Former FBI director dodges questions about Trump-Russia probe

Media Credit: Sam Hardgrove | Senior Staff Photographer

Axios Co-Founder Mike Allen (left) discusses the Trump-Russia investigation with former FBI Director James Comey at Lisner Auditorium Monday.

Updated: May 1, 2018 at 12:17 p.m.

James Comey, the former director of the FBI, sidestepped questions about the ongoing investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and criticized the president for his social media use and executive actions at Lisner Auditorium Monday.

About 1,500 people turned out to the discussion, hosted by Politics and Prose and moderated by Mike Allen, the co-founder of the media company Axios. Comey discussed his new book, “A Higher Loyalty,” and his views on President Donald Trump’s administration in the year following his dismissal last May.

Comey released his book April 17, selling more than 600,000 copies within its first week on shelves, the New York Times reported. The president tweeted his criticism of the book in the days leading up to its release, calling Comey a “slimeball” whose book was “badly reviewed.”

Comey said though some have correlated the president’s social media messages with his book sales, he wishes Trump would stop attacking him on Twitter.

“I’m kind of like a break up he can’t get over for some reason,” Comey said. “I’m living my best life, and he’s over here tweeting at me.”

Allen asked Comey to predict the outcome of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Trump’s possible ties to Russia – a question the former director said he couldn’t “responsibly” answer without being on the investigative team.

Comey said much of the reporting about the Mueller investigation’s discoveries so far has come from sources who don’t have much information about the inquiry. The investigative team is “tight as a drum” and speculation on the case isn’t valuable despite widespread media coverage, he said.

Comey said America is not in a “normal world” under the Trump administration, and that decisions to pardon individuals like Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, erode the rule of law and would not happen under the average president. Libby was convicted in 2007 of lying to a grand jury and FBI officials who were investigating the leak of a CIA officer’s identity.

“Imagine Obama waking up in the morning and tweeting somebody he doesn’t like should be in jail,” Comey said. “Republicans would freak out about that.”

Comey said he would advise members of the federal government working under Trump to find strength in the values of the institutions they work for and do what is right even under political pressure.

“Remember, someday, you will have to explain to your grandchildren what you did at this time,” he said.

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