Comey: Trump ‘morally un­fit’

Ex-FBI di­rec­tor de­tails deal­ings with pres­i­dent in in­ter­view that pre­cedes re­lease of his book

The Day - - FRONT PAGE - By MATT ZAPO­TO­SKY and DEVLIN BAR­RETT

For­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey said in his first tele­vised in­ter­view since be­ing fired that he be­lieved Don­ald Trump was “morally un­fit to be pres­i­dent,” and that it was “pos­si­ble” that the Rus­sians had ma­te­rial that could be used to black­mail him.

In a wide-rang­ing con­ver­sa­tion with George Stephanopou­los broad­cast on ABC late Sun­day, Comey took aim at Trump in no un­cer­tain terms, com­par­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion to a Mafia fam­ily, liken­ing his pres­i­dency to a for­est fire and assert­ing there was ev­i­dence that he had com­mit­ted a crime.

He said, cu­ri­ously, that he would not fa­vor im­peach­ing Trump to re­move him from of­fice, be­cause that “would let the Amer­i­can peo­ple off the hook and have some­thing hap­pen in­di­rectly that I be­lieve they’re duty-bound to do di­rectly” — mean­ing through elec­tions. But he made clear his view of whether Trump was fit to hold the po­si­tion.

“This pres­i­dent does not re­flect the val­ues of this coun­try,” Comey said.

The in­ter­view airs just days be­fore Comey is set to re­lease a new book and em­bark on a me­dia tour to pro­mote it. Much of what Comey said to Stephanopou­los mir­rors what he wrote, al­though his tele­vised, ex­tem­po­ra­ne­ous com­ments are sure to at­tract the at­ten­tion of the pres­i­dent, who is an avid TV viewer.

On Sun­day morn­ing, Trump tweeted crit­i­cism of Comey, deny­ing some of Comey’s al­le­ga­tions and al­leg­ing that Comey re­vealed clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion and lied to Congress.

“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!” Trump wrote.

The Wash­ing­ton Post was al­lowed to re­view a com­plete tran­script of the Comey in­ter­view, which lasted nearly five hours.

As he did in his book, Comey de­tailed in the in­ter­view Trump’s fix­a­tion on un­proven al­le­ga­tions that he watched pros­ti­tutes uri­nate on one an­other in a Moscow ho­tel in 2013, assert­ing that Trump at one point said he was con­tem­plat­ing or­der­ing Comey to in­ves­ti­gate and dis­prove the in­ci­dent be­cause he did not want “even a 1 per­cent chance” that his wife, first lady Me­la­nia Trump, would be­lieve it hap­pened.

Comey said that struck him as odd. “I re­mem­ber think­ing, ‘How could your wife think there’s a 1 per­cent chance you were with pros­ti­tutes pee­ing on each other in Moscow?’ “he said, adding that his assess­ment was it’s pos­si­ble Trump is guilty of the ac­cu­sa­tion.

“I hon­estly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the cur­rent pres­i­dent of the United States was with pros­ti­tutes pee­ing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” Comey said. “It’s pos­si­ble, but I don’t know.”

Comey said it was pos­si­ble, too, that the Rus­sians might have ma­te­rial that could be used to black­mail Trump.

“Do you think the Rus­sians have some­thing on Don­ald Trump?” Stephanopou­los asked.

“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,” Comey re­sponded.

Comey de­scribed in great de­tail sev­eral con­ver­sa­tions he had with Trump, telling Stephanopou­los of how the pres­i­dent asked for his loy­alty and how that in­ter­ac­tion and oth­ers re­minded him of his time as a pros­e­cu­tor in New York pur­su­ing mob fam­i­lies, for whom loy­alty to the boss and the or­ga­ni­za­tion were the only val­ues that mat­tered.

“It’s the fam­ily, the fam­ily, the fam­ily, the fam­ily,” Comey said.

Trump has de­nied ask­ing for Comey’s loy­alty.

Comey of­fered a blunt assess­ment of a con­ver­sa­tion with Trump on Feb. 14, 2017, dur­ing which Comey main­tains the pres­i­dent said of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion the FBI was con­duct­ing into for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn, “I hope you can let it go.” Trump dis­putes Comey’s ac­count.

“With that di­rec­tion, was Pres­i­dent Trump ob­struct­ing jus­tice?” Stephanopou­los asked.

“Pos­si­bly,” Comey re­sponded. “I mean, it’s cer­tainly some ev­i­dence of ob­struc­tion of jus­tice. That some­thing re­ally im­por­tant just hap­pened and that I was a lit­tle — an­other one of those outta-body ex­pe­ri­ences, like, ‘Re­ally? The pres­i­dent just kicked out the at­tor­ney gen­eral to ask me to drop a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.’ Wow, the world con­tin­ues to go crazy.”

Comey even took aim at Trump’s per­sonal ap­pear­ance, re­mark­ing how his “tie was too long, as it al­ways is” and that his face “looked slightly or­ange up close with small white — half moons un­der his eyes, which I as­sume are from tan­ning gog­gles.”

The for­mer FBI boss ac­knowl­edged he had grave mis­giv­ings about the Trump pres­i­dency even be­fore it be­gan.

In a meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in the last days of his ad­min­is­tra­tion, Comey says he told the pres­i­dent: “I dread the next four years. But in many ways, I feel great pres­sure to stay to try and pro­tect the in­sti­tu­tion I lead.”

While Trump bore the brunt of his crit­i­cism, Comey also took aim at oth­ers — in­clud­ing Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein, whom Trump has been con­tem­plat­ing re­mov­ing from his post.

Comey said Rosen­stein had “acted dis­hon­or­ably” in au­thor­ing a memo lam­bast­ing Comey’s han­dling of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Hil­lary Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate email server while she was sec­re­tary of state. Trump cited the memo in fir­ing Comey, and Comey said he came to be­lieve Rosen­stein was “part of the fam­ily now. I can’t trust him.”

He later said, though, that he did not be­lieve Rosen­stein would fire Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller if or­dered by Trump to do so, and that Rosen­stein “has an op­por­tu­nity in over­see­ing Bob Mueller to re­store some of his pro­fes­sional rep­u­ta­tion.”

As he has in the past, Comey of­fered a vig­or­ous de­fense of his han­dling of the Clin­ton email in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Parts of the in­ter­view are likely to re­vive the fury of Clin­ton sup­port­ers who think he cost her the pres­i­dency by re­open­ing the email in­ves­ti­ga­tion less than two weeks be­fore the elec­tion.

When Stephanopou­los asked him if the de­ci­sion was “in­flu­enced by your as­sump­tion that Hil­lary Clin­ton was go­ing to win,” Comey replied: “It must have been. I don’t re­mem­ber con­sciously think­ing about that, but it must have been. ‘Cause I was op­er­at­ing in a world where Hil­lary Clin­ton was go­ing to beat Don­ald Trump.”

He also said he was sorry for how he han­dled the first an­nounce­ment in July 2016 that he was clos­ing the Clin­ton email probe with­out seek­ing any charges. He says he agrees now with the crit­i­cism that his re­marks mud­died im­por­tant is­sues.

“I’m sorry that I caused all kinds of con­fu­sion and pain with the way I de­scribed her con­duct that led peo­ple into all kinds of side roads,” Comey said.

He also spoke at length about his com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship with for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch. Pre­vi­ously, Comey’s de­fend­ers have ar­gued that a Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence doc­u­ment the FBI re­ceived in early 2016 sug­gest­ing Lynch would pro­tect Clin­ton in some fash­ion from the email probe meant that he had to cut her out of the fi­nal de­ci­sion-mak­ing process.

But The Wash­ing­ton Post has re­ported that many FBI of­fi­cials viewed the al­le­ga­tion against Lynch as du­bi­ous at best — and pos­si­bly one of Rus­sia’s very first dis­in­for­ma­tion ef­forts dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign.

Comey said he didn’t be­lieve the al­le­ga­tion, but feared that if it ever came out, it would de­stroy the cred­i­bil­ity of the Jus­tice De­part­ment and the FBI.

“There was ma­te­rial that I knew some­day, when it’s de­clas­si­fied, and I thought that would be decades in the fu­ture, would cause his­to­ri­ans to won­der, ‘Hmm, was there some strange busi­ness goin’ on there? Was Loretta Lynch some­how car­ry­ing wa­ter for the cam­paign and con­trol­ling what the FBI did?’ “

So partly for that rea­son, he said, Comey de­cided to an­nounce on his own his rec­om­men­da­tion that no charges be filed in the Clin­ton case.

Through­out the in­ter­view, Comey stressed the im­por­tance of telling the truth, a theme in his book. He de­scribed be­ing ini­tially reluc­tant to pros­e­cute Martha Ste­wart for ly­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tors, but then re­called a case when he was a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor in Rich­mond and had charged a min­is­ter with the same thing.

“And there once was a day when peo­ple were afraid of goin’ to hell if they took an oath in the name of God and vi­o­lated it. We’ve drifted away from that day. And so in its place has to be a fear that if you lie and the gov­ern­ment can prove it be­yond a rea­son­able doubt, they will pros­e­cute you in or­der to send a mes­sage to all the oth­ers who might be called upon to give ev­i­dence,” Comey said. “We must pros­e­cute peo­ple who lie in the mid­dle of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

The com­ments come a day af­ter the Jus­tice De­part­ment in­spec­tor gen­eral re­leased a re­port ac­cus­ing An­drew McCabe, Comey’s for­mer deputy, of ly­ing re­peat­edly as they in­ves­ti­gated a me­dia dis­clo­sure he had au­tho­rized. The in­spec­tor gen­eral says McCabe even lied to Comey, though McCabe dis­putes Comey’s ac­count.

Af­ter he was fired, Comey said, Trump is­sued an or­der that he was not to be al­lowed back in the FBI build­ing, even to re­trieve his be­long­ings. His fir­ing came as Comey was vis­it­ing the FBI of­fice in Los An­ge­les, and for a brief mo­ment it wasn’t even clear if he would be al­lowed to ride on the gov­ern­ment plane back to Wash­ing­ton.

When he did get on the plane, he de­cided to open a bot­tle of wine. “I drank red wine from a pa­per cup and just looked out at the lights of the coun­try I love so much as we flew home,” he said.

RALPH ALSWANG/ABC VIA AP

In this im­age re­leased by ABC News, cor­re­spon­dent George Stephanopou­los, left, ap­pears with for­mer FBI di­rec­tor James Comey for a taped in­ter­view that aired Sun­day night.

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