Comey on Trump: ‘He’s morally un­fit’

He says pres­i­dent may be com­pro­mised

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Su­san Page and Kevin John­son

“There’s a non-zero pos­si­bil­ity that the Rus­sians have some, some sway over him that is rooted in his per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence.”

McLEAN, Va. — In an ex­tra­or­di­nary in­ter­view, former FBI di­rec­tor James Comey called Don­ald Trump “morally un­fit to be pres­i­dent” and said he be­lieved it was pos­si­ble the Rus­sians were hold­ing com­pro­mis­ing per­sonal in­for­ma­tion over the head of the com­man­der in chief.

Comey’s com­ments and his new book, A Higher Loy­alty: Truth, Lies, and Lead­er­ship, are fu­el­ing a com­bustible mo­ment in Wash­ing­ton that could be­come a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis. At the White House, Trump has un­leashed a bar­rage of an­gry tweets against Comey — call­ing him an “un­truth­ful slime ball,” among other in­sults — amid re­ports he was poised to fire Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein for his role in the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion that Comey once headed.

Never be­fore in Amer­i­can his­tory has a cur­rent or former di­rec­tor of the FBI, the na­tion’s prin­ci­pal law-en­force­ment

agency, pub­licly de­scribed a pres­i­dent in such a scathing man­ner.

“I ac­tu­ally be­lieve he’s morally un­fit to be pres­i­dent,” Comey told USA TO­DAY in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view Fri­day at his home in the Vir­ginia sub­urbs out­side Wash­ing­ton. He called that char­ac­ter­i­za­tion ap­pro­pri­ate for “some­one who is able to see moral equiv­a­lence in (white na­tion­al­ist protests in) Char­lottesville or to speak and treat women like they’re pieces of meat and to lie con­stantly and who ap­pears to lack an ex­ter­nal moral frame­work” of re­li­gion

or phi­los­o­phy or his­tory.

In even an more ex­plo­sive com­ment, Comey said it would be less than hon­est to rule out the pos­si­bil­ity that Trump had been com­pro­mised by one of the United States’ pri­mary foreign ad­ver­saries.

“It’s hard to ex­plain some things with­out at least leav­ing your mind open to that be­ing a pos­si­bil­ity,” said Comey, who has served three pres­i­dents in se­nior posts. “There’s a nonzero pos­si­bil­ity that the Rus­sians have some, some sway over him that is rooted in his per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, and I don’t know whether that’s the busi­ness about the ac­tiv­ity in a Moscow ho­tel room or fi­nances or some­thing else.”

The “Moscow ho­tel room” refers to un­sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions of a sala­cious 2013 tryst with pros­ti­tutes by Trump.

With the ben­e­fit of hind­sight, the former FBI di­rec­tor said, he may have made a “mis­take” in as­sur­ing the pres­i­dent-elect at their first meet­ing, two weeks be­fore the in­au­gu­ra­tion, that he was not be­ing in­ves­ti­gated. “It caused all kinds of is­sues,” he said.

Comey said he gave the as­sur­ance to take Trump’s “tem­per­a­ture down” af­ter brief­ing him on the al­leged en­counter with pros­ti­tutes, ma­te­rial that was con­tained in a so-called dossier pre­pared by a former Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence agent.

“It might have been a mis­take,” he said. “It led the pres­i­dent to want to get that fact out (pub­licly), which I was re­sist­ing.”

Trump has dis­missed the dossier as a fab­ri­ca­tion de­signed to dam­age him. Comey said that while he didn’t know how much of the doc­u­ment re­mains un­ver­i­fied, its “cen­tral premise” that Rus­sia sought to in­ter­fere with the 2016 elec­tion was “cor­rob­o­rated and con­sis­tent with ut­terly in­de­pen­dent in­tel­li­gence.”

His sus­pi­cions had been raised by Trump’s re­luc­tance to crit­i­cize Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. Trump’s at­ti­tude in pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions was even more per­plex­ing.

“At least in my ex­pe­ri­ence, he won’t crit­i­cize Vladimir Putin even in pri­vate,” he said. “I can un­der­stand why a pres­i­dent ... might not want to crit­i­cize pub­licly an­other leader” in the in­ter­ests of forg­ing a good re­la­tion­ship. “But pri­vately? ... Pri­vately not be­ing will­ing to do that? That al­ways struck me.”

The sug­ges­tion that a pres­i­dent had been com­pro­mised by a foreign power “are words I never thought would come out of my mouth,” he added.

All the furor he has sparked since early copies of the book leaked Thurs­day was nowhere ap­par­ent in the liv­ing room of Comey’s home, which sits on a quiet cul-de-sac in a leafy sub­urb.

“I think it’s ‘lyin’ with no ‘g,’” he said with a small laugh, re­fer­ring to a web­site, www.ly­in­comey.com, spon­sored by the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee and de­voted to at­tack­ing his cred­i­bil­ity. Many of the com­ments it fea­tures are from Democrats who have blasted Comey’s dis­clo­sures about an FBI proben into Hil­lary Clin­ton’s emails.

“I even hope that Hil­lary Clin­ton at least reads those parts of the book, be­cause I think she will walk away say­ing, ‘You know what? I still think that guy is an id­iot, but, you know, he’s kind of an hon­est id­iot,” he said.

Former FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey called Pres­i­dent Trump some­one “who ap­pears to lack an ex­ter­nal moral frame­work.” JACK GRUBER/USA TO­DAY

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