James Comey unloads on House Republicans and Fox News

Following his closed-door testimony to the House Judiciary and Oversight committees on Monday, former FBI Director James Comey unloaded on House Republicans and Fox News.

“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 said. “I find it frustrating to be here answering questions about things that are far less important than the values this country is built upon.”

Later, in response to a question from a Fox News reporter about whether he “shares responsibility” for “the FBI’s reputation taking a big hit,” Comey said, “No. The FBI’s reputation has taken a big hit because the president of the United States with his acolytes has lied about it constantly. And in the face of those lies, a whole lot of good people who watch your network [Fox News] believe that nonsense. That’s a tragedy. That will be undone eventually, but that damage has nothing to do with me.”

Since Trump fired him in May 2017, Comey — a longtime Republican — has become an outspoken critic of the president. Monday’s hearing may have been Republicans’ last chance to ask him questions about decisions he made as FBI director before Democrats take control of the House next month.

During his post-hearing comments, Comey went on to say that House Republicans’ failure to defend the FBI from Trump’s attacks is “to their everlasting shame.”

“Their silence is shameful,” Comey said, referring to Republicans who have largely remained silent or supported the president as he attacks the law enforcement institutions that are investigating him. “Someday, they gotta explain to their grandchildren what they did today.”

“We have to stop being numb to it”

House Republicans have regularly gone on Fox News and pushed conspiracy theories about purported anti-Trump bias in the FBI without any pushback from hosts. Comey’s handling of the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails is often at the center of their theories, which trace Trump’s legal problems back not to any wrongdoing on his part, but to the political allegiances of top FBI officials.

These conspiracy theories are at odds with the facts. For instance, although both Hillary Clinton and Trump were under FBI investigation in the closing months of the campaign, the FBI only leaked about the Clinton investigation — a development that hardly benefited the Democrat. Prominent pollsters like Nate Silver have even concluded that Comey’s widely criticized decision to publicly “reopen” the investigation into Clinton just days before the election may have swung it for Trump.

Nonetheless, Republican members of the Oversight Committee like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) continue to accuse Comey and top officials who worked under him of investigating Trump for politically motivated reasons and being secret Clinton supporters.

These conspiracy theories have not held up well when Republicans have tried to push them on CNN or during congressional hearings. In one memorable example, Jordan was laughed at during a House Judiciary Committee hearing after he tried to ambush Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with questions about whether he had threatened to subpoena “phone calls” made by House Intelligence Committee staffers.

“There is no way to subpoena phone calls,” Rosenstein replied, as the room erupted in laughter.

In another instance, CNN host Chris Cuomo debunked a conspiracy theory pushed by Jordan in two minutes.

Monday’s closed-door hearing was the second time in December that House Republicans have questioned Comey behind closed doors about decisions he made as FBI director, including ones pertaining to the investigation of the Trump campaign for possible collusion with Russia. A full transcript of Comey’s first round of testimony was conveniently released a day after prosecutors and a federal judge implicated Trump in felony campaign finance crimes and prompted the president to lash out at Comey, whom he admitted to firing over his frustrations with the Russia investigation.

Following his first round of testimony, Comey posted a tweet calling the hearing “a desperate attempt to find anything that can be used to attack the institutions of justice investigating the president.”

During his comments after Monday’s hearing, Comey criticized the president’s attacks on Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who accuses Trump of directing him to commit campaign finance felonies and is cooperating with multiple investigations of the president.

“It undermines the rule of law,” Comey said, referring to a tweet Trump posted on Sunday calling Cohen “a rat.”

“This is the president of the US calling a witness who is cooperating with his own Justice Department a ‘rat.’ Say that again to yourself at home and remind yourself where we have ended up,” Comey said. “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, there are 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.”