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tv   James Comey A Higher Loyalty  CSPAN  May 1, 2018 7:26am-8:34am EDT

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>> watch landmark cases, one of the nation's top capital punishment legal scholars and professor at harvard law school and can't scheidegger of the criminal justice legal foundation. >> connect with c-span to personalize the information we get from us. go to and the updated primetime schedule and upcoming live coverage. and no commentary. the booktv newsletter is an insiders look for upcoming garters and book festivals. in the weekly newsletter, the upcoming programming exploring our nation's path. visit >> former fbi director james
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comey on his book "a higher loyalty: truth, lies, and leadership" which chronicles his life and career at the fbi including his firing by donald trump. this is a little more than an hour. >> good evening and welcome. i'm the co-owner of politics and prose, on behalf of everybody here at gw, we are very glad you are here. putting on an event like this involves lots of people, to george washington university and the auditorium, we have been working here for a number of years to present large events with popularizers and very grateful to have access to such a spacious and convenient
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facility at downtown dc. our appreciation, the news and analysis site, joined in sponsoring this event since the official launch last year, has become a fresh, competitive edition to washington's journalism seen covering friend -- trends, and politics on innovative platform. we are all very pleased to be presenting james comey this evening. the former fbi director has been in the news since the release a couple weeks ago of his book "a higher loyalty: truth, lies, and leadership," appearing on news programs, talkshows and stages across the country, detailed a controversial decision in the 2016 campaign that he made as the nation's top enforcement officer and subsequent interactions with donald trump who famously fired him a year ago. he recounted stories from his
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childhood in new york and new jersey. his college years at william and mary, his distinguished career which has alternated between increasingly senior jobs in the us justice department and physicians in private practice with lockheed martin and bridgewater associates. james comey said he never expected to write a book and chose to do so to drive a conversation about ethical leadership and our nation's core values. he called donald trump out of step with those values, comparing him to a mob boss, stressing personal loyalty over the law and has little regard for morality or truth. not surprisingly the pres. has had some choice words for mr. comey calling him a leaker and a liar among other derogatory epithets. meanwhile, sales of "a higher loyalty: truth, lies, and leadership" keep going up. [applause] and tickets for
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events like this one sellout in minutes. you will get a chance to see and hear him in person and form your own impressions without a filter. he will be in conversation with mike allen, one of the most prominent and tireless journalists who wrote for the washington post and a couple other news organizations before launching a daily newsletter just over a decade ago. he left politico in 2016 to establish axioms where he is now executive editor and author every morning of the newsletter ask es a.m.. ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming james comey and mike allen. >> thank you so much. [applause] >> thank you very much.
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we so admire what you have built, politics and prose, a great growing independent bookstore, and your son call is here. thanks for making this possible, something you hope to never do again in your life. >> where a tie. >> and one of my daughters reminded me she is getting married in july and i will have to wear a tie. >> you got your wish until then. you were saying through all of this, the different types of events you have done you and i were encouraged and an involved audience, you like a live audience. >> because of the instant feedback if you are not making
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sense, if you made since you hear that as well, fun and useful to get that interaction. >> host: brad is referring to the pres.'s tweets. at your book party the other night, one of the first people you would think was donald trump for support. >> it was not i who thanked him for tweeting me. >> i wish you wouldn't be tweeting me, i have been blown away by the rate at which it is selling and makes me happy. >> he learned like michael twe.
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>> before we plunge in, i want to thank our friends at george washingtonc-span, all the interviews, c-span was carried live, and the executive director of flatiron. and thank you to my colleagues who helped pull this off. as you got in the media spin cycle, what did you learn about your self with a straw hat.
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that is not something i crave or thrive on. it makes me uncomfortable, people are very nice. what i learned about the media, asked questions about a book they have not read. there will be a quiz. >> this book is largely about leadership and part of your original idea, help us with this leadership paradox, how would you be confident enough to be humble? >> it requires enough sense of self, basic conviction that i'm okay and allows you to realize
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i am not okay enough and gives you comfort to learn from other people and show humility to listen to other people and requires this balance, too much confidence swipes humility off the board and too much insecurity makes it impossible to listen and learn from others. comfort in your self allows you to realize you are not good enough and the path to getting letters learning from other people. >> what ingredient is often missing from leaders or most often missing from your self? >> humility. i have known a lot of leaders and seen a lot of leaders and overconfidence is one of the great challenges of human existence but especially in leadership and they were so challenged in learning from those of us below them and in taking joy from our achievements, that is the key to being a good parent too, not to compete with your children but to learn to take joy from
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how they do, missing balance, you got to have confidence but need a measure of humility to balance it and allow you to be better engaging people work for you. >> you are teaching a course on leadership and ethics at the college of william and mary. and one thing to keep in mind. >> the most important, the golden rule, a theme that runs through the world's religions, am i treating this other as i would like to be treated is for me the most important touchstone. lots of other rules but that is why it is called the golden rule, that should be at the core. >> who in the russia thing has been a model of good behavior? >> that is a great question.
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i would have to look to the government side for that. i admire and i write in the book which i hope you get a chance to read the jim clapper, the leader that i most admired. and the balance of confidence and humility. another pair i talk about is he was both tough and kind and i saw that throughout my interaction with him including during the 2016 election. >> we start with the news and hope you will follow along in the conversation, it will be an ongoing conversation. if you are negotiating with the legal team in terms of an interview, what would you insist on? >> i am the prosecutor.
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i would in any interview with a subject make sure that i had unlimited time, clear understanding and look to negotiate away any boundaries and follow any questions i wish and make sure there is a clear understanding on the subject of the interview whether it was in the grand jury, still a false statement to be prosecuteable and those are the key things. open-ended as the time, the subject and clear understanding that you are obligated to tell the truth and failing to do so would be at your peril. >> do you believe in the end the special counsel interview donald trump? >> i do not know. special counsel, and i don't know what the truth will be. as long as he gets to truth it
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is hard, to imagine getting to that without some interaction with the subject. whether he gets are not, free to get to the truth. >> if you have donald trump under oath what would you ask him? >> that is a good question. i don't think i can answer that. one thing i'm careful not to do is talk about what i know about the russia investigation. >> you are a private citizen, you are a big news consumer. what would you like to know that the president can answer? >> i would like to know, the facts around, on february 14th, to understand whether there is an obstruction case, whether one can be brought against a sitting president, i want to understand state of mind.
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to the frustration of some journalists, i can recount the conversation, and ask questions to get around that topic and explore it. >> does it look like donald trump obstructed justice? >> can't responsibly answer that question because it requires an understanding of facts but i can't see from where i sit. to understand his state of mind, going all the way around that understanding communications before and after that, what is the written record, lots of things that prevent me from being anything but a witness. >> it is possible neither he nor his campaign collude with russia. >> very possible they did not. >> collusion is not a thing in
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the world of the government. investigators and prosecutors. i don't know how that got into our lexicon. the question is, is there evidence that americans conspired with the russians or aided and abetted the russians. >> you are skeptical there is. >> i don't know the answer. i'm skeptical by nature. that was the subject of an fbi investigation going on at the time i was fired so i don't know what it has come up with. if left alone i'm confident this group of investigators and prosecutors will find out what the truth is but i don't know the answer. >> in retrospect given what you wrote in your memos to you have resigned before you were fired? >> no, definitely not. because i lead an organization that is supposed to be both in the executive branch and not quite of the executive branch, independent minded, independent in its decisions about facts
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and investigations. i thought it might discomfort from my interactions with donald trump make it more important, and not resigned. >> hundreds of them, one of them was do you think people morally opposed to the pres. conserve him? >> yes. the question is in what capacity, at what cost to your self, because i do believe anyone close will be stained. >> what was the cost to you? were you stained? >> i was fired. [laughter] >> i don't think it was stained. i don't think so. the other thing people have to do, they have to make calculations, have to be keenly aware of the point they would move from serving the country to enabling conduct they find morally objectionable. >> what critique of you is most
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fair? >> most fair? i don't think the stuff about sanctimonious fair. you would have to know me better to know that. i have a number of weaknesses i wrestle with, work very hard during my life growing up, great help from my wife and family to make sure i'm not making decisions driven by ego but the best, the fairest critique of me is that i can be stubborn and maybe that i can make decisions too quickly. i convince myself of being divisive and try to guardrail that with a team to keep around me and say wait a minute. don't see that emerging from
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the clinton email thing. >> the question from a hillary supporter, when you heard or considered you might have tipped the election you were mildly nauseous and this person said i was looking for horrified, or more than mildly nauseous if you to the american election. >> you would have to experience my sense of nausea. it makes me feel sick to your stomach. i should have said nauseated if i'm going to be grew medically correct. the answer, part of it is i sure hope not. maybe i would feel more physical pain if i convince myself we did. it makes me sick to think we might have had any impact. and we are stuck in the middle of it and the idea we had an impact is sickening. >> you accept that?
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>> it is possible. and the explanation that rules out the fbi had any impact. i don't know. part of what makes nausea inducing is looking back, it wouldn't change the choices or the way i think about those choices. they really sucked and the fact that it might have an impact adds to the pain. sometimes you are stuck with bad or worse and have to choose bad over worse. >> you write in "a higher loyalty: truth, lies, and leadership" about rudy giuliani who is your boss. what is the effect of him adding him? >> i don't know. >> why do you think he did? >> because he developed confidence, i don't know this, just speculating can the confidence from their interactions during the campaign. he's a very talented person. >> what can he do in this
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situation? >> negotiate a end to the investigation. >> is that how it works? >> not in my experience. nor would a relationship, don't know what the relationship is between bob mueller and rudy giuliani, just doesn't make a difference. i don't know what it means. >> you appointed patrick fitzgerald to the case with what do you make of donald trump's pardon of scooter libby and was that a message to michael cohen or others? >> is an attack on the rule of law, the way he worked. a deep review of all the facts. the rule of law system worked here, and 14 years later.
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he deserves to be pardoned with no review and no consultation with prosecutors and investigators. i can't think of a reason consistent with rule of law to do that. whether it is a message, somebody asked me, my wife reminded me it is not about you, dear. i don't know whether it is a message. even if it is not a message it is an attack on rule of law. it is really important people be prosecuted for lying blatantly which is what that was, in the criminal justice system. without that the rule of law melts away. >> donald trump issued preemptive pardons. >> i don't know. >> all the time we have, thank
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you. can you imagine that happening? does it sound, does it look possible to you? >> sure. the world we are in i can't imagine saying that in any other environment but it is possible. i don't know enough about preemptive pardons and i don't know to what extent, smarter people have to answer this than i. does it depend on the description, and room for state action or additional federal action. i don't know. >> the fact that you think it is possible is remarkable. based on what happened before, why do you think it is possible or as you say solely in this environment? >> where you have a pres. who is actively undermining the rule of law and the institutions we count on no matter what your political
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affiliation, we count on as a country to uphold this democracy and the routine attacks on the justice department, the fbi, the courts, at least to me and the condemnation of the fbi for acting like thugs when executing a quarter of search warrants, all of that together along with the president's habit of not telling the truth repeatedly tells me, just do something like that. >> what do you think of donald trump's redline thank the special counsel should stay away from his family finances? >> i don't know what to make of it. >> are there fair games in an investigation like this? >> is it fair game for and investigators look at finances? sure, depends on whether it is connected to the subject of the investigation. >> reporting shows the pres. reacted this early when he found out there were subpoenas
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about financial matters. >> i read the reporting, don't know if it is accurate what was behind his reaction. >> are you surprised these issues didn't come up for the president when he was in business before he was in office? which issues? >> issues about personal finance. >> i gather a substantial feature of his life in bankruptcies and other things but personal finances, personal finances have been a big part of his personal finance. >> so no one can get inside robert mueller's head better than you, your duty-bound not to talk about anything you learned in the investigation. talk about what has been made public since your departure on may 9th, ten days until your big anniversary, special counsel -- >> my paper anniversary. special counsel his name the
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week after that. >> filings and indictments, what do you find most instructive about this investigation and why? >> i can't offer that view because i can't separate in my head my characterization of the facts that occurred after may 9th and before so i can't answer that. you can see in the book i tried not to talk about the investigation. >> you are a huge news consumer if you look at coverage of the investigations, what does the media -- to overlook or valueless than an experienced i? >> i worry that the media were people consuming the media don't realize nothing is coming from people who know what they are talking about. [applause] >> that is not picking on the media. resources our defense lawyers,
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people around them in my experience and not robert mueller's operation which is tight as a drum. none of us know what is going on in director mueller's investigation. >> were you in office did you ever meet him? >> know. >> in other interviews you seem to define classified information, there are plenty that can be nonclassified, what is your definition of leaks? >> the disclosure of protected information. broader than classified information, grand jury information, personal information, something you are not supposed to give to the media. >> you never did that? >> know. >> why did you give those memos to benjamin instead of the new york times? >> i didn't. i gave a memo to one person, daniel richmond.
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>> why not straight to the new york times? >> i thought if i did it directly, when i testified like this, like feeding seagulls at the beach. i have a huge crowd of journalists at the end of my driveway and how will i say no comment? how do i avoid reaction from awesome people like you. >> you are concerned about our feelings? >> about my ability to stay away from you. >> you struggled with sensitivity around elections. it is 190 days until the midterm elections where robert mueller's findings could be a big deal. will he take that into account in his pace and release them or not? >> i don't know. he likely will, because of the norms of the department of justice. despite what you read or heard there aren't any rules around how we act in the run up to an election. there is a memo about election
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related crimes. you see journalists hyperlinked like that is the rules, that is not the rules. there is a norm. you avoid any action in the run-up to election that might have an impact if you can. i'm sure he will operate with that norm in mind. what contact that will drive is harder to say. >> how would you adjust to that? are quite go or will they get things done soon? how do those norms play out with a 190 day deadline? >> i can't answer because you need to be able to see, have a vision for where the investigation is going and whether you can conclude it well in advance of an election or whether it will reasonably carry beyond the election. you don't make the decision based on the election but you say all else being equal can i responsibly avoid public action that might have an impact? difficult to answer other than that abstract way.
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>> what advice would you give about seeing something? >> it has worked well for me. >> i don't have -- he doesn't need my advice. this norm is part of my existence as a federal prosecutor, fbi director so i'm sure it is part of his as well. you can't give advice on that without knowing what are the alternatives. what could he reasonably avoid, what is unavoidable? you can't see that from the other side. >> your interview with george stephanopoulos, donald trump shouldn't be impeached, that would be letting voters off too easy, some of your other interviews you calibrated that slightly. what is your current view whether donald trump should be impeached? >> what i meant and i screwed this up with george stephanopoulos. what i meant to express was a
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sense, i didn't say this to him but impeachment should follow the law and the facts. it is a process laid out in the constitution. i'm a huge supporter of rule of law, you to go where the facts take it. i was trying to express a sense that i have that in a way that would be too bad for a couple reasons. first, if donald trump were impeached and convicted and removed from office, it would drive a dysfunction and divide deep into our public culture that would take us a long time to fix and would let the voters off the hook. the american people without regard to political stripes need to stand up and say forget guns, forget taxes, supreme court justices, something matters, that i really reflect our values. [applause]
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>> you think the process would be bad for america? >> i think in many ways the process would drive, create a sense of illegitimacy among supporters of donald trump that would be difficult to unwind and hour division, deep into our fabric and a healthier way to resolve this is the american people, especially those who don't normally vote stand up and say this is what i stand for. that moment of clarity and inflection would be good for america. look at the history of the political division, we cyclically find times with terrible political division and something resets us, a cataclysm of some sort, world war ii reset a lot of
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dysfunction in the 1930s blue surely we don't need that and a moment of clarity will come from an election is my hope. >> what are the chances donald trump will be on the ballot in 2020? >> i have no idea. can i ask you? >> what are the chances -- >> apparently not. >> what are the chances he wins? >> i don't know that either. >> but what do you think? >> it would depend on things i am not an expert in. whether there is a third-party candidate, how does the electorate split. all those things. >> you don't know if he will give an interview to robert mueller. is it more likely were less likely? what does it look like to you? >> in a normal world. [laughter] >> it would be very hard for the president of the united states not to submit to an interview in connection with an investigation that touches on his conduct and that of people around him. in a normal world the american
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people would find that difficult to accept. i'm only hesitating because we don't live in that world. so many norms have been broken that disturbed me greatly as you heard me say. the pres. tweets that i should be in jail and even i go -- and that is crazy. close your eyes. i keep saying close your eyes and imagine barack obama waking up some morning and saying somebody doesn't like you should be in jail. republicans would freak out about that. where is that? [applause] >> a long way of saying i don't know. in a normal world everyone would freak out. i don't know. >> you think he should? >> in what capacity? as an american citizen i would expect my president to respect the rule of law enough not to
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attack administration of justice on a regular basis and to cooperate with a lawful, appropriate investigation. that is what i would expect. >> should hillary clinton have been charged with a crime? >> know. >> why wasn't she put under oath when she was interviewed? >> it didn't matter. same thing i talked about with an interview of donald trump, under oath or are not it is a crime to lie during that interview. it is inconsequential in terms of the strategy of the interviewers. >> do you wish she won? >> do i wish she won? >> that is what i'm not going to answer. >> you said you are family members. >> what would your life be like if she won? >> i also don't know the answer to that. i think i would still be the fbi director. [applause]
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>> i say that because someone asked me to compare the two, too hard to compare the two accept secretary clinton is someone deeply enmeshed in the rule of law, respect for institutions, a lawyer, given that background, reasonably confident even though she was unhappy with decisions the fbi made she would not fire the fbi director as a result. .. i'm not prepared to answer that one, mike. i admit that, i do think that resonates, for me that what i wrote about president trump and the culture of his leadership but but i seen in a lot of other
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environments, investigate and post to a lot of corporate fraud. that was a familiar feature of a leadership of a a corporation t was engaged in criminal misconduct. that silence, the boss is a control -- is in control. we do with the boss says. >> who do you admire that is around president trump? >> i admire jim mattis a great deal. i believe he's an american patriot. i get up every morning hoping he's getting at that same morning. [laughing] and for a long time i worked closely with fbi director with john kelly when he was head of southern command and developed a positive relationship with him. >> you study the dossier closely. does it appear it is more accurate than inaccurate? >> i can't sort it for you that way. what i can say is a core feature of the so-called dossier was an allegation that was richly corroborated by other intelligence gathered by the
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intelligence community. namely, the russians were engaged in effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. i i think of that as the hub of the dossier. there are a variety of spokes that attempt to sort out. the work was underway when the vet to see a much we could rule in or rule out so i can't say. >> but it could all be true? >> sure. it could be true, and in large measure, in large measure could be false. >> a question from ed hunter who is here tonight. how concerned should we personally be about cybersecurity? beyond terrorism, our investment in bank accounts safe? >> i'm going to get give you a useless answer. you should be very concerned because we connected our entire lives to the internet, not just our financial world but our health world and social world. it's were everybody wants to hurt us. the challenge for the internet
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is not designed for security and its own as good as the weakest human in the link. in the chain. the weakest human link in the chain. you should be deeply concerned. that said, i think there's reasonable security, you get be secure. you can be more secure and less secure. there's reasonable security and america's financial institutions. >> how alarmed should we be about the infiltration of facebook? >> alarm on the number of levels here that is, this touches on this topic i'm not expert in. i'm sure people here who could talk about it much better than i but there is the building of people to participate and shape not just our are individualizet our public dialogue is profound, and figure out how to stop it is really hard. >> as a clear and present danger to the united states, how high do you write those platforms
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given how easy they are to manipulate? >> what's the scale? i could make it up? okay. how high would i rate the danger? probably compared other dangers that it worry about are used to be paid to worry about, i would say medium. >> should there are a bit and earlier the tech companies? earlier accountability? >> i can't answer that. >> and -- >> i can't answer that thoughtfully so i won't try. >> how fixable are the holes in these pipelines? >> i don't know. i'm skeptical. i worry the nature of them as such that it is, that the notion of a six may be an illusion. >> abcs jonathan is here. my lifeline. he will do a follow-up in a
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second. phoning a friend. but before i phoned my friend, when was the last time you talk to andrew mccabe? >> probably a month ago. >> what you think of what happened to him? >> i'm conflicted. i think he is a person and public servant. i feel pain for him and his family. at the same time though i think the inspector general support in that process shows people, i hope it shows people, this is what an organization committed to the truth and accountability looks like. whether the result causes you pain or something you like, this is what an organization looks like that cares deeply about telling the truth. adding to the comic is the way the president bak connection with that was shameful, that he managed somehow to stain, not just harm and the and espoused was entirely separate human being despite the fact he talked about like she is an appendage
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of his, and stain them and stay in the department of justice and the fbi inspector general process by the way in which he conducted himself here so it's a tragedy on so many levels not just for them for the mccains e institutions of justice. that's why i'm conflicted. >> lessons for leaders. what's the biggest mistake you made us fbi director that didn't involve a clinton or a trump? [laughing] >> if i'm answering, and by conceding i made mistakes in connection with those matters? just want to be lawyerly. i made a ton of mistakes. i made a bunch of personal mistakes. i carelessly created a problem with the government of poland -- [laughing] the truth. in a speech i was giving about the holocaust and it was a distraction and just a boneheaded play by me. i think that in at the debate about encryption in a stupid
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way, that i talk to my tendency to react to quickly pick i saw these news advertisements that apple and google were advertising basically waterproof phones, like that was a great thing. instead of stepping back and think about it carefully and what it wanted to say, i went right into a press roundtable and bank, i hit them and then we're off to the races. i don't know how much time you have, micah, but i could think of others. >> jonathan karl, i appreciate him here. i'm phoning him for the obvious follow-up i should've asked. >> first, a clarification. thank you, director comey. you said even if you learn decisively that your actions swung the election you wouldn't do anything differently. do i have that right? >> as crazy as it sounds, now. because the choice i faced in late october as i thought was between a really bad option and
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a catastrophic option. you can't make that decision, weighing in on that decision whose electoral prospects will be affected and in what way. given the value of this institution, what is the right thing to do? one of my as people after that whole process, should you consider your about to do may help elect donald trump? i thank you for asking the question and the city great question but not for a moment because it the path lies the death of the fbi as an independent entity. once we start considering so who will do so and hurt, we are just part of the partisan tribal warfare. that's why, i know that answer sounds -- that's why i give it. >> one thing you could ask is just how do we not help or hurt either candidate. >> well, you know that what you're going to do what some impact on the election.
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the norm is if you can avoid it. the situation i faced on octobea door that said here is no action. i could see two doors. i could speak or i could conceal the fact we were restarting an investigation and it's usually significantly having told the american people repeatedly they could count on the fact that we were finished and it done a great job and even though anybody complain from one part of the spectrum, there was no there there. so either we were going to have an impact of some sort. my judgment was we have to push that aside and said okay, given those two options, which is at the least bad given this institution and stroll in american life. >> okay, i have a stupid question very quickly and then a question about pardons. what would it take for the special counsel to get access to president trump's tax returns? would it have to be something the president himself would have to turn over?
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[applause] or could the special counsel go to the irs simply? >> i'm not going to comment on this case in particular, but in general you can get a court order for the production of tax returns. there's a process inside the department of justice to have them reviewed and approved but it doesn't require the consent of the taxpayer. >> we've been trying to get those tax returns. [laughing] >> i don't think that process include you, john. >> sorry. and finally on the pardon question that mike asked the example would be richard nixon. ford's pardon of nixon where ford pardoned nixon for any activities between january january 201969 and august of 1974. so if the president were to pardon, say, michael cohen for any activities from the day he started working for the trump organization until, say today,
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would that do away with michael cohen as a figure in this investigation, or would it, what kind of impact with that have? i assume he gets to be called as a witness and he could no longer take the fifth. >> that's a tricky one. i haven't given a quality thought meek i can answer general. once the witnesses pardon it wouldn't have fifth amendment right to assert. i just hesitating because they might credibly assert this local or state prosecution but in general if you focus just on the federal that wouldn't be able to resist becoming a a witness and then if they committed, is implied, made false statements are made of perjury as witnessed they could be prosecuted for that but then of course they could be pardoned for that. [laughing] i have not thought about it well enough but that is how will go in general. they could be compelled to be as a witness after that. >> but a pardon wouldn't necessarily in him as a figure in the investigation or even a wave of pardons wouldn't necessarily into the
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investigation of the present. >> not necessarily. again is a witness potential defendant/witness is pardoned in a criminal investigation they could then no longer be a defendant in that investigation but they could be compelled to testify. >> i thought it was interesting what director comey was think about the midterms and the norms of not interfering and how that might affect molar. do you want to follow on that? >> i know it's -- are you encouraging him to ask me questions. [laughing] >> i remember well when can start issued his report, and it was in many, many boxes of supporting materials that were literally dumped on the house side of the capital. robert mueller is going to make a decision not dissimilar to your decision about what to do. is he going to something do
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nothing and go past the midterms? he's got a lot of evidence already right now that would be highly relevant to voters in the midterm elections. >> it requires a judgment call. norms are ambiguous, so guided by that desire to not be involved in election, make a judgment call as to what can i responsibly do and when, given where i am in investigation. that's why it so hard for me to answer. in late october i could not find a way to avoid in action and adjustment wanted to come but i don't know what his degrees of freedom will be because no one except people in his team know where he is in this investigation. >> i want to pause and say what a great audience this is. very impressive how many people, and these questions are very sincere and thoughtful questions. i'm asking is because outlooks, 15-year-old from the lab school
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and alex says at what point did you lose your respect and trust for trump? [applause] >> who let that kid in here? [laughing] my concerns about the president's commitment to telling the truth sort of, it was a process over time really. i was concerned about it enough that it was important to document my first meeting. but there's also another concern, i wanted to make sure intelligence chiefs had an accounting of the meeting because it left before i had to do the private part. thereafter, there was a concern to my part i i was interacting with them about things that touched him personally, that touch the fbi and me, our responsibilities, and he might like about them. so it was a process, pretty quick process but a process that i would say by late january i
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was very concerned about it. >> what type of prayers did you use to strengthen yourself? this person as a note. in november 2016 i told one of your assistant directors that retired fbi director, excuse me, through type of the agents like myself will pray for you. >> i am a fan of -- who wrote the serenity prayer which is brought to my mind many times in the course of the last two years, and so looking for the wisdom and the patience to accept that which i can't change and the courage to change what i can was really important to me. >> what type of legal repercussions would arise if president trump decide to fire robert mueller? >> i don't know.
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that's really interesting question because i think there's a good argument to be made that it would be utterly ineffective in practice that you have to fire the entire fbi and the entire justice department. for two reasons. first, i don't know that the president follow the normal course he would be able to find an executive who would carry out an order to fire robert mueller pics of the navy he does away with the regulation that appointed moment and then fires him. something interesting might happen then because there is no deep state but there's a deep culture and commitment to the rule of law that runs all the way down to not just department of justice and the fbi of the military services and intelligence community. it would be interesting to see what happens next to cut i could imagine u.s. attorney's office is picking up pieces of gum different fbi offices picking up pieces of it. it would be very hard to do something that was that direct an attack on the rule of law given the culture which is the
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ballast of this country. >> so you're saying dear president trump, don't bother? >> first of all, i would hope it would be disastrous in the eyes of the american people with regard to their political affiliation but it would also be ineffective. don't do disastrous things at all, don't do disastrous things that won't make a a difference. >> a question from nathan. director comey, can you describe your working relationship with vice president dick cheney? >> tense. [laughing] we had some, seems like another very smart person, but we had conflict that was intense, especially over the nsa surveillance programs. i tell a story in a book, i won't repeat it here, but he looked me in the eye closer than we are and told me that thousands of people are going to die because of what i was doing and what i was doing was supporting the lawyers and the
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office of legal counsel said we cannot find a legal basis for much of this activity. i said that's not helping me. that's just increasing the pain. it doesn't help me to think differently about the legal problem. >> who's a living leader that you admire? >> clapper i mentioned. i admire a great deal. i tell you, , i came to admire barack obama. i was not a -- [applause] i was not a a political supporr of barack obama. i gave money to mccain and romney in part because they hounded me. [laughing] but also thought it was important that people of principle be the nominee of the other party. i worried that wingnut might take over that party. [laughing] [applause] but i came, my dealings with him run national security issues and
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i came to respect not only the decisions he made but the way he made decisions, especially that ability to listen and to create an environment where people would speak to him. that man would listen for five or ten minutes without interruption, not just when joe biden was talking. [laughing] but he would listen david ask questions drawn from the first minute, the third minute, the fifth amendment. extraordinary. he was listening and wanted to get it out of you so you can learn from it. extraordinary. so i became an admirer of him as a leader. [applause] >> who's a leader you admire in business or philanthropy or academia? >> i worked for a great ceo al-awlaki's martin in bob stephens who came from the humblest of circumstances, was a marine in vietnam who got his first job helping build aircraft and grew up to be the ceo of
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lockheed martin and never lost that ability to connect to people and to try to get the truth from them. so i admire him a lot. i'll stop there. and k select off the list, i was going to say you next. [laughing] did bill clinton's meeting with loretta lynch influence your decision to hold a press conference in the summer of 16? >> yes. it was the meeting in conjunction with loretta who i like very much and not a long time. the writers to seek to announce that she recuse herself but would accept my recommendation and that of the career prosecutors. at that point i decided as much as i like loretta, this result will not have credibility with the american people if i announce it standing next to her. and so never thought i would be, never thought of this as a 500 your flood. ever thought of being the situation the given where we are, that and worse, worse would be standing there and having the american people have corrosive doubts about the credibility of the work by the obama justice
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department. bad would be stepping way and announcing that recommendation. she situate except for doing it separately. people can disagree about this but we thought at the fbi we got to do bad, we can't do worse. >> a story saying the justice department will look at taking out of the prosecutors manual the language about the freedom of the press. >> i saw that at a want to know more about that. i just don't know. i saw the headline or saw the story but i don't know whether it's real, and you know it's because you're covered institutions. whenever the event shall choice between malevolent and incompetence, always so with incompetence and realized they might repairing the website or something as i don't want to leave to malevolence. [laughing] >> putting aside the motive you click don't think it's a good idea. >> to put aside freedom of the press? >> no, to take the language out of their manual.
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>> i don't know exactly the language is. you would want respect for the newsgathering reporting function to be central to investigative considerations. reasonable people can disagree with how you interact with me to the prosecutors and investigators to method in front of mind when touching to me to. >> i told you these questions were thoughtful and sincere. what advice do you have for her coming to boys on how to stay focused on the mission while under political pressure? [applause] >> take the long view. remember, someday you'll have to explain to the grandchildren what you did during this time. [applause] and it's what helped me during moments when i thought i would be crushed by pressure. i would close my eyes and so to the future say so how will i explained this? i get into what? because the yelled at me? i get in because is under pressure?
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a member with the values are of this institution you serve them whatever it is a remember someday you'll have to explain how you upheld those values and that should give you strength. >> we have an advice question here, if you don't mind doing your dear abby, ann landers. you said you hate come you said you don't hate donald trump. given what he said about you, that's impressive. [laughing] could you please help me not to hate donald trump? two exclamation marks. [laughing] [applause] hating people gives him them to much power over you. [applause] one of the real dangers we face today is that the presidency behavior will drag us all down -- presidents behavior. i'm not much on twitter but i key not to engage in back-and-forth on twitter and name-calling, whether not this is based between slime and fall i don't care.
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[laughing] that it's really important that we remember who we are and remember, you have to explain to grandchildren someday i acted this way. so hating someone, there are people you need to write but i would urge you first hate their actions and don't get give the person that central role in your life. [applause] >> we have another hashtag, so in addition to hashtag acxiom comey. did you get the letters from your pharmacology at the fbi? do you know we miss you? did you read them? side fbi employee with a hashtag comey's homeys. [applause] >> i read everyone and i could only come you all made me cry. i could only read them like 20 at a time.
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give out at some sense how many i got. i have drawers full of them and it increased my pain but also made me realize why i felt that pain because of the people. i loved the people. drawers full of blood from former colleagues. >> and cards and hilarious pictures and t-shirts and mugs. by the way, i get no piece of a comey is my homey t-shirt. lordy, hope there are tapes, i get nothing of that. i said this when i testified its ally the fbi was in tatters. it's a lot i was estranged from the workforce. one of the proudest parts of my life was i love those people and i think they felt it back. it meant a lot to me that all these things came in, but it was very painful. but i promise you i read everyone. if you send me a card i i readd i still have it. [applause]
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>> we are about to get the hook, but this another personal one. what is something you'd like to share with the people of the pierrot now that it's been just under your sense dot dot dot. many of remember that day and will likely will not forget. >> never forget just how strong the culture of of the organizan is. and that's frustrating when you're a director who trying to orient it in certain ways but minor ways. but remember that that inertia is your strength and the strength of this country, that people who have been there when it described the culture, if you have worked in the united states military services or in the intelligence community or the fbi or justice department may be don't get it. but all of you who have worked of there and are working there now, you feel it. and no president is long enough to destroy that.
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so just remember the long run. remember you are and again, rewrap proud you would be to tie your grandchildren what you were like during this time. so you are great. just keep being it. >> this is the last card. 200 you're so now when a historian gets to write the story of the 2016 election, and the meeting of the trump administration can what will he or she say about you? >> he was tall. [laughing] [applause] >> you are 6'8". so what ask you quickly in the movie and you said -- >> somebody much shorter. [laughing] >> weird camera angles. >> these are cool. >> goodbye question. this question from sally quinn. how is your family handling this works affect that your hated my left and right? >> thank you for that predication. [laughing] >> they are doing okay.
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my kids are fine. because we worked really hard, all families have the own micro culture to make ours that that is not the center of her family and we compartmentalize. okay, we talk about the next thing. hardest for my wife, because she watches more than i, and it gets hurt jazzed up. she was giving an interview with george stephanopoulos and he said have you lost rent over this? she said not true friends but yes, we've lost some. after who don't i said who was on that list? [laughing] she said i have a list. i have a list. it's hardest for her and she's what i worry about the most. >> you are rich now. how are you going to spend it? [laughing] >> i had a fair amount of dough before this because i i was eit years in the private sector. what i will do is remember all
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of us. if you're in this audience you're fortunate. remember our obligation to care for those who don't have what we have. i'm not going to talk to brag about what i do -- [applause] but you never see my tax returns, but you would see that commitment reflected there. >> the term you might've coined, your family is upsizing. >> yes. i have no idea why. my youngest was about to graduate from high school. we have five kids. my wife decided we need to move to a bigger house. [laughing] because, we're going to do this when i was director, and so the idea is we have to have a place where each of them and her significant other can stay and room for the grandchildren and the ping-pong table. we have to attract them all.
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we don't have any grandchildren by the way. [laughing] my wife is a planner come so the idea is we will become an attracted to our big family and we've got to do it now because if we try to fix it later, you get the story. [laughing] >> penultimate question. we have 30 seconds for two questions. another question from sally quinn. the first line come headline of your obituary for your epitaph? how do you want to be remembered? >> i actually don't care about this stuff. if you know me you know i mean this. i want to be a great father, a great husband, a great grandfather and a good friend and neighbor. the rest of it, i really don't -- that can be done in the paragraphs were not there at all but that is my goal is to be that. and i think my advice for young people would be, ask yourself
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the question, when i'm about to die what will matter? i guarantee you will not care about money or houses or cars or human honor of what newspaper clippings you have about yourself. it won't matter. >> a quick thank you and then -- [applause] and the goodbye question. thank the team from politics and prose and flat on books, javelin, the amazing team at axios. think i'll give coming up. thank c-span. as we say goodbye, what's on your bucket list? what is one thing your dream of doing and now you can? >> i ask a think there's anything on that list. i am a happy person. maybe that explains why this doesn't bother anymore but i am married to my best friend. i got five amazing children. i actually don't have bucket list. >> director comey, thanks for a great conversation. [applause]
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[applause] >> earlier this month a discussion on the impact of james comey's book, "a higher loyalty." jamie raskin and former deputy assistant attorney general victoria toensing debate the book and spoke about issues related to mr. comey's career and firing by president trump. this is one hour. >> host: not one booktv a discussion on james comey's book, "a higher loyalty." joining us to dissect what's in this book are two people very experienced inside washington and washington politics, victoria toensing was an official in the reagan department of justice and she is also a high-profile lawyer here in washington,


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