“The President is not above the law, and I don’t accept the notion that because the President is the head of the executive branch he can’t ever obstruct justice in connection with executive branch activities,” Comey said. “That’s just crazy and a recipe for lawlessness.”
Following Comey’s town hall appearance on Thursday night, Trump, who fired Comey two years ago on Thursday, once again laid into the former FBI director.
Comey blasts Barr, Rosenstein
The attorney general “certainly gave misleading testimony” to Congress about his interactions with Mueller, Comey said, but there isn’t strong evidence that Barr committed perjury.
“He’s an accomplished and very smart person and who had nothing to lose in taking this job. But his reputation — it doesn’t make me happy to say this, but I think he has lost most of his reputation with the way he has conducted himself,” Comey said.
Echoing a talking point from prominent Democrats, Comey said Barr “continues to talk as if he’s the President’s lawyer.” Comey also said Rosenstein was “very bright, but not strong enough.”
“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, blasting his former colleague in the federal law enforcement community. “And then they start telling themselves a story to justify their being trapped, which is, yeah, he’s awful, but the country needs me.”
Potential leverage on Trump
“I don’t know whether it’s true or not,” Comey said.
“Again, Mueller didn’t say it wasn’t the case. He didn’t disprove it, but he also didn’t establish that it was the case.”
“Stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there’s anything else. Just so you know … ,” Russian businessman Giorgi Rtskhiladze said in a text message to Cohen before the election
But Rtskhiladze later told investigators that he heard the tapes were fake. Nothing in the Mueller report confirmed the allegations that the Russians have compromising tapes of Trump.
Comey said Mueller should testify before Congress so he can “explain his thinking.”
He said he believes Mueller’s thinking on the obstruction question was, “Look, we can’t indict (Trump) anyway. We’ve got lots of evidence of obstruction of justice. We’re compiling it for a future prosecutor, so why engage in a really long battle over forcing him to give us answers?”
Comey wrote in a recent op-ed that Trump appointees, like Barr and others, sometimes make “compromises” to survive their boss, writing, “Trump eats your soul in small bites.” At the CNN town hall on Thursday night, Comey said that “it doesn’t make me happy to write that, but it’s what I believe. This President, because he’s an amoral leader, shapes those around him.”
The former FBI director also reiterated that he believes Trump should be defeated at the ballot box, not by impeachment. Comey was a lifelong Republican but now identifies as an independent and canvassed for a Democratic congressional candidate in the 2018 midterm elections.
Comey said he would “never” run for office, but that he would work to elect Democrats in the upcoming election and defeat Trump in 2020 “because he is amoral, unfit to lead this nation.”
CNN’s Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.