In a sustained and challenging interview with Katie Couric on Saturday, James Comey defended his apparent flouting of FBI standards in the lead-up to the election of President Trump, saying that, in the “500-year flood” that was 2016, the only way to save the credibility of the institution was to break with convention.
“Norms … produce reliably good results in normal circumstances,” Comey said on Saturday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. But he said it was unreasonable to expect that “in every circumstance you would do what you would always normally do.”
As Couric pointed out, a 500-page report published earlier this month by the DOJ’s inspector general described Comey's October 28, 2016, letter to Congress about new emails that had surfaced from Hillary Clinton as a deliberate choice to disregard institutional policy. But Comey said he felt that his choice came down to speaking or concealing information, not obeying or defying protocol. And keeping the new emails quiet, Comey said, was just too great a risk: What if Clinton won, and the FBI “concludes she’s criminally culpable after the election?”
“The most powerful norm I’ve lived under is you take no action in the run-up to the election that could affect the outcome,” Comey said on Saturday. “I couldn’t find a door labeled ‘no action’ on October 28.”