Fox's Chris Wallace spars with Comey over Horowitz report

Former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyBolton book sells 780,000 copies in first week, set to surpass 1M copies printed The Seila Law case: Liberty and political firing A new age of lies? MORE sparred with Fox News's Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceDC delegate: Congress took up police reform due to 'impatience in the streets' Activist: Stop vilifying protesters and try to understand why they are fighting Ex-CDC director: 'No doubt' coronavirus 'has the upper hand' MORE on Sunday over the Justice Department inspector general's (IG) report on the bureau's investigation into President Trump's campaign and whether the probe cleared the FBI of wrongdoing.

Wallace pressed Comey on "Fox News Sunday" on whether the "victory lap" he said the former FBI director had taken since the report's release was justified. While Comey has claimed the report by Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz vindicated the FBI, Horowitz in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week said that "the activities we found don’t vindicate anybody who touched this."

"Maybe it turns upon how we understand the word," Comey said. "What I mean is the FBI was accused of treason, of illegal spying, of tapping Mr. Trump's wires illegally, of opening an investigation without justification, of being a criminal conspiracy to defeat and then unseat a president. All of that was nonsense."

Democrats and Republicans have voiced starkly different views of the Horowitz report. While Trump's allies point to the litany of errors the inspector general found in the FBI's handling of the case, Democrats stress that its central conclusion – that the investigation into the Trump campaign was not politically motivated – goes against claims Trump has been making for years about a conspiracy to target him.

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When Comey admitted to "sloppiness" in handling certain parts of the investigation, Wallace responded that "sloppiness may be a euphemism for what he found" and pointed out the IG found 17 errors in one of the applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court for a warrant to wiretap Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

"Seventeen significant errors in FISA process, and you say it was handled in a thoughtful and appropriate way," Wallace said.

"He's right. I was wrong. I was overconfident in the procedures the FBI and Justice had built over 20 years. I thought they were robust enough. It's incredibly hard to get a FISA. I was overconfident in those. He's right. There was real sloppiness."

Wallace repeatedly pressed Comey over his characterization of the Steele dossier's role in the FBI's investigation and FISA application.

 
"Horowitz says it wasn't part – as you told Bret Baier – it wasn't part of a broader mosaic.  He said it played an essential role in establishing probable cause," Wallace said. "In fact, he says, if it hadn't been for the Steele dossier, the FBI probably would haven't even submitted a FISA application – that it had been reviewed in April of 2016 – or August, rather, of 2016 – they decided not to do it.  They get the Steele dossier.  They do it.  It wasn't part of a broader mosaic.  That's what you said, sir."
 
Comey responded, "I'm not sure he and I are saying different things. What his report says is that the FBI thought it was a close call until they got the Steele report, put that additional information in, and that tipped it over to be probable cause. It's a long FISA application and includes Steele material and lots of other things. I don't think we're saying different things."
 
"I think you are, sir," Wallace responded.
 
 
Wallace also asked Comey why he didn't take a more hands-on role in such an important investigation. 
 
In one exchange, Wallace told Comey, "You make it sound like you're a bystander, an eyewitness. You were the director of the FBI while a lot of this was going on, sir." 
 
"Sure, I'm responsible. That's why I'm telling you I was wrong," Comey said. "I was overconfident as director in our procedures. And it's important that a leader be accountable and transparent. If I were still director, I'd be saying exactly the same thing that [FBI Director] Chris Wray is saying, which is we are going to get to the bottom of this. Because the most important question is, is it systemic? Are there problems in other cases?"

 
Updated at 10:55 a.m.