3. Comey Defended Peter Strzok and Said Bill Barr Is “Certainly Fit to be Attorney General”
Republicans have argued that both the Clinton investigation and the Trump investigation were tainted by the personal views of two FBI officials who were secret lovers, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. They shared their personal anti-Trump views in damning text messages that Trump has used to disparage the Mueller probe. Comey acknowledged that Strzok was one of the two agents to interview Clinton about her emails. He said that, had he known about his and Page’s text messages, he would not have let either of them stay on the case, but he also said that he “never saw any indication of anything but the facts and the law from those people.” He defended Strzok as “very highly regarded as a counterintelligence professional” and “among the best.” He said Strzok’s personal bias did not affect his work, pointing to his help composing the late October letter that Hillary Clinton blamed in part for her defeat.
While he praised Strzok, Comey also had praise for a Trump nominee, William Barr. Trump said Friday that Barr would be nominated to take Jeff Sessions’s place as attorney general, a role that Barr held in the George H. W. Bush administration. “I think very highly of him,” Comey said. “I mean, I used to work for him. I probably know him better than I know Bob Mueller. I probably just damned him by saying he’s a friend of mine, but I respect him.” He added, “I think he’s certainly fit to be attorney general.”
4. Comey Disputed Trump’s Contention That He and Mueller Are Best Friends: “I Admire the Heck Out of the Man … We’re Not Friends”
Jerry Nadler, the Democrat who will take over the Judiciary Committee in January, questioned Comey on Trump’s contention that he and Mueller are “best friends” and that Trump “could give you a hundred pictures of him and Comey hugging and kissing each other.” In response, Comey described a cordial but impersonal relationship that was far from best-friend status: “I admire the heck out of the man, but I don’t know his phone number, I’ve never been to his house, I don’t know his children’s names. I think I had a meal once alone with him in a restaurant … We’re not friends in any social sense.” Addressing Trump’s claim about photographs, Comey added in what amounted to the hearing’s top laugh line, “I have never hugged or kissed the man. Again, I’m an admirer but not that kind of admirer.”
As for Trump’s portrayal of Mueller’s team as angry partisans, Comey said, “I know them by reputation, and it’s an all-star team of people whose names I’ve known for years as great federal prosecutors.” He praised the special counsel’s team for working “with extraordinary speed, with extraordinary professionalism, and zero disclosure outside of public court filings.” As he put it later, “There are not many things I would bet my life on. I would bet my life that Bob Mueller will do things the right way, the way we would all want, whether we’re Republicans or Democrats, the way Americans should want.”