CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour called "lock her up" chants by Donald Trump supporters "hate speech" in a new interview and asked James Comey if he wished he had "shut down that language" in his capacity as FBI Director at the time.
Amanpour recounted the frequent chants at Trump 2016 campaign rallies about imprisoning Hillary Clinton for her perceived crimes and wondered if they should have been legal, but Comey responded it was not the role of government officials to censor that speech.
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"Do you, in retrospect, wish that people like yourself, the head of the FBI, the people in charge of law and order, had shut down that language, that it was dangerous potentially, that it could have created violence, that it's kind of hate speech? Should that have been allowed?" she asked in a clip flagged by The Daily Caller.
"That's not a role for government to play," Comey replied. "The beauty of this country is people can say what they want, even if it's misleading and it's demagoguery. The people who should have shut it down were Republicans, who understand the rule of law and the values that they claim to stand for. Shame on them, but it wasn't a role for government to play."
Trump fired Comey in 2017, and the president has since called him an "untruthful slime ball" as well as a "liar and a leaker" for discussing their private conversations. Comey likened Trump to a mob boss in his book A Higher Loyalty, calling him morally unfit to lead and a serial fabulist.
Comey, a former Republican, has called on Americans to vote Trump out of office in favor of the Democratic candidate in 2020. He posted an April Fool's joke about running for president on Monday.
Trump's firing of Comey has been front-and-center of Democratic accusations that Trump obstructed justice in the federal investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Comey said Attorney General William Barr deserved the benefit of the doubt over what the Justice Department ultimately redacts from the Robert Mueller report.
"Give him a chance to show us what he feels like he can't show us," he said. "I have to imagine that former [FBI Director Robert] Mueller wrote the report with an eye towards it being public some day, so I can't imagine a lot needs to be cut out of it. But let's wait and see. The attorney general deserves that chance."
Barr summarized Mueller's report as not coming to a conclusion on obstruction and saying there was no conspiracy between Trump's campaign and the Russians, often referred to colloquially as collusion. Mueller also said his office would bring no further indictments.