POLITICS
06/05/2018 16:59 EDT | Updated 06/05/2018 18:23 EDT

James Comey Warns Canadian Elections Are Target Of Putin And His 'Thugocracy'

There's a federal election next year.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press
Former FBI director James Comey speaks during the Canada 2020 Conference in Ottawa on June 5, 2018.

OTTAWA — Former FBI director James Comey told an Ottawa audience Tuesday to expect Russian interference in Canadian elections because they "succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in the United States."

Comey made the remarks during a discussion with political journalist Evan Solomon at a conference hosted by Canada 2020, a progressive think tank. He said it's important to understand what Russia did to influence the outcome of the 2016 election that put Donald Trump in the White House.

"They will do it again," he warned, adding countries with liberal and democratic values in the West "should be very concerned."

Canada is a prime target "because just by being who you are, and the values of this country, you're a threat to Putin and his thugocracy," Comey said of the Russian president.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press
Former FBI director James Comey speaks during the Canada 2020 Conference in Ottawa on June 5, 2018.

Comey was catapulted to international fame last year after he was unceremoniously fired by Trump.

At the time, Comey was leading the FBI's investigation into the scale of Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

The former longtime Republican has since published a book chronicling details of his career from working under Rudy Giuliani to learning to take notes after every private meeting with Trump.

Comey said 500 days of the Trump White House influencing world policy and political dynamics has "eroded" the quality of relationships at the top levels of government.

Watch: Trump Says He Did a 'Great Service' by Firing James Comey

But under that political layer, the relationships between defence, intelligence, and law enforcement partners around the world remain strong, he said.

"America and its allies have lasting relationships."

Comey's advice to Trudeau

Canada and the U.S. are on the cusp of a trade war after the White House announced a 25 per cent tariff on Canadian aluminum and steel last week.

News of the tariffs arrived while trade negotiators are still ironing out details of a renegotiated NAFTA deal.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that it's "insulting" and "unacceptable" that Trump finds the Canadian steel industry to be a threat to U.S. national security.

Canada, in turn, announced retaliatory tariffs of 25 per cent on U.S. aluminum and steel will take effect on July 1. And to up the ante, the federal government also announced a 10 per cent tariff on specific U.S.-made goods including pickles, pizza, chocolate, and lawn mowers.

The planned countermeasures specifically aim to put pressure in U.S. swing states with districts with economies that depend on the export of goods to Canada.

When asked what advice he has for Trudeau, as someone with experience handling Trump's unpredictable nature, Comey said it's important to find a balance between two competing interests.

"You need to do what is necessary to accomplish the immediate goal," he said. "But you need to act consistently with the long-term values of the country, the institution you lead."

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