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Former FBI Adviser On Comey Testimony


Here in Washington D.C., several bars are opening early this morning, and former FBI Director James Comey will be up on the big-screen TVs there, testifying before the Senate intelligence committee. Comey's opening statement was released yesterday. And it gave us an early look at what Comey's going to say. The headline, Comey writes that the president asked him to promise loyalty and to ease off on the investigation into former national security adviser Mike Flynn. Philip Mudd will be watching the hearing closely, as will many others. He is a former intelligence officer for the CIA and the FBI.

Hey, Phil, thanks for being here this morning.

PHILIP MUDD: Thank you.

MARTIN: What stood out to you in Comey's written testimony?

MUDD: What wasn't said. There's a couple things that are missing here. The first is any suggestion that the commander in chief, that is the president, had a conversation with the FBI director about how to secure America for the next election. The conversation centers on how the president can protect himself in light of the allegations. But if you're sitting in the seat in the Oval Office, the first comment you should have is come over here under the guidance of the national security adviser and have a conversation about how we ensure this never happens again.

The second thing is also what's missing - the clarity about what the attorney general and the deputy attorney general were doing through all of this. There's way too much commentary that I have heard in the past half day about whether Jim Comey was timid or not. There's a second question. Why didn't somebody from the Department of Justice intervene directly with the president? They should have done that, and he should speak about that today.

MARTIN: Well, there is this criticism that if Comey was so disturbed by all of this, he should have gone directly to the attorney general right away, instead of just telling his inner circle at the FBI that he was made uncomfortable by these conversations with the president.

MUDD: I think that's correct. But you've got a couple of things to consider. First, he's concerned that the attorney general is already tarnished because of his previous relationship with the Russians during the campaign. And the second is it's not just on him to go to the attorney general. As soon as the attorney general knows that the president of the United States is asking for a one-on-one, private conversation with the FBI director in this environment, it should not be the FBI director's responsibility alone to go to the attorney general. I've

worked for three attorneys general at the FBI. Any one of them, I suspect, would have said, hey, Mr. FBI Director, what happened in there, and then would have gone to either the president or the chief of staff at the White House and said, you can't do this. It's not just on Comey.

MARTIN: You say that what's interesting to you is what wasn't communicated in Comey's version of these conversations. Why is that so telling, that the thrust of the conversations wasn't about the issues of Russian meddling, that it was centered on the president's behavior or the investigation into Mike Flynn and that that's a problem in and of itself?

MUDD: Every conversation we've had, or most of them in the past months, has been on the lurid stories about campaign involvement with the Russians. There's a profound question here that haunts this. It haunts me. What happens when we go into a next election cycle and we are not resolved on how to protect candidates and how to protect the American electoral process?

The president of the United States is not primarily responsible for infrastructure, for health care. He is the commander in chief. That's the primary responsibility when you walk in the Oval Office. And I cannot see an indication where this president has understood that responsibility.

MARTIN: In the seconds remaining, do you see - what Comey has laid out in these written statements, do you see an argument for obstruction of justice on the part of the president?

MUDD: I don't yet, and that's why conversations with others, including Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, are important. This is inappropriate. I'm not sure it meets a legal standard for obstruction.

MARTIN: Philip Mudd is a former CIA counterintelligence official and a senior FBI intelligence adviser. Thanks so much for your time this morning.

MUDD: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF QUANTIC'S "WIDER THAN THE SKY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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