Former Trump aide says Comey firing may be biggest mistake 'in modern political history'

Steve Bannon at the White House on Aug 2, 2017. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - Former White House strategist Stephen K Bannon believes the firing of FBI director James Comey by President Donald Trump was the biggest mistake "maybe in modern political history".

Bannon made the statement during an online segment of his interview with 60 Minutes broadcast Sunday (Sept 10). The statement was extraordinary considering all the political mistakes made in "modern history", including but not limited to the Watergate cover-up by President Richard M Nixon and the related Saturday Night Massacre, the Iran-contra affair during the administration of President Ronald Reagan and President Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, just for starters.

"I don't think there's any doubt that if James Comey had not been fired," Bannon told interviewer Charlie Rose, "we would not have a special counsel."

"We would not have the Mueller investigation in the breadth that clearly Mr Mueller is going," he added, referring to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's appointment to investigate any possible connection between Trump or his campaign with Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod J Rosenstein on May 17 in the wake of Comey's dismissal by Trump on May 9. People familiar with the probe have told The Washington Post that Mueller's team is looking at the decision to fire Comey, which some have argued could be interpreted by prosecutors as part of an effort to obstruct justice.

Bannon's comment supplemented a broader on air 60 Minutes interview which also included some eye-opening claims, such as saying that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., were "trying to nullify the 2016 election".

It came as Rose pressed him on the Comey firing, telling the former Trump adviser that he had heard that Bannon had declared the firing the worst mistake in political history. Bannon described that as "too bombastic" an assertion, narrowing it to "modern political history".

Washington, said Bannon, "is a city of institutions, not individuals. And I think you have to look at it as institutions. The FBI is the institution. The speaker of the house is an institution. The majority leader is an institution. Okay? The Justice Department is an institution. They have an institutional logic of how they proceed and what they're going to do. And you can't get caught up in individuals".

While declining to answer Rose's questions about his conversations within the White House on the matter, Bannon did say he had not heard any discussion of firing Mueller before he was dismissed from his White House job on Aug 18.

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