Trump fires back after Comey’s ‘unfit’ remark
EX-FBI CHIEF IS GUILTY OF MANY CRIMES, US PRESIDENT SAYS
Donald Trump fired back yesterday at James Comey, saying he is guilty of “many crimes,” as the former FBI director opened a book tour with an interview in which he labelled the US president “morally unfit” for office.
Trump accused Comey of lying to Congress and exonerating Hillary Clinton in a 2016 investigation because of her strong poll numbers in the presidential race.
“Comey drafted the Crooked Hillary exoneration long before he talked to her [lied in Congress to Senator G],” Trump fired in an early morning tweet.
“Then based his decisions on her poll numbers. Disgruntled, he, [former FBI deputy director Andrew] McCabe, and the others, committed many crimes!”
Late Sunday, Comey launched a publicity tour for his memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, with an ABC television interview in which he branded Trump a serial liar who will “stain everyone around him.”
Comey’s book, which leaked out last week ahead of its official release today, takes on the president who fired him in May 2017 over the troubling Russia election meddling investigation, a probe that poses a deep threat to Trump’s 15-month-old presidency. Comey is scheduled to give interviews on the book to major television networks this week and travel to a dozen cities to promote the book in person.
“I think he’s morally unfit to be president,” Comey told ABC. Trump “talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat” and “lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it.”
Comey also said that serving in Trump’s administration poses a serious ethical dilemma.
“The challenge of this president is that he will stain everyone around him,” he told ABC.
“And the question is, how much stain is too much stain and how much stain eventually makes you unable to accomplish your goal of protecting the country and serving the country?”
The verbal war between former FBI Director James B. Comey and the president who fired him took a dramatic escalation Sunday, as Comey denounced President Trump as “morally unfit” and a “stain” on those around him and Trump suggested the former FBI chief should be imprisoned.
In an extraordinary interview with ABC, Comey called Trump a habitual liar, likened the president to a mob boss and said he thinks it is possible that the president is in fact compromised by Russian intelligence. The interview is the first Comey has given since his firing by Trump last May, and it comes during a publicity blitz for his book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, which is scheduled for release today and is already a best-seller. Though the interview added few new facts to what Comey said in congressional testimony last year, it was striking for the detail of his recollections and his rough language about the president. Here are some key points:
The role of Russia
Asked in the interview whether he thought Russia “has something” on Trump, Comey said: “I think it’s possible. I don’t know. These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible,” he told the interviewer, ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos. “It is stunning” that the possibility can’t be ruled out, “and I wish I wasn’t saying it, but it’s just — it’s the truth,” he said.
Comey said Trump asked him to investigate and disprove allegations contained in the socalled Steele dossier — a collection of allegations compiled in 2016 by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent working for Trump’s political opponents. The dossier’s central allegation was that Russia was trying to interfere with the US election and assist Trump. The FBI had been reviewing it because it corroborated “totally separate information” that federal agents already had gathered, Comey said.
“It was coming from a credible source, someone with a track record, someone who was a credible and respected member of an allied intelligence service during his career. And so it was important that we try to understand it, and see what could we verify,” he said. Trump, however, was focused on one particular part of the dossier — the allegation that he had been compromised by Russian intelligence by consorting with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel in 2013.
Is Trump fit enough?
Asked about Trump’s mental condition, Comey said: “I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president.”
He likened Trump to a “forest fire” that threatens the norms of American democracy. “A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it — that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds,” Comey said. “The challenge of this president is that he will stain everyone around him.”
How did Trump react?
The interview is certain to escalate the president’s anger, which already had reached a high pitch Sunday, with a vicious series of tweets attacking the former FBI chief as “slippery” and a “slimeball.” Trump claimed that he “hardly even knew this guy.” He appeared to call for Comey’s imprisonment, declaring that Comey’s book did not explain why he “gave up Classified Information (jail), why did he lie to Congress (jail).” Trump offered no evidence that Comey has committed either of those offences.
An obsessed president
In the interview, as in the book, Comey described Trump as obsessed with his own reputation — including allegations involving Moscow prostitutes — and unconcerned with countering attacks from Russia. He also repeated his book’s description of Trump as “untethered” to truthfulness and its statement that Trump’s White House style reminded him of the mob. “The loyalty oaths, the boss as the dominant centre of everything — it’s all about how do you serve the boss, what’s in the boss’ interests. It’s the family, the family, the family, the family.” When he first briefed Trump
about the Russia investigation, Comey said, no one brought up how to stop the threat — only how to manage the public relations response. “No one, to my recollection, asked, ‘So what — what’s coming next from the Russians?’” he said.
The Clinton files
Democrats have also been angered by some of Comey’s conduct. Eleven days before the election, Comey departed from long-standing Justice Department protocol and sent a letter to Congress saying that the FBI had reopened an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to handle her emails. Clinton and her allies have said Comey’s actions helped cost her the election. During the interview, Comey acknowledged that at the time, he was convinced Clinton would win, and that belief probably influenced his decision to write the letters.
“I don’t remember consciously thinking about that, but it must have been because I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump, and so I’m sure that it was a factor,” Comey said. “I don’t remember spelling it out, but it had to have been that she’s going to be elected president, and if I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out,” he added.
Was Comey arrogant?
Comey has come under rough criticism for his handling of the Clinton email case from both Democrats and Republicans, who say his decision to write the letters — and to go around his boss, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch — provided evidence of a fatal arrogance.
Comey said that he hoped he had made the right decision but that he could be wrong.
“And so I think that’s my primary worry about myself, is an overconfidence that can lead to that — that pride, that closed-mindedness,” he said.
JAMES B. COMEY