Comey Admits Errors in Surveillance Warrants, but Defends F.B.I.

WASHINGTON — James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, acknowledged on Sunday that he was wrong when he said there were no problems with the warrants used to approve surveillance for an adviser to President Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The admission from Mr. Comey, who forcefully defended himself and the bureau against broader accusations of a political conspiracy against Mr. Trump, came days after the inspector general for the Justice Department, Michael E. Horowitz, released a report that criticized a rushed and dysfunctional process in the F.B.I.’s investigation into links between Russia and Trump campaign aides in 2016.

“I was wrong,” Mr. Comey said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The inspector general found significant mistakes, and that is not something to sneeze at. That’s really important.”

The report found “17 significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the applications the F.B.I. submitted to a court to surveil Carter Page, a onetime foreign policy adviser on Mr. Trump’s campaign. It did not find any evidence of political bias.

Mr. Comey, whom Mr. Trump fired in May 2017, had previously said the case involving Mr. Page was handled in a “thoughtful, responsible way” during the time he was the director of the agency.

But the inspector general’s report found that, among other problems, the F.B.I. never told the Justice Department that Mr. Page had for years been providing information to the C.I.A. about his prior contacts with Russian officials, a point that might have made his history less suspicious. Over all, the report said the inspector general found “a number of factual representations that were inaccurate, incomplete or unsupported by appropriate documentation” in the wiretap applications.

Mr. Trump seized on Mr. Comey’s admission to attack him.

“So now Comey’s admitting he was wrong,” the president said on Twitter on Sunday. “Wow, but he’s only doing so because he got caught red handed. 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?”

But Mr. Comey noted that the inspector general did not find evidence of the most serious charges of political bias and a “deep state” conspiracy that Mr. Trump and his allies have leveled against the F.B.I. in the years since the 2016 campaign.

He firmly defended the F.B.I., saying the bureau had been proved to be honest and apolitical, but “flawed.”

“The inspector general did not find misconduct by F.B.I. personnel, did not find political bias, did not find illegal conduct,” Mr. Comey said. Referring to Mr. Trump’s claims, often repeated on Fox News, he added, “The American people — especially your viewers — need to realize they were given false information about the F.B.I.”

Chris Cameron contributed reporting.

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