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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  June 29, 2018 12:30am-1:01am BST

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our top story: at least five people have been killed in an attack on a newspaper office in the us state of maryland. reports say the gunman opened fire through a glass door to the office. a suspect has been captured but no motive is known for the attack. european leaders are struggling to agree a joint statement at a summit dominated by the migration crisis. reports say italy is refusing to agree a joint statement. and this story is trending on this is a pangolin. poaching has made it the most endangered species on the planet. british scientists have now come up with a ground—breaking way to protect it, by scanning human "finger—prints" from its scales. that's all from me. stay with bbc world news. atjust after half past midnight, now on bbc news it's hardtalk
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with stephen sackur. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. when historians write their versions of donald trump's extraordinary ascent to the presidency, prominence will surely be given to my guest. the former director of the fbi — james comey. he was a republican hired by a democratic president, whose handling of two key investigations — into hillary clinton's e—mails and allegations of russian interference in the 2016 election — polarised america. his recent memoir was a withering condemnation of the man who fired him, president trump. but has james comey sullied his own reputation by stepping into america's political swamp? james comey, welcome to hardtalk. thanks for having me on, stephen. you have described yourself as a man who finds it uncomfortable to be in the limelight — the spotlight. and yet, for the last two years that is precisely where you have been and presumably chosen to be. so, how come?
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as fbi director i was stuck there, i ended up as the referee in the middle of the nastiest world cup football match we had ever seen and since i got fired i decided i couldn't look myself in the mirror if i didn't share my view of what ethical leadership should look like. so involuntarily, for the first part, voluntarily now. i suppose it invites people to wonder whether there is an element of personal ego, even a vanity in the way you have conducted yourself in this highly contentious period. sure. that is a totally reasonable question, i hope not now, i will prove it is not about me trying to be famous by going away once this period is over, you won't recognise me in airports any more. but before that, sure. i get why people ask that. it is not true and if people stare at the way we made decisions, it was not about ego. you say it is not true, i reflect on your memoir, you talk about the way you saw
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working in new york as a prosecutor with the chief prosecutor in new york at the time, rudy giuliani, and you say it took me a while to realise that giuliani confidence was not leaven with a whole lot of humility, the cost of that imbalance is that there was very little oxygen left for others. now that you have some distance over what has happened over the past two years and your conduct as leader of the fbi, do you think you fell into the same trap? no. because i learned from those mistakes and my own weaknesses. as my mother would say, i was hot stuff when i was a young person and met an amazing woman and had people who beat that out of me. when i was at the fbi had people surrounding me and tell me when i when i was a fool, impulsive and when i was wrong, so that is not a fair criticism because of the folks i had around me. they may have told you you were impulsive in your early days, you have been told by the inspector general
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of the justice department who spent a year and a half looking at your leadership, your behaviours when handling the hillary clinton e—mails investigation, the inspector general has concluded that you acted at times with an extreme form of insubordination. that is impulsive, that suggests that in the end it was about you and your determination to do it your way. yeah, i don't think so, though. it is fair criticism, but not based on decisions made on impulse. i knew exactly what i was doing and made careful consideration, argued about it with my senior staff and decided the best way to protect the institutions ofjustice was to separate myself from my boss, who was loretta lynch, i knew i was doing. i wasn't doing it impulsively, not of anger or ego, i was doing it because i thought it was the best of two bad choices. one was bad and the other was worse, so i chose bad. it is a big word, insubordination,
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particularly for a guy who has spent a lot of time saying that his commitment is entirely to institutional integrity, to the rule of law and to due process. to remind people what you did, injuly 2016, is ignore due process when you took it upon yourself to go out there and tell the united states and the world that you were closing the investigation into hillary clinton's misuse of e—mails and that there would be no charges brought. that was insubordination. yes, in the inspector general‘s view. i had an emotional reaction when they called me insubordinate, for the reasons you said, but i actually think it was fair and i did it on purpose. it is not about due process. you are saying you are bigger than the system, the institutions and the proper way to do things. no.
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i am a servant of the institutions and respect the norms, that would be i stand next to the attorney general, but given the circumstances and her compromise, if i care about the institution i cannot do it the normal way. there is nothing normal about this and as a servant i had to do something i knew would be bad for me personally, but to step away from the attorney general and speak as we would speak together, but separately. you didn'tjust choose to break the rules, you also explicitly blamed mrs clinton for what you called extremely careless behaviours in a way that, again was unprecedented, because here you are declaring no charges were to be brought and normally, under due process in the american system, if no charges were to be brought you wouldn't go on to detail her misbehaviours — and again, the inspector general says "this violated long—standing department practice and protocol." only in this respect, though. you are right that in the normal case when we close an investigation, we say nothing.
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for many years, in cases of extended public interest, the department ofjustice has long talked about the conduct of people who were not charged. twice it had happened in the months before this announcement for good reason. the difference here was, where i departed from practices, i didn't do it with the attorney general, normally she would take the lead. i did it separate. exactly. you are putting the post that you held, director of the fbi, before the united states public and the world in a way that was deeply exposing. you were being political. the guy that says the fbi has the above politics, apolitical — you were being deeply political. i don't agree, respectfully. i was being deeply respectful of american confidence in the systems ofjustice and thought the only way, the least bad way to maintain that confidence is to offer transparency. i wasn't trying to attack hillary clinton, i was trying to be transparent with the american people so they could have confidence in the result. and myjudgement, others
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can think differently, and i respect that, i thought and still think if i do it next to the attorney general, who just had a private meeting with bill clinton on a private aircraft, the american people will not have confidence in the result. in essence, in this part of an extraordinary sensitive process, you were playing god? hardly! if i was playing god i could see the future and that would have maybe at better leader. i was making judgements in the middle of a terrible situation. think about this. one of the two candidates for the president is under investigation but the attorney general said i will accept jim comey‘s recommendation. i said i would do it but i would do it separately so the american people understand it was done well and they can rely on it. we have got a lot to get through, let's get onto the next key decision that you had to take.
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that was when you learned just a few days before election day november 2016, that a new store of hillary clinton e—mails had been found in the laptop computer belonging to a former congressman, you again took the the unilateral decision that you had to tell the american congress and public that you are reopening the investigation into hillary clinton. just literally 11 days before polling day. yeah. you must have known that that was going to have an extraordinary impact on people's political thinking. i knew it might have some impact, i didn't know what impact. but i saw two choices. i could do that, which is really bad and inconsistent with the norms i have lived under in the department ofjustice, or i could conceal that we had restarted the investigation. one much worse, concealing what we now knew to be a lie to the american people during the summer that we are done here, that that was no longer true,
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i think would be devastating. i didn't do it unilaterally. i told the attorney general i think i need to do this! but it turned out that you actually had time to go through the e—mails, to find out whether there was anything new and significant and conclude there wasn't before election day. so why not get your staff to double—team it, to figure out those e—mails were not important before election day, rather than run the risk of changing the result of that election? that's where being god—like would have been good. that would have been a wonderful thing, i couldn't see the future. 11 days before the election the investigating team said "sir, we cannot finish this review before the election." that was plain wrong. it wasn't plain wrong. based on what we knew then, we didn't have the capabilities to go through 100 of
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thousands of emails. you had to read overnight and we built a software system to cut it down to 6000 e—mails. they finished the sunday before the election, but i can't live life backwards. on october 28 the 16th i am being told in ways that are credible, we cannot finish before this election. what do i do? speak or conceal? the bottom line is, hillary clinton to this day believes that you cost her the election, not that it wasn't close, but you cost her the election because you tilted a significant body of opinion against her because people thought she was yet again under suspicion, a cloud of suspicion and she blames you. i wonder whether right now you are still haunted by the thought that you, in essence, dictated the result of that election. i am not wanted by it, but i carry it around. the sense of slight sickness in my stomach as we don't want to have any impact
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on the election at all, we would rather not be on the field during this particular game. we are on the field and have to choose between two options, we cannot consider the political outcome because if we do that we are just another partisan player in washington. one of my lawyers asked me before that, should you consider that you will help elect donald trump as president? great question. i can't! because down that road lies the death of the fbi. i have to decide what is the right thing given the values of the institution? do i speak or conceal? let's turn to you and donald trump. it seems to me that in your dealings with donald trump from the very get go, before the inauguration in january 2017, you, very farfrom bringing a blank slate to your view of him, you were deeply suspicious and sceptical of him from the start. that comes out clearly in your recollections in your memoir. sure, that is because i am a human being, not politicaljudgement.
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i evaluate people who work for me and who i work for. it becomes political if you are from the very get go, likening the way he deals with you and that situations, likening him to a mafia don, mafia boss. that is notjust personal, that becomes political. i don't see it... the director of the fbi concluding from your first meetings the political equivalent of a mafia boss? not in the sense that he is robbing banks, that is what struck me. that's not political. that is based on reason, logic and experience. some of what you write is actually just downright personal. some about his look, his hair, the size of his hands, which you made observations in the earliest beatings with him, suggest that you had an animosity towards him. i reject that.
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you read the book and i have tried to be an author and as an investigator i have a good eye for detail. i described my high school boss, my other bosses, the people i work with in great detail. yes i noticed donald trump's hair colour, how he dressed, how he sat and spoke, that is not a politicaljudgement, that is an observation. but it smacks of a negative opinion that you brought to the table. i had a negative opinion and that was fact—based. i had serious concerns about his ability to respect the obligation to tell the truth. let's talk about the way you handled incredibly important encounters, one in particular where donald trump, early on injanuary, asked you if you could count on your loyalty. you were deeply uncomfortable, you knew that was not the nature of the relationship as it was supposed to be. but you didn't confront him. you didn't take him on.
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you didn't say, mr president, that's not the way it works. no, ididn‘t. i don't think i had the presence of mind in the moment. i was so shocked by the explicit demand. all i could think of was just to stare at him and not react. i got better towards the end of the conversation. in hindsight, i can think of all kinds of things i could to do better in the conversation. that's all i could do in the moment. since then, you've written, "it is wrong to stand idly by or to stay silent when you know better." do you feel you let yourself down? not in general, in that conversation, because i ended up interrupting him to give him a bit of a tutorial on how it should be, but in the moment, if i were more experienced, i might have said, "mr president, you can't do that." again, another crucial encounter, i believe, correct me if i'm wrong, but this one was the dinner inside the white house when donald trump raised the case of michael flynn.
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valentine's day, in the oval office. he expressed the hope that you could, quote, "let it go." do you believe, in retrospect, that that was the president, in essence, performing an act that amounted to obstruction ofjustice? i don't know whether it add up to legal obstruction ofjustice. i understood he was asking me to drop a criminal investigation, which could be obstruction of justice. you didn't say, "mr president, that is deeply inappropriate, i abide by the truth, the rule of law." you didn't say any of that. i did not. the question you would have to ask him, if you didn't know it was inappropriate, why didn't you clear the room? the attorney—general of the united states, so he could speak to me alone. trump now calls you lyin‘jim comey. he tweets his dislike of you and everything you stand for at every opportunity. you in turn have called him a liar, you've called him many worse things as well. you have said he believed he threatens the values and institutions that you believe the united states represents.
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how damaging to trust, both in your institution and the fbi, is the mud that you and donald trump are throwing at each other? i actually don't see it as throwing mud. i don't tweet insults at him. i am out trying to offer a picture of what ethical leadership should look like in this book. i have to talk about him if i'm going to describe ethical leadership, so i really don't think about it as a mud fight. you might not call it mud but you said, "trump is unethical, trump is untethered to the truth, trump tells lies, he is morally unfit to be president." in my mind, that is the truth and if i don't speak the truth as an american, shame on me. that's a fascinating reply.
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you know that 40% of americans, who are resolute supporters of donald trump, would say, how dare you come out with these opinions and declare with such righteousness that this is the truth? but i actually think they agree with me in the main. even if you support donald trump, you know he lies all the time. you just think it's for the greater good. no serious person thinks more people attended his inauguration than barack obama's, and other lies. supporters of donald trump in good faith think that's ok because he's doing so many other things for america. i don't agree with that, but i understand that. i don't think there is serious disagreement with my view that he lies very frequently. ijust think it's unacceptable and no trade is worth that kind of conduct. let us try to discuss the lies to the mueller investigation. you are more well—placed than anyone to know what happened because you were leading
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the investigation when you got that so—called russia dossier, built up by the former british agent christopher steele, which had some extraordinary allegations about what donald trump may have gotten up to in moscow on a trip some years ago and which seemed, on the face of it, to offer up an explanation for collusion with the russians, if he were vulnerable to blackmail. did you believe that dossier when you saw it? i believed the very core allegation of the dossier, which was consistent with other intelligence we already had. that was the russians were interfering in the us presidential election. the rest, i didn't know what to make of. the prostitute thing? i didn't care whether that was true or false. surely you must have cared if he was vulnerable to blackmail? yes, which is why we told them about that so he would know the allegation and know the fbi was aware of it. in the event, there were some of the leverage, that would reduce
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the ability to coerce him. the fbi was trying to figure out, you know the core allegation is true in the dossier. how much of the rest of this can be verified or ruled out? i don't know. you were fired in may 2017 — the legwork in the continuing of this long investigation into alleged russian interference is now being undertaken by robert mueller. have you spoken to him? no. what's your gut feeling about where that investigation is going and the chances of donald trump, let's face it, being impeached and not completing a four year term ? i honestly don't know. won't you be a key witness at some point? sure, and i'm not going to talk about interactions but i am talking about robert mueller himself. i don't know where he will end up, that democrats and republicans wish for a particular result, i hope he finds the truth and that may not be bad for president trump. but if he's left to do his work, he'll find those facts which give us the best view of what the truth is.
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i want to end by considering the damage done to the united states over the last couple of years. you stressed the importance, for example, of this so—called reservoir of trust that the fbi has in the united states. i look at the latest surveys, the pbs newshour survey which shows a dramatic drop in the number of americans who think the fbi in all this is just trying to do itsjob, and a real rise in the number who think the fbi has been biased against the trump administration. one could argue those numbers reflect failings in your leadership. yeah, i understand why you could argue that. decisions i made, i certainly took a big hit for. and the institution did. the question i had to ask, what is the alternative and how big would that be?
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part of the reason is, the lies that are being told about the organisation. the fbi was on hillary clinton's side? that's the allegation. you have to check that with hillary clinton, who thinks that the fbi cost her the election. you're going to lie, you have to lie about all the facts. we were the referee on the field of a better match. everybody ended up mad at us, but because we were doing ourjob without regard to either team. a final thought, which is a big thought about the faith americans have in their government and their institutions and the degree to which they can trust them. how much damage has been done? significant damage, but not long—lasting damage. the great thing about america is its values are so deep and strong. no president, no party can screw it up in the time they hold power. we've been through this before. we've progressed, we've retrenched.
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we will be ok, so long as we continue to talk about the values that matter to us, and rise above the political nonsense that normally consumes oui’ time. and we will get back to arguing about other things. can the recovery begin? can the cycle go on an upswing as long as donald trump is in the white house? yes, in a way. donald trump is creating a focus in the united states on truth and our values that was not true two years ago. look at the number of young people running for office, look at schools reinstituting civics education, look at families talking to their kids about respect and prejudice and truth. the change is already happening in a way that donald trump surely doesn't intend. donald trump is eliminating what happens in america. the outcry of children in cages. democrats, republicans, independents rose up and said, we may disagree but this is not what happens in america,
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and he was forced to change that. that is donald trump unintentionally awakening the great ethical giant that is america. i am optimistic. you led the fbi, would you ever consider a political career? no, no. i love ending with one—word answers. we will end it there. james comey, thanks. thank you. thank you for having me. hello there.
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on thursday, all four nations of the uk recorded temperature above 30 degrees, so can we keep that up through the next few days? well, it is going to stayjust about dry, there'll be some sunshine around, but northern areas are going to turn just a little bit cooler. high pressure still with us, but it is drifting northwards. the flow of winds around high pressure in this clockwise direction, and that will allow us to tap into some slightly cooler air, sitting a long way up to the north, but some of that is just going to try to fringe its way into parts of scotland in particular. with that, some extra cloud into eastern areas as we start off friday morning. still mild there in glasgow to start the day, 15 degrees, similar temperature in london. as we go on through the day, some of this cloud will linger close to these eastern coasts, whereas over the last few days, it has burnt back out to sea,
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and we'll see a bit more cloud encroaching into these eastern areas, and as a consequence cooler. scotland generally a little bit less hot than it has been over the last day or so, a 26 degrees in glasgow friday afternoon. further south, temperatures into the high 20s. parts of wales, perhaps the western side of northern ireland, could still get up to 30 degrees. friday night, the cloud in eastern areas, a little bit further west. it'll spread across parts of the midlands, northern england, clear skies out west, temperatures dropping to between 9 and 1a degrees. high pressure, then, still with us as we start off the weekend. there are a couple of subtle features that might change things a bit, one frontal system which try to will bring a bit more cloud in to the north—west, and this area of low pressure, which will come into play into the second half of the weekend. but saturday, a nice—looking day, in fact, and for those eastern areas,
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more sunshine on saturday than there will be on friday and in the sunshine, those temperatures doing nicely, mid—to high 20s for most places. still a bit cooler close to those north sea coasts. i mentioned that area of low pressure down to the south and as get on into sunday, it will try to fringe a cluster of showers towards the southern and western parts of the uk. so across the south—west, wales, perhaps northern ireland, there could be some showers and thunderstorms during sunday. further east, a lot of dry and sunny weather, and we start to bring the winds in from the near continent. levels of humidity are going to start to rise, temperatures back up to 30 degrees, maybe a little higher than that across parts of the south—east. and we stick with that slightly more humid feel as we go on into the new working week, a lot of dry weather, some spells of sunshine, just the chance of the odd shower in the south and west. this is newsday on the bbc. i'm rico hizon in singapore, the headlines: at least five people have been killed in an attack on a newspaper office in maryland near the us capital. six days and five nights inside these flooded caves —
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rising waters hamper efforts to find a missing school football team with the focus now on looking for another way in. evenif even if they do manage to find their way in here, there is no way of knowing whether this is where the boys and their coach are trapped. i'm kasia madera in london. also in the programme:
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