Fired FBI director James Comey has said Joe Biden should consider pardoning Donald Trump for the Capitol riot even though the president ‘belongs in jail.’
Comey said he was ‘sickened’ by last week’s storming of the Capitol and ‘angered’ by the lax security which allowed the Trump mob to run amok, leaving five people dead.
He argued that impeaching Trump would be ‘good for our country’ and said that the ‘lawless nihilist’ should be ousted from the White House before Joe Biden’s inauguration.
But he stopped short of calling for a prosecution for Trump, who has previously threatened Comey with ‘many years in jail’ over the Russia report.
‘I obviously think he belongs in jail but I don’t think pursuing that is in the best interest of the entire nation,’ Comey said.
The BBC’s Emily Maitlis asked whether Biden ought to pardon Trump in the same way that Gerald Ford did Richard Nixon after Watergate in 1974.
‘I don’t know, he should at least consider it,’ Comey said. ‘As part of healing the country and getting us to a place where we can focus on things that are going to matter over the next four years, I think Joe Biden is going to have to at least think about that.’
Fired FBI director James Comey last night said Donald Trump ‘should be in jail’ for the riot inside the Capitol but said that Joe Biden should consider pardoning him
Comey said that ousting Trump before Biden’s inauguration was the right thing to do, but stopped short of calling for the president to be locked up (Trump pictured outside the White House in September, 2019)
Comey, whose new book is out this week, said he believes that Trump ‘might figure out’ that by accepting a pardon he admits guilt and so he would probably reject it.
After Ford pardoned Nixon, the predecessor made a statement of contrition.
House Republicans have called Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment effort cynical, political and unnecessarily divisive.
Comey said those who said such things were ‘not worthy of a response.’
Speaking of last Wednesday’s riot, which saw lawmakers barricaded inside their offices as gunfire sounded on the Hill, Comey called the mob ‘domestic terrorists.’
He said: ‘I was sickened as I hope not just all Americans but all human beings were by an attack on a symbol of democracy, the center of democracy for our country and a symbol for the whole world.
‘And I was also angered as a former law enforcement official. For the life of me I can’t understand why that hill was not adequately defended.
‘I think it’s going to be very important for our country to take a look back as we did after 9/11 and understand what happened and why, so it never happens again.’
The FBI has warned of further violence ahead of Biden’s inauguration on January 20, telling their staff to prepare for riots across all 50 states.
Comey was asked whether the MAGA movement represented an extremist threat.
He replied: ‘There’s a reason the American people associate the red hats with something racist and and that they should be fearful of.
‘It’s probably an exaggeration because there’s so many millions of Americans who are not violent people they’re not racist people they’re just been people who’ve been fooled.’
Maitlis asked: ‘Would you see it as a domestic threat now?’
Comey answered: ‘Oh definitely – I’m not talking about the MAGA movement as a whole but significant aspects of – and you saw it live and on television at Capitol Hill – of those people who consider themselves devotees of Donald Trump are people that I would classify as domestic terrorists.’
Trump earlier this week declared a state of emergency in DC as the police briefed House Democrats on three plots to attack the Capitol – including one described as ‘the largest armed protest in American history.’
Thousands of National Guard troops have been drafted in to secure the Hill and the secret service has launched a massive operation to protect Biden’s inauguration ceremony.
But Comey, who presided over the agency during two inaugurations, said he had the utmost confidence the ceremony would go ahead undisturbed.
‘This for American security services is the Super Bowl of security,’ he said.
‘We know how to secure to completely lock down a large piece of ground and I’m confident that will be done but at the same time I know the threat is real.’
The flash of a police munition lights up the steps of the Capitol during the invasion by a Trump-incited mob on Wednesday
Members of Congress are seen running for cover as protesters attempted to enter the House Chamber
The protesters used flag poles and other objects to break doors and windows around the Capitol building
Hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6 in a bid to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory
He was pressed on this point and asked why it had been allowed to happen in the first place – the FBI must have been well aware that thousands of Trump supporters were heading to Washington DC.
But while Comey said he was unable to pass judgment on that, he said he believed that the current FBI director Christopher Wray may have deliberately kept a low profile over the last three years to avoid upsetting Trump.
Comey, whose firing led to the Mueller investigation, said: ‘I think the FBI director who followed me has been very careful to maintain a lower profile so that he doesn’t get fired by an erratic president and have the FBI decapitated at a critical time in our nation.
‘I bet he’s thinking that right now, this week it’s important not to let the Eye of Sauron fall on you and and have the FBI director fired.’
The Eye of Sauron refers to the evil all-seeing eye in the Lord of the Rings books by English author J.R.R. Tolkein.
The former FBI chief said he hoped that Trump would be ignored by the Biden administration and the American people over the next four years.
‘The best decision for the United States of America will be not to grant Donald Trump the platform that prosecuting him would give him for every day for three or four years in the nation’s capital as United States versus Trump.
‘I think the better thing for our country and our new president is to push Donald Trump to the side a bit.
‘I’d rather the TV lights go out and he stand on the lawn at Mar-a-Lago shouting at cars in his bathrobe where none of us can hear that.’