Former FBI Director James Comey acknowledged Thursday that former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page damaged the bureau’s reputation and possibly undermined the Trump-Russia investigation by exchanging text messages bashing President Donald Trump.
“So do you acknowledge that this whole episode with Strzok and Page, that it damaged the reputation of the FBI and perhaps tarnished the investigation?” CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Comey at a town hall event.
“Definitely. Yeah, very painful,” Comey said.
Comey also said that former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe deserved “severe consequences” for making false statements to Justice Department and FBI investigators regarding the authorization of media leaks.
Comey blasted Trump throughout the town hall event. He also criticized Attorney General William Barr’s handling of the special counsel’s Russia report. But it was Comey’s comments about his former FBI colleagues that stood out from his normal anti-Trump commentary.
“It was important that it be investigated and important that there be discipline that follows it, but, yeah, it made us all look bad,” Comey said of the Strzok-Page texts.
Comey said that while Strzok was a “very talented agent,” his text messages “hurt the institution.”
Strzok opened the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign on July 31, 2016. He served as the lead counterintelligence official on the case and worked on the special counsel’s investigation until the discovery of his messages.
In the exchanges, Strzok and Page criticized Trump while lamenting his chances of being elected president. In one Aug. 8, 2016 message, Strzok told Page that “we’ll stop” Trump from winning the election.
He was removed from the special counsel’s team in late July 2017 and was fired from the FBI on Aug. 13, 2018.
Comey also took a swipe at McCabe, who was fired from the FBI on March 16, 2018 after the Justice Department’s inspector general found that he lacked candor regarding the authorization of media contacts in October 2016 regarding an investigation of the Clinton Foundation.
Comey has disputed McCabe’s claim that he told Comey about his plans to authorize contacts with the press regarding the Clinton Foundation probe.
“FBI employees must tell the truth always,” Comey told Cooper, seemingly referring to McCabe. “And if they don’t, I don’t care what it’s about, it’s going to be investigated, and there will be severe consequences. That’s the way it should be.”
“So I have no problem at all with severe discipline,” he added.
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