- Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor, said the former FBI Director James Comey “swung” the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor.
- Conway’s comment, a reference to Comey’s October 2016 announcement that the FBI had restarted its investigation into Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, contradicts the White House’s long-standing position.
- Conway reversed her argument later Monday morning, arguing that Comey wasn’t capable of swinging an election.
Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor, said Monday that the former FBI Director James Comey “swung” the 2016 election with his October announcement that he had renewed the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
“This guy swung an election,” Conway told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” on Monday. “He thought the wrong person would win.”
Many observers and researchers have said the announcement, just days before the presidential election, helped push Trump over the top against his Democratic opponent. Conway’s remark contradicts the White House’s longstanding position, however, which is that the announcement had no significant impact on the election.
Comey is carrying out a publicity campaign for his book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” set for release Tuesday. As part of that, he participated in an interview that aired Sunday night on ABC in which he called Trump “morally unfit” to be president. Those close to Trump have in turn sought to discredit Comey, whom Trump fired as FBI director in May of last year.
Conway appeared to reverse her statement later Monday morning during an interview with CNN.
“I saw James Comey last night and I thought: ‘Is it true that James Comey swung an election? I don’t think so,'” she said.
Conway defended her apparent reversal in an interview with The Daily Beast also on Monday morning, claiming she was being sarcastic in her ABC interview.
“I rolled my eyes and said, ‘Really, this guy swung an election?’ It was sarcastic,” she said.
She also tweeted her defense.
In another tweet about news coverage of her comment, she wrote: “This misleading headline should include an eye roll and question mark. Point I made on 3 shows is that we are supposed to believe THIS guy swung an election? I don’t think so.”
At the time of the October 2016 announcement, Trump repeatedly praised Comey’s decision, saying he “did the right thing” by notifying Congress of the investigation’s revival, which ultimately turned up no new evidence.
Days before the election, Trump argued it “took guts” for Comey to “make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition that he had where they’re trying to protect her from criminal prosecution.”
He went on, “I was not his fan, but I’ll tell you what, what he did he brought back his reputation.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then a top Trump campaign surrogate, also praised Comey’s move, telling Fox News in late October and early November 2016 that Comey “had an absolute duty” to “come forward with the new information” and “did the right thing.”
Trump and the White House later reversed their position on Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation, saying it was actually the reason the president unexpectedly fired him. Trump recently called Comey’s actions “one of the worst ‘botch jobs’ of history.”
But the president also said in an interview last May that he fired Comey at least in part because of the FBI investigation Comey was then leading into Russian interference in the election and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.