Lawmakers temper tone after Trump outbursts
Republican lawmakers did their best Sunday to temper the verbal barrages President Trump lobbed at former FBI director James B. Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller.
In a series of tweets on Sunday morning, the president accused Mr. Comey of letting polls influence the outcome of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Mr. Comey also lied to Congress, leaked classified information and wrote “phony” memos, the president said.
“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!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
In another tweet, Mr. Trump called the FBI director he fired last year a “Slimeball!”
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan,
Wisconsin Republican, said he has no reason to believe Mr. Comey isn’t a man of integrity.
“As far as I know,” Mr. Ryan said. “I don’t know him very well. Two or three briefings is about what I had with James Comey.”
When pressed to assess Mr. Comey’s judgment, Mr. Ryan declined.
“I wouldn’t do that, because you’re going to help him sell books,” he said. “So I’ve met him two or three times in two or three briefings. I don’t really know the guy. I’m not trying to be evasive. But what I don’t want to do is join some food fight, some book-selling food fight. I don’t see any value in that.”
Asked about the president’s language, Mr. Ryan replied, “I don’t use words like that.”
Asked whether Mr. Trump’s rhetoric “undermined law enforcement,” Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican, reiterated her support for the Justice Department.
“Well, I think that we do stand behind those men and women of our various agencies,” Ms. Ernst said on “Meet the Press.” “Those that are truly nonpartisan and those that are working for the good of the American people. I have not read James Comey’s book. I’m sure at some point it will come out, we’ll be able to view that.”
Mr. Comey is on a book tour, complete with multiple media interviews, to promote, “Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” an account of his time in the Trump administration.
In his first sit-down interview since being fired as FBI director, Mr. Comey didn’t hold back his contempt for Mr. Trump.
Prostitutes, impeachment and Putin — nothing was off limits in the one-hour ABC special that comes just days before the book’s release.
Mr. Comey called Mr. Trump a “stain” on everyone who comes into contact with him, a man who treats women “like they’re pieces of meat” and “morally unfit to be president.”
“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,” Mr. Comey told George Stephanopoulos, a former key member of Bill Clinton’s campaign and administration.
In the special “20/20” episode, Mr. Comey recounted a tumultuous two years in American politics, from the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s private email server to Mr. Trump’s stunning White House victory and the investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election.
He said the salacious claims in the unverified Steele dossier, which was financed by the Clinton campaign, could be true.
“I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth,” he said, “but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It’s possible, but I don’t know.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, called the book “sad.”
“Let’s not kid ourselves: James Comey now complains that President Trump is ‘untethered from the truth,’” Mr. Gowdy said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He’d still be the FBI director if he had his way. So all of his complaints about President Trump, he was willing to put those aside so he could keep his job. The reason he wrote his book is because he got fired, not because he thinks President Trump is ‘untethered from the truth,’ not because President Trump’s ties are too long, not because he thinks he wears tanning-bed goggles. It’s because he got fired.”
Mr. Gowdy was less inclined to agree with the president’s criticisms of Mr. Mueller.
Mr. Trump suggested his attorney-client privilege was violated when the FBI raided the apartment of his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and seized a trove of business documents, emails and audio recordings.
“Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past,” the president tweeted. “I have many (too many!) lawyers and they are probably wondering when their offices, and even homes, are going to be raided with everything, including their phones and computers, taken. All lawyers are deflated and concerned!”
Mr. Gowdy said Mr. Mueller acted appropriately to refer the case to the U.S. attorney’s office.
“I don’t know what Mueller was supposed to do other than what he did,” Mr. Gowdy said. “When a prosecutor comes in contact with information or evidence of a crime, what are you supposed to do other than to refer it to the appropriate jurisdiction?”
Also on Sunday, former Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch defended her handling of the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s private email server amid criticism from Mr. Comey’s book.
In his book, Mr. Comey accused President Obama and Justice Department appointees of jeopardizing the investigation’s credibility for political reasons.
According to the book, Ms. Lynch asked Mr. Comey to describe the email investigation as a “matter,” rather than an “investigation.” It reminded him of the Clinton campaign’s attempt to employ “a variety of euphemisms to avoid using the word ‘investigation,’” Mr. Comey wrote.
In a statement on Sunday, Ms. Lynch said she “fought corruption of all types” during her tenure at the Justice Department, “whether by elected officials from both sides of the aisle or within organizations like FIFA.”
“The Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton email investigation under my leadership was no exception,” she said in the statement, which was first obtained by CNN.
James B. Comey