quit.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What did you tell him?

    JAMES COMEY: Please don’t do that. Please don’t do that, John. And I knew him well and still– knew– thought highly of him then, still think highly of him, and I said, “Please don’t do that. This president needs people of character and principle around him, especially this president. Please don’t do that.” And I said, “We need you to stay and serve for the country.”​

    Should I applaud more for the one who says, “I am principled, and I will not compromise my principles and work with the one who will taint me”; or should I applaud more for the one who says, “I am principled and I will work with the one who will taint me because without me the stench of the rot from that one will be much stronger”?

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: If he called you today saying he intended to quit, what would you tell him?

    JAMES COMEY: I understand. I– I think you’ve– you’ve sacrificed as much as you really can of yourself for the country. And– no one would begrudge you leaving. You’ve done your absolute best. It’s– it’s come at a cost to you, but– that no one can blame you.
    *shrug*
     
  9. Zable

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    Perchance "right-wing zealots" not cast from the same mould?
     
  10. Zable

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    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get back to the story — but one more question. I think it’s to an important point that– when you’re talking about being an ethical leader, at what point do people serve in order to protect the institution, to protect the country, and at what point does it cross over into enabling bad behavior?

    JAMES COMEY: That is the question that people have to ask themselves. And– and there’s no easy way to define it in the abstract, that you– the challenge of this president is that he will stain everyone around him. And the question is, how much stain is too much stain and how much stain eventually makes you unable to accomplish your goal of protecting the country and serving the country? So I don’t know. And it– it– it would be hard for anybody to answer that. But everyone’s gotta answer that individually.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Could you imagine if you hadn’t been fired on May 9th– if you hadn’t been fired on May 9th, would you still be working for President Trump?

    JAMES COMEY: Yes. I– I would– yes, I would. I– as I told President Obama, I was dreading it and I– I would be im– an unhappy F.B.I. director, but in a way proud of the organization and in my role in trying to protect it. And the current F.B.I. director is a friend of mine, is an honorable person. I’m so glad that he’s serving, ’cause I know he cares about the institutional values the way I do. It’s hard, you gotta constantly worry about efforts to compromise you and compromise your institution. But in the end, to answer your question, that’s– that is question and that’s one that everybody has to answer individually.​
     
  11. BD Calhoun

    BD Calhoun Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Working with a corrupt president isn't the problem, it's the decisions they make in that capacity that matter.

    In other words, do they try to counteract the administration's corruption, or are they complicit in its implementation?

    Trump's not a right wing zealot, he's a politically expedient opportunist. He's attacked Republicans almost as much as Democrats. He even used to be a registered Democrat.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
  12. Angela Channing

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    We must have a different definition of what a right wing zealot is. Are you saying you don't think Trump is right-wing, a zealot or neither?

    Trump has retweeted material posted by Britain First, an openly racist and Islamophobic group. Trump has called African nations "s**t hole countries" and he said there were "many fine people" on both sides of the Charlottesville protest which included white supremacists. Trump has called Mexicans rapists and supported violence against minority protesters at one of his rally. I could go on.
     
  13. BD Calhoun

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    Trump is pandering to cultural conservatives in the hope that they'll re-elect him. It's no different than him going to church. Remember the "2 Corinthians" gaffe? His ideology is whatever best serves him. During the campaign, he tried to court Bernie supporters by promising to protect Social Security and Medicare, said his healthcare plan would "cover everybody," promised to get us out of the TPP, and even criticized Republicans for being too cozy with Goldman Sachs. It was all just pandering bullshit, but a real right wing zealot wouldn't have promised those things to begin with. His whole gimmick was that he wasn't a part of the Republican establishment, and was going to shake things up. He's since become part of the Republican establishment, but he has no sincere beliefs. That's why he's flip-flopped on several issues. IMO, Mike Pence is a better example of a genuine right wing zealot.

    Unlike Trump, right wing zealots don't pretend to be everything to everybody.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018
  14. Zable

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    James Comey on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

     
  15. Zable

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    Why James Comey is not done with Donald Trump, an analysis by Stephen Collinson for CNN.

    James Comey has shifted hundreds of thousands of copies of a "A Higher Loyalty" and has a bumper bestseller on his hands.

    But whether his book tour has advanced his goal of alerting Americans to the danger of what he sees as a presidency that threatens "much of what is good in this nation" is far less clear.

    The former FBI director will have a new chance to make his case to the country in a CNN town hall meeting Wednesday night at his alma mater, The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, hosted by Anderson Cooper.

    It was probably inevitable that Comey's warnings would be overshadowed, given that he's now one of the most polarizing figures in American life following his role in the 2016 election, which left him despised by supporters of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

    In the storm whipped up by the book, his calls for ethical leadership and fears that Trump is damaging the institutions that underpin the republic have been drowned out by reaction to his more mundane observations – for instance, about Trump's skin tone and hand size, which some critics saw as vindictive.

    Yet given that his book has already sold 600,000 copies, according to its publisher on Tuesday, far outpacing other political exposés, it is destined to become part of the public record of the Trump presidency.

    Comey's final argument – that the norms, traditions and values that have guided the United States for decades are under threat by a President brazenly challenging the rule of law – is one that could be rendered more relevant and powerful by events that are yet to occur in this most unusual presidency.

    And Comey's character sketch of the President – who he portrays as curiously lacking an emotional core and with the morals of a Mafia boss, will be still influencing the historical interpretation of the Trump presidency when current controversies have faded and all the key players are long dead and gone.

    Strong sense of own integrity

    Throughout his book tour, Comey has remained the same singular, cordial and self-possessed, sometimes exasperating figure with a strong sense of his own sense of integrity that he was while in office.

    That highly developed sense of his own pure motives – despite his admissions that he has worried about the size of his own ego – is continuing to irk his critics. Yet he's interpreted the bile coming his way as a sign that his motives, if not his actions in the Clinton email saga or in investigating the President over Russia's election meddling, are unimpeachable.

    "It doesn't mean that I'm right, that everybody hates me, I could still be wrong," Comey told CNN's Jake Tapper last week.

    "(But both sides) can't be right that I'm in the other team's pocket, which I hear all the time. That can't be possible."

    Like many prominent figures who chose to take on Trump, a bare-knuckle fighter, head on, Comey has had to struggle not to become tarnished.

    At times, in his flurry of television and radio interviews, he seemingly pinched himself that he was discussing salacious matter that detracted from his most substantive arguments.

    "I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don't know whether the current President of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013," Comey told ABC News.

    He has conceded that his attempt to add colour to his account, by sizing up Trump's appearance, was something he might not do again.

    Given that many Clinton supporters blame him for throwing the election to Trump and many Trump supporters believe the Russia investigation that he once oversaw is a hoax, his power to convince partisans was always limited.

    His two weeks in the spotlight, which started when excerpts of his book leaked to media outlets 13 days ago, also do not seem to have made a tangible difference to the status of the Russia investigation threatening the President.

    That's partly because Robert Mueller has marched on swiftly since Comey was fired on May 9, 2017, so his knowledge of the current scope of the special counsel's investigation is limited. His book contained few huge surprises because he had testified publicly on much of what he knew about the events leading up to his firing, and about Trump's apparent attempt to get him to go easy on former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

    Comey's testimony to Mueller was locked in months ago and to some extent the release of Comey's contemporaneous memos last week from his encounters with the President served to scoop his own story.

    Notwithstanding some outraged tweets, Trump himself believes he has weathered the Comey storm and is pleased at the way Republicans came to his defence over the book, sources told CNN's Jeff Zeleny last week.

    Yet that doesn't mean that the President emerges from Comey's publicity tour unscathed, either. Comey's book was valuable, because for those with open minds about Trump at least, it appeared to validate news reporting of a President who demands misplaced loyalty from his subordinates and often seems to stretch the boundaries of his authority and presidential protocol.

    Trump does not emerge unscathed

    There are also ominous notes for Trump in the book, in that Comey – at least before he got dragged into the 2016 election morass – was seen as one of Washington's straight-shooters, much like Mueller himself.

    He portrays the breed of investigators to which they both belong as dispassionate, relentless in following the facts and dedicated to the institutions of law enforcement that Comey believes Trump has called into question.

    "Any investigator or prosecutor who doesn't have a sense, after nearly a year of investigation, where their case is likely headed, is incompetent," Comey writes at one point. If Mueller observes a similar code, given the rapid pace of his investigation, it could mean bad news for some people around Trump.

    The most startling revelations from Comey's media blitz, however, have come in his portrayal of the President himself. In his book and his memos, Comey painted a picture of a lonely leader craving respect, recognition and loyalty that ranks among the most stunning glimpses into the West Wing in recent years.

    At one point in his interview with the New Yorker's David Remnick, Comey says he doesn't hate Trump or even dislike him and almost feels sorry for the President as he creates a devastating character sketch.

    "It's a hard thing to say, but I think he has an emptiness inside of him and a hunger for affirmation that I have never seen in an adult," Comey said.

    "I think that he lacks external reference points, instead of making hard decisions by calling upon a religious tradition or logic or tradition or history it is all what will fill this hole, what will get me the affirmation that I need?"

    "Something is missing in his life that has created this orientation."​

    Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/04/25/politics/james-comey-donald-trump-cnn-town-hall/index.html
     
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