Former FBI Director James Comey said it’s “totally normal” for the FBI to plant undercover individuals close to political campaigns, during his Thursday town hall on CNN.
A member from the crowd asked Comey if Azra Turk, an asset who posed as Cambridge professor Stefan Halper’s assistant to meet with trump aide George Papadopoulos in 2016, should be classified as “spying.” Turk’s identity was uncovered publicly in a May 2 New York Times report.
“Yeah, I’m not going to comment on a particular investigative step, because that’s for the bureau to do, and I’m not in the government any longer, but the FBI doesn’t spy to begin with. The FBI investigates. And you got to remember where we were in the end of July 2016,” Comey answered. “We knew the Russians were engaged in a massive effort to attack our democracy, and then we learn from an allied ambassador that one of President Trump-elect — candidate Trump’s advisers had been talking to a Russian representative long before that about dirt they had on Hillary Clinton that the Russians wanted to make available.”
Comey reiterated the assertion that the “FBI doesn’t spy,” which he stated earlier this week on “CBS This Morning.”
“You said it’s not spying. Why do you think Attorney General Barr used the word ‘spying’ which is obviously the word the president has used as well?” CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked.
“The only explanation I can think of is he used it because the president used it, which is really disappointing. He knows better than that, and knows that the FBI conducts electronic surveillance by going to federal judges and getting warrants based on probable cause,” the former FBI director responded.
Cooper followed up, “But sending an investigator undercover to meet with somebody who is connected to the campaign, they claimed he was later on just a coffee boy. That is an extreme step, no?” (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: A London Meeting Before The Election Aroused George Papadopoulos’s Suspicions)
“No, it’s a reasonable — that was the guy, Papadopoulos, who was the subject of the information we got from the Australians that he had talked to the Russians,” Comey added. “I don’t remember talking about that particular step with my team. I knew they were trying to see if they could check it out. That’s a totally normal step. See if you can get somebody close to the person and see if they’ll confirm what we heard from the Australians.”