WASHINGTON — James Comey, in his first interview tied to the release of his new book “A Higher Loyalty,” told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that Donald Trump was “morally unfit to be president.”
“There’s something more important than that that should unite all of us, and that is our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country,” Comey said, according to a transcript of the interview posted on the ABC News website. “The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.”
He said he did not think that Trump suffered from dementia or some medical malady, but said his fitness is displayed by his lies and response to situations, like the white supremacist marches in Charlottesville last August.
He also made some comparisons of Trump’s style of leadership to that of the mob bosses he pursued as a federal prosecutor. ABC News broadcast one hour of the five-hour sitdown as part of its “20/20” newsmagazine, which will be the first interview in a media blitz to promote the book.
Hillary Clinton email investigation. Comey defended his decision, just 11 days before the election, to reopen the probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. He said it “sucked” and that it was a “no-win situation,” but that he would make the same decision again, even if he knew that it meant Trump would be elected.
Women’s March. Comey said his wife and daughters took part in the Women’s March in Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration. He said his wife voted for Clinton and was “devastated” when she lost. He didn’t vote.
The ‘Loyalty’ Dinner. Comey accepted an unusual invitation from Trump to attend a private dinner at the White House on Jan. 27, where he said the president asked for his loyalty. He said, ‘I expect loyalty. I need loyalty.’” Comey said he answered, “You will get honesty from me.” But that was insufficient for Trump. Comey said he eventually agreed to offer “honest loyalty,” something he admitted may have been a mistake.
‘Let It Go.’ Comey testified before Congress about a White House meeting in which Trump asked about the FBI’s investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. When Trump used the term “let it go,” Comey said he took it as “direction” to drop the criminal probe.
Asked in the interview whether Trump was obstructing justice, Comey said, “Possibly. It’s certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice.”
You’re fired. Comey was addressing employees at the FBI’s Los Angeles field office in May 2017, when he looked up at the TV and saw the reports that he had been fired.
He said he “did not expect to be fired,” and he was a “bit numb” at the time.
“I thought, ‘It’s crazy to fire me. I’m leading the investigation of Russian influence and particularly whether … anyone in the Trump orbit had coordinated and conspired with the Russians.”
His memos. Comey said he gave memos of his interactions with Trump to a friend to read to a reporter from The New York Times. That led to a flurry of stories, including Trump’s request that Comey “let” the Flynn investigation go. Why didn’t Comey just go to the media directly? He said, at the time, multiple media outlets were staked out at his home, and had he given them to one outlet, he would be excluding others.
Russian influence. Comey said he couldn’t say for sure that the Russians didn’t have something on Trump.
“I cannot say that. It always struck me and still strikes me as unlikely, and I would have been able to say with a high confidence about any other president I dealt with, but I can’t. It’s possible.”
The hair. Comey said in his first meeting with Trump, he thought he had “impressively coiffed hair, it looks to be all his.”
“I confess, I stared at it pretty closely and my reaction was, ‘It must take a heck of a lot of time in the morning, but it’s impressively coiffed.’”
Excerpts of Comey’s book leaked out last week, indicating that it would be a blistering critique of Trump, who fired him as FBI director in 2017, setting off a chain of events that led to the appointment of a special counsel, Robert Mueller, to investigate potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Some of the more salacious details of his book were published, including his recounting of having to brief Trump on the contents of the “Steele dossier” weeks before he took office.
“I honestly never thought this words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the– the– current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” he said. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.”
Trump began responding on Twitter as stories came out about the book last week. He referred to the former FBI director as a “slime ball.”
On Sunday, Trump wrote, “Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!”
He also challenged one of Comey’s stories, that he asked him for his personal loyalty.
“I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty. I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies. His ‘memos’ are self-serving and FAKE!”