Comey com­pares Trump to mob boss, Trump cries ‘slime ball’

The Sentinel-Record - - ARTS, ETC. - CHAD DAY JONATHAN LEMIRE

WASH­ING­TON — Fir­ing back at a sharply crit­i­cal book by for­mer FBI di­rec­tor James Comey, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump blasted him Fri­day as an “un­truth­ful slime ball,” say­ing, “It was my great honor to fire James Comey!”

Trump re­acted on Twit­ter early Fri­day, the day af­ter the emer­gence of de­tails from Comey’s mem­oir, which says Trump is “un­teth­ered to truth,” and de­scribes him as fix­ated in the early days of his pres­i­dency on hav­ing the FBI de­bunk sala­cious ru­mors he said were un­true but that could dis­tress his wife.

The book, “A Higher Loy­alty,” is to be re­leased this week. The As­so­ci­ated Press pur­chased a copy last week.

In the book, Comey com­pares Trump to a mafia don and calls his lead­er­ship of the coun­try “ego driven and about per­sonal loy­alty.”

Comey also re­veals new de­tails about his in­ter­ac­tions with Trump and his own de­ci­sion-mak­ing in han­dling the Hil­lary Clin­ton email in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­fore the 2016 elec­tion. He casts Trump as a mob­ster-like fig­ure who sought to blur the line be­tween law en­force­ment and pol­i­tics and tried to pres­sure him per­son­ally re­gard­ing his in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence.

The book ad­heres closely to Comey’s pub­lic tes­ti­mony and writ­ten state­ments about his con­tacts with Trump and his grow­ing con­cern about Trump’s in­tegrity. It also in­cludes strik­ingly per­sonal jabs at Trump that ap­pear sure to ir­ri­tate the pres­i­dent.

The 6-foot-8 Comey de­scribes Trump as shorter than he ex­pected with a “too long” tie and “bright white half-moons” un­der his eyes that he sug­gests came from tan­ning gog­gles. He also says he made a con­scious ef­fort to check the pres­i­dent’s hand size, say­ing it was “smaller than mine but did not seem un­usu­ally so.”

“Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­dency threat­ens much of what is good in this na­tion,” Comey writes, call­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion a “for­est fire” that can’t be con­tained by eth­i­cal lead­ers within the gov­ern­ment.

On a more-per­sonal level, Comey de­scribes Trump re­peat­edly ask­ing him to con­sider in­ves­ti­gat­ing an al­le­ga­tion in­volv­ing Trump and Rus­sian pros­ti­tutes uri­nat­ing on a bed in a Moscow ho­tel, in or­der to prove it was a lie. Trump has strongly de­nied the al­le­ga­tion, and Comey says that it ap­peared the pres­i­dent wanted it in­ves­ti­gated to re­as­sure his wife, Me­la­nia Trump.

Trump fired Comey in May 2017, set­ting off a scram­ble at the Jus­tice De­part­ment that led to the ap­point­ment of Robert Mueller as spe­cial coun­sel over­see­ing the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Mueller’s probe has ex­panded to in­clude whether Trump ob­structed jus­tice by fir­ing Comey, which the pres­i­dent de­nies.

Trump has as­sailed Comey as a “show­boat” and a “liar.” Top White House aides also crit­i­cized the fired FBI di­rec­tor on Fri­day. White House spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders ques­tioned Comey’s cred­i­bil­ity in a tweet and White House coun­selor Kellyanne Con­way said Comey took “un­nec­es­sary, im­ma­ture pot shots.”

Comey’s ac­count lands at a par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive mo­ment for Trump and the White House. Of­fi­cials there de­scribe the pres­i­dent as en­raged over a re­cent FBI raid of his per­sonal lawyer’s home and of­fice, rais­ing the prospect that he could fire Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein, who ap­pointed Mueller, or try to shut down the probe on his own. The Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee is poised to lead the push­back ef­fort against Comey by launch­ing a web­site and sup­ply­ing sur­ro­gates with talk­ing points that ques­tion his cred­i­bil­ity.

Trump has said he fired Comey be­cause of his han­dling of the FBI’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Clin­ton’s email prac­tices. Trump used the in­ves­ti­ga­tion as a cud­gel in the cam­paign and re­peat­edly said Clin­ton should be jailed for us­ing a per­sonal email sys­tem while serv­ing as sec­re­tary of state. Democrats, on the other hand, have ac­cused Comey of politi­ciz­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and Clin­ton her­self has said it hurt her elec­tion prospects.

Comey writes that he re­grets his ap­proach and some of the word­ing he used in his July 2016 press con­fer­ence in which he an­nounced the de­ci­sion not to pros­e­cute Clin­ton. But he says he be­lieves he did the right thing by go­ing be­fore the cam­eras and mak­ing his state­ment, not­ing that the Jus­tice De­part­ment had done so in other high pro­file cases.

Ev­ery per­son on the in­ves­tiga­tive team, Comey writes, found that there was no pros­e­cutable case against Clin­ton and that the FBI didn’t find that she lied un­der its ques­tion­ing.

He also re­veals new de­tails about how the gov­ern­ment had un­ver­i­fied clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion that he be­lieves could have been used to cast doubt on At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch’s in­de­pen­dence in the Clin­ton probe. While Comey does not out­line the de­tails of the in­for­ma­tion — and says he didn’t see in­di­ca­tions of Lynch in­ap­pro­pri­ately in­flu­enc­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion — he says it wor­ried him that the ma­te­rial could be used to at­tack the in­tegrity of the probe and the FBI’s in­de­pen­dence.

Comey’s book will be heav­ily scru­ti­nized by the pres­i­dent’s le­gal team look­ing for any in­con­sis­ten­cies be­tween it and his pub­lic tes­ti­mony, un­der oath, be­fore Congress. They will be look­ing to im­peach Comey’s cred­i­bil­ity as a key wit­ness in Mueller’s ob­struc­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which the pres­i­dent has cast as a po­lit­i­cal mo­ti­vated witch hunt.

The for­mer FBI di­rec­tor pro­vides new de­tails of his fir­ing. He writes that then-Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly — now Trump’s chief of staff — of­fered to quit out of dis­gust at how Comey was dis­missed. Kelly has been in­creas­ingly marginal­ized in the White House and the pres­i­dent has mused to con­fi­dants about fir­ing him.

Comey also writes ex­ten­sively about his first meet­ing with Trump af­ter the elec­tion, a brief­ing in Jan­uary 2017 at Trump Tower in New York City. Oth­ers in the meet­ing in­cluded Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Michael Flynn, who would be­come na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, and in­com­ing press sec­re­tary, Sean Spicer. Comey was also joined by NSA Di­rec­tor Mike Rogers, CIA Di­rec­tor John Bren­nan and Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence James Clap­per.

Af­ter Clap­per briefed the team on the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s find­ings of Rus­sian elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence, Comey writes, he was taken aback by what the Trump team didn’t ask.

“They were about to lead a coun­try that had been at­tacked by a for­eign ad­ver­sary, yet they had no ques­tions about what the fu­ture Rus­sian threat might be,” Comey writes. In­stead, he writes, they launched into a strat­egy ses­sion about how to “spin what we’d just told them” for the pub­lic.

Comey says he had flash­backs to his time in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Ital­ian Mafia as a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor in Man­hat­tan, think­ing that Trump “was try­ing to make us all part of the same fam­ily.”

“For my en­tire ca­reer, in­tel­li­gence was a thing of mine and po­lit­i­cal spin a thing of yours. Team Trump wanted to change that,” he writes.

The As­so­ci­ated Press

DE­TAILS: For­mer FBI di­rec­tor James Comey speaks dur­ing a Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing on Capi­tol Hill on June 8, 2017, in Wash­ing­ton. Comey is blast­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump as “un­eth­i­cal and un­teth­ered to truth,” and says Trump’s lead­er­ship...

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