White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders unloaded on disgraced former FBI Director James Comey on Monday after he attacked the Trump administration and the Republican Party.
Comey made the remarks after testifying in front of Congress over his controversial handling of the criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and use of the Steele dossier in launching an investigation into then-candidate Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
“Republicans used to understand that the actions of a President matter,” Comey lamented. “That words of a President matter, the rule of law matters in the truth matters. Where are those Republicans today? At some point, someone has to stand up and in the face of fear of Fox News, fear of their base, fear of mean tweets, stand up for the values of this country and not slink away into retirement, but stand up and speak the truth.”
Comey later said Republicans would have to “explain to their grandchildren what they did today.”
A few hours after Comey’s remarks, Sanders blasted him on Twitter.
“Republicans should stand up to Comey and his tremendous corruption – from the fake Hillary Clinton investigation, to lying and leaking, to FISA abuse, and a list too long to name,” Sanders tweeted. “The President did the country a service by firing him and exposing him for the shameless fraud he is.”
Full transcript of Comey’s post-testimony remarks provided via CNN Newsroom:
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: We all set? Great.
So, another day of Hillary Clinton’s emails in the Steele dossier. This while the president of the United States is lying about the FBI, attacking the FBI and attacking the rule of law in this country. How does that make any sense at all? Republicans used to understand that the actions of a President matter. That words of a President matter, the rule of law matters in the truth matters. Where are those Republicans today? At some point, someone has to stand up and in the face of fear of Fox News, fear of their base, fear of mean tweets, stand up for the values of this country and not slink away into retirement, but stand up and speak the truth. I find it frustrating to be here, answering questions about things that are far less important than the values that this country is built upon. I’ll take your questions.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What impact does it have that the President calls Michael Cohen a rat.
[15:35:00] Someone cooperating with the investigation and questioned how his office was raided by the FBI?
COMEY: It undermines the rule of law. This is the President of the United States calling a witness, who has cooperated with his own Justice Department a rat. Say that again to yourself at home and remind yourself where we have ended up. This is not about Republicans and Democrats. This is about what does it mean to be an American? What are the things that we care about above our policy disputes, which are important? This is a set of values that represent the glue of this country and they are under attack by things just like that. We have to stop being numb to it, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, you need to stand on your feet, overcome your shame and say something.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel like there’s any legitimate investigative value what happened here today or do you feel like it’s a political exercise?
COMEY: I can’t answer that because I don’t know exactly what they are investigating. The questions about the Hillary Clinton and Steele dossier strike me as more of the same. I didn’t learn anything new in there. Maybe they did. Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a question from Fox News in fact. Your handling of the Flynn interview, how is it consistent with the investigation’s roadmap for agents the domestic investigation operations guide?
COMEY: Entirely consistent in my view. Give me a question the next level down, what do you mean?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I mean the domestic investigations operations guide is the roadmap for investigations for all agents, and there’s a special section for sensitive matters in individuals and I’m wondering if you feel comfortable that your handling (INAUDIBLE) was completely consistent with that.
COMEY: I do. I do, very much so.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One follow-up, please. Those who criticized you for failing to remember key events for maybe hurting the FBI’s reputation (INAUDIBLE), what would you say to some of that criticism?
COMEY: They got truthful testimony from me. When you’re a director of an organization for 38,000 sometimes you don’t know what form, people filled out. That’s silliness. And as far as hurting the FBI’s replication, I hope not. We had to make very hard decisions in 2016. I knew we would get hurt by it. The question is, how do we reduce the damage? What I’m doing now is not what I love to do. I’d rather not be talking to you all. But somebody has to stand up and speak for the FBI and the rule of law. And I hope there’s a whole lot more somebodies out there than just me.
RAJU: Court documents said you didn’t tell Sally Yates about this interview with Michael Flynn that the FBI was conducting until the day of. Why did you wait till the day of to sell Sally Yates about that investigation the FBI was going to have?
COMEY: Because I knew that if anything came of the interview, if it advanced our investigation, the attack from the Trump administration would be that an Obama holdover had engineered it. And so, I had to make the decision separate from her to leave them with their only opportunity. To challenge it would be to burn down the entire FBI. To my shock and horror, they’ve tried to do just that in the face of silence from people in this building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Director Comey, what was your reaction to the indictment of his two former associates of Michael Flynn, and Turkish lobbying. How much of that was on your radar when you are still director?
COMEY: I mean I can’t say. I can’t say
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To either on. Can you say your reaction?
COMEY: No, no reaction and I can’t tell you when I knew. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Director Comey, the FBI’s reputation has taken a
big hit over the last year. Do you share any of the responsibility for that?
COMEY: No. The FBI’s reputation has taken a big hit because the President of the United States has accolades has lied about it constantly. And in the face of those lies a whole lot of good people who watch your network believe that nonsense. That’s a tragedy. That will be undone eventually but that damage has nothing to do with me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did you first learn about the Steele dossier?
COMEY: Sometime in September, I think, could have been October. I think it was September of 2016.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Director Comey, what can be done to fix it? About the way that the public sees the FBI, what the President is saying.
COMEY: People who know better, including Republican members of this body, have to have the courage to stand up and speak the truth, not be cowed by mean tweets or fear of their base. There is a truth and they’re not telling it. Their silence is shameful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of the Republicans who are remaining in the House next session, do you see any taking that that mantle, coming up and defending the FBI, taking on the President?
COMEY: Not yet. To my view, to their ever-lasting shame I hope they’ll overcome that and realize someday they’ve got to explain to their grandchildren what they did today.
MANU: In recent days, the weight of the Flynn investigation has been — interview has been carried out has come under a lot of criticism. In your view should that have been handled any differently? How do you defend it from the criticism that this interview didn’t happen?
COMEY: Come on. Look at what’s happening in the Republican party. They’re up here, attacking the FBI’s investigation of a guy who pled guilty to lying to the FBI. He should have been warned, you shouldn’t lie. He should have been told, you could have a lawyer. Think of the state of affairs we’ve ended up in.
[15:40:02] That’s nonsense. I’m very proud of the way the FBI conducted itself, agile, flexible, thoughtful, pursued the leads where you want us to.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, so maybe for you or your attorney, my understanding is that when you shared your memos with your legal team there was a follow-up for a classified containment operation by the bureau. Was there a spill of classified information when you shared those memos?
COMEY: I’m not going to talk about something like that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That’s important to talk whether classified information was mishandled.
COMEY: Whether you think it is or not I’m not going to talk about it one way or another. Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are seeing more increase tweets from President Trump on the investigation, we are seeing more movement out of Mr. Mueller’s investigation. Is this a sign it’s wrapping up soon and a sign of the White House feeling the pressure?
COMEY: I don’t know nor do you, I suspect, because it’s been done professionally. Incredibly quickly but I don’t know whether it’s done. Only the investigators know that and we’ll see. Yes, ma’am?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you remember that new report related to the Senate intelligence investigation, did that come as a surprise, any of the findings and how serious was the Russian threat during the 2016 election?
COMEY: I haven’t had a chance to see so I can’t comment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Director Comey, you said you wanted these hearings to be public. Do you anticipate when Democrats take control coming back to The Hill again potentially answering some of the questions in public again?
COMEY: Well, I don’t love the idea coming back, is great you are. But I respect this institution. It’s why I’m here, cooperating with the Republicans. I wanted it in public. They wouldn’t do it. I’m not going to thumb my nose at them or the Democrats.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there substantive changes from your testimony when you were here — I guess a year ago in the summer, that you would want to have another public testimony at all? Do you feel like there’s anything that’s changed in the investigation or has changed in your view of it that needs to be clarified?
COMEY: If you read the transcript, you’ll see I’m boringly consistent.
RAJU: Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, do you have confidence in him?
COMEY: No comment. All right, see you all.