Scathing Comey interview provokes war of words
Washington – In his scathing appraisal of the man who fired him as FBI chief, James Comey cited “some evidence of obstruction of justice” in President Donald Trump’s actions and speculated that Russians might have dirt on the president. Trump struck back, branding Comey a criminal.
Their war of words escalated Monday after Comey, in an ABC interview broadcast the night before, labeled Trump “morally unfit” for office.
Trump tweeted that Comey drafted an exoneration of Hillary Clinton long before he talked to her as part of an investigation into her email practices. He labeled Comey “disgruntled” and accused him and allies of having “committed many crimes.” For his part, Comey has said that nine or 10 months into the Clinton probe, he had a “clear picture” where it was going and it’s common to draft statements before an investigation is complete.
Comey’s remarks, coupled with the release of his forthcoming book, offer his version of events surrounding his firing and the investigations into Russian election meddling and Clinton’s email practices. Several of the episodes he describes in detail, including a private conversation about former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, are central to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and his recollections are presumably valuable for prosecutors examining whether the president’s actions constitute obstruction of justice.
The ex-FBI director, who until his firing in May led an investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, acknowledged that it was “stunning” to think that Russia could have damaging information about a U.S. president. But he said that in Trump’s case, he could not discount the possibility that the president had been compromised.
“These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible,” Comey told ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
He also answered “possibly” when asked if the president was attempting to obstruct justice when he cleared the Oval Office of other officials in February 2017 before encouraging him to close the investigation into Flynn, who by that point was suspected of lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts.
Trump on Sunday rejected Comey’s assertion that Trump had sought his loyalty at a January 2017 dinner, saying “I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies.” He also suggested Comey should be imprisoned, tweeting, “how come he gave up Classified Information ( jail), why did he lie to Congress ( jail).” There is no indication Comey is under investigation for doing either.
The president began assailing Comey even before the interview came out.
He seized on an excerpt shown Saturday in which Comey said his belief that Clinton would beat Trump in the 2016 presidential election was probably a factor in his decision to disclose the investigation into her emails. Comey, Trump tweeted, “was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!”