Washington — Former FBI Director James Comey admitted the bureau acted with "real sloppiness" in its efforts to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, and said he was "overconfident" in the bureau's process for seeking warrants to do so.
"I was wrong," Comey said in an interview with "Fox News Sunday." "I was overconfident as director in our procedures."
Comey was responding to the findings of an investigation by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, whose office examined the FBI's handling of applications submitted to a secret court under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to obtain warrants to monitor Page, as well as the origins of the bureau's investigation into ties between Trump campaign officials and Russia. Horowitz released his long-awaited report last week.
Comey has defended the FBI's actions in the past, saying last year the bureau and the Justice Department handled the applications to wiretap Page in a "thoughtful, responsible way."
But Horowitz found the FBI made 17 "significant errors and omissions" in its initial application to surveil Page and three renewal requests.
"He's right, I was wrong," Comey said of Horowitz. "I was overconfident in the procedures that the FBI and Justice had built over 20 years."
The former FBI chief also acknowledged there was "real sloppiness" on the part of the FBI.
"Seventeen things that either should've been in the applications or at least discussed and characterized differently," Comey said. "It was not acceptable and so he's right. I was wrong."
In addition to identifying the FBI's errors, Horowitz determined there was no evidence the bureau was motivated by political bias when it opened its investigation into the Trump campaign and concluded investigators met the low threshold needed to launch the probe, known as "Crossfire Hurricane."
President Trump described the actions of the FBI revealed in Horowitz's report as an "overthrow of the government," and his allies have accused the bureau of breaking the rules to investigate a presidential candidate they opposed.
But immediately following the report's release, Comey said he saw it as vindication, since it disproved various claims against the bureau by Mr. Trump and his supporters, including that the FBI spied on the Trump campaign.
Horowitz, however, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that his findings "don't vindicate anybody" at the FBI involved in its surveillance of Page, including Comey.
When pressed by "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace about his sense of vindication, Comey said it "turns upon how we understand the word."
"What I mean is the FBI is 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 unseat, defeat and then unseat a president. All of that was nonsense," he said. "I think it's really important that the inspector general looked at that."
Following Comey's interview, Mr. Trump suggested the former FBI director should be punished for the conduct uncovered by Horowitz's report and said he is owed an apology.
"So now Comey's admitting he was wrong. Wow, but he's only doing so because he got caught red handed," the president tweeted. "He was actually caught a long time ago. So what are the consequences for his unlawful conduct. Could it be years in jail? Where are the apologies to me and others, Jim?"