Comey defends FBI's investigation in response to NYT 'spying' report

Former FBI Director James Comey on Friday defended the bureau's actions alleged a day earlier that an informant portrayed a research assistant in order to investigate a Trump foreign policy adviser in 2016.

In a lengthy interview with a Los Angeles radio station, Charles Feldman mentioned the New York Times report and asked Comey about Trump supporters' reaction to it.

“Already some Trump supporters are saying, 'Aha! You see? We are right! The president is right!" Feldman said to Comey. "The FBI and the … so-called deep state, they were spying on an American presidential campaign -- and this story is proof of that.’”

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Comey hesitated at first to respond to the KNX 1070 AM host before justifying the FBI’s actions.

“Really? What would you have the FBI do? We discover in the middle of June of 2016 that the Russians were engaged in a massive effort to mess with this democracy to interfere in the election. We're focused on that and at the end of July we learn that a Trump campaign adviser -- two months earlier, before any of this was public -- had talked to a Russian representative about the fact that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton and wanted to arrange to share it with the Trump campaign,” Comey said.

"What should the FBI do when it gets that information? It should investigate to figure out whether any Americans are hooked up with this massive interference effort. And that's what we did."

— James Comey, former FBI director

According to the Times report, an informant working for U.S. intelligence posed as a Cambridge University research assistant in September 2016 to try to probe George Papadopoulos, then a Trump foreign policy adviser, on the campaign's possible ties to Russia.

Papadopoulos told Fox News on Thursday that the informant tried to "seduce" him as part of the "bizarre" episode.

The Times report cited individuals familiar with the Justice Department's ongoing Inspector General (IG) review of the intelligence community's actions in the run-up to Donald Trump's election as president.

Attorney General William Barr received harsh partisan blowback for suggesting that "spying did occur" during the presidential race, but doubled down during a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Comey said the FBI was just doing its job.

“What should the FBI do when it gets that information? It should investigate to figure out whether any Americans are hooked up with this massive interference effort. And that's what we did.” Comey said.

The fired director told Republicans who were outraged by the report to “breathe into a paper bag,” saying the FBI used “limited tools” to find the truth.

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"There's no way you would do other than what we did, which is use limited tools to try to understand, 'Is this true?' And that's what the investigation was about,” Comey said.

"A foreign adversary intervened in America to damage our democracy. ... So, they will be back again, they will work to re-elect Donald Trump."

— James Comey, former FBI director

Comey argued that Republicans would be outraged if the FBI did not react if a similar situation had emerged involving former President Barack Obama and Iran during the 2012 election.

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The former FBI head also warned that the Russians would again work to re-elect President Trump, saying their initial actions were "an act of war" and criticized the president for "refusing to accept that."

"A foreign adversary intervened in America to damage our democracy to hurt one of our two candidates for president and to help the other. That's an act of war. And they not only did it, they exceeded their wildest expectations because look at where we are as a country now, how we are at each other's throats. So, they will be back again, they will work to re-elect Donald Trump," Comey said.

Fox News' Gregg Re and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.