Former FBI Director James Comey suggested at a televised town hall Thursday that President Trump could be indicted after he leaves office -- as the president fired back, calling Comey a "disgrace."
During a town hall-style event hosted by CNN's Anderson Cooper, Comey was asked whether he agreed with hundreds of former prosecutors who argued this week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller would have produced obstruction of justice charges if Trump were not president and benefiting from a DOJ policy against such indictments.
“Yeah I agree,” Comey said, offering examples outlined in Mueller’s more than 400-page report, specifically involving requests Trump made to former White House Counsel Don McGahn and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit or end the special counsel’s investigation.
“[Mueller] was trying to do something principled and fair, and I can tell you from personal experience that sometimes, when you try to do that, people misunderstand you,” Comey said. “He said, I can’t indict the president because of Department of Justice policy and given that, it would be unfair to accuse him of a crime in a document when he can’t vindicate himself in a trial.”
Asked point-blank if Trump should be indicted when he is out of office, Comey answered: “I think the Justice Department will have to take a serious look at that.”
He added: “Whether it’s a wise thing to do to a former president, I don’t know. That’s a harder question, a much bigger question, than the facts of the case.”
Asked whether he believed there was enough evidence to do so, he replied: “Sure looks like it’s there—with respect to at least a couple of those episodes of obstruction.”
Prior to the release of the full Mueller report, Attorney General Bill Barr gave an initial summary of the findings, announcing there was no evidence of collusion found between Russia and members of the Trump campaign. The special counsel was also leading an obstruction of justice inquiry into the president but ultimately did not come to a conclusion on the matter. Upon review of the report, Barr, in his summary, said that the evidence uncovered in the investigation was not sufficient to charge the president with an obstruction of justice offense.
Since that summary, reports have surfaced revealing that Mueller was uncomfortable with the way in which Barr framed the obstruction charges, and claimed that the media were distorting the process and conclusion of that inquiry.
After the town hall, the president blasted Comey and claimed he'll go down in history as the worst leader of the FBI.
“James Comey is a disgrace to the FBI & will go down as the worst Director in its long and once proud history. He brought the FBI down, almost all Republicans & Democrats thought he should be FIRED, but the FBI will regain greatness because of the great men & women who work there!” Trump tweeted late Thursday.
Trump and Comey have traded barbs for years. Trump fired Comey on May 8, 2017—two years ago this week.
Comey, meanwhile, slammed outgoing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who technically recommended his firing, during the town hall as not having “strong character.”
“I think people like that, like Rod Rosenstein, who are people of accomplishment but not real sterling character, strong character, find themselves trapped,” Comey said Thursday. “And then they start telling themselves a story to justify their being trapped which is, ‘Yeah, he’s awful but the country needs me.”
Rosenstein announced his resignation from his post as deputy attorney general last month, thanking the president for “the opportunity to serve” and for his “courtesy and humor” during their personal conversations.
Rosenstein was caught in political crosshairs throughout his tenure as the No. 2 at the Justice Department. Rosenstein took oversight of the Russia investigation in early 2017 after Sessions recused himself due to his work with the Trump campaign in 2016. Rosenstein later appointed Mueller as special counsel.
The Justice Department honored Rosenstein at a send-off on Thursday, with top FBI brass touting Rosenstein’s accomplishments and nearly 30 years of service at the DOJ.