Fired FBI Director James Comey believes President Donald Trump “possibly” committed obstruction of justice by asking him to “let go” of the investigation into his former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.
Comey blasted Trump in no uncertain terms in an exclusive interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos Sunday, calling him “morally unfit to be president.”
“I think he’s 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,” he said.
Comey claims that Trump asked him privately to end the FBI investigation of Flynn’s contacts with Russia.
Stephanopoulos asked Comey: “With that direction, was President Trump obstructing justice?”
“Possibly. I mean, it’s certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice. It would depend and – and I’m just a witness in this case, not the investigator or prosecutor, it would depend upon other things that reflected on his intent,” said Comey.
Trump denies that conversation ever took place. Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
Comey also said “it’s possible” – though unlikely – that Russian intelligence has compromising information about Trump.
Comey, who served under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama before Trump, painted himself as the guardian of the FBI’s independence as he tried to explain the controversial decisions that have earned him bitter scorn from both Hillary Clinton and Trump.
Comey’s highly anticipated book, A Higher Loyalty, does not come out until Tuesday – but it has already risen to No. 4 on the list of best-sellers for 2018.
His interview on ABC comes amid repeated verbal attacks by President Donald Trump; in eight tweets over the past week, the president called him a “leaker and liar,” a “slime ball” and “the worst FBI director in history.”
“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 tweeted Sunday morning.
The White House and the Republican National Committee have also pushed back hard on Comey’s claims.
Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017, citing a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that criticized Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. However, in an interview with NBC News two days later, the President said “this Russia thing with Trump” was on his mind when he fired the FBI director.
Comey criticizes Obama and Lynch
Comey’s harshest rebukes were directed at Trump, he also criticized Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch for their handling of the Clinton email probe.
Comey said he took it upon himself to announce the findings of the FBI investigation of Clinton’s server in July 2016 because he believed his boss, Lynch, lacked the credibility.
“I actually thought, as bad as this’ll be for me personally, this is my obligation, to protect the F.B.I. and the Justice Department. Given all that had gone on, the attorney general of the United States could not credibly announce this result,” he said. “And if she did, it would do corrosive damage to the institutions of justice.”
And he blamed Obama in part for Lynch’s lack of credibility on the issue – saying that when Obama weighed in on the investigation in two TV interviews, it tainted public opinion.
” I think he felt a pressure in the political environment because he wanted Hillary Clinton to be elected, to give her a shot in the arm. And so he spoke about an investigation. And he shouldn’t have done that,” Comey said. “But that, as you can imagine, created this drumbeat that the Obama Justice Department, the fix is in because the president has told them what result they should reach.”
Comey said his decision to announce the finding himself was also the result of classified intelligence reports: “Classified information came into the possession of the U.S. intelligence community in the early part of 2016 that indicated there was material out there that raised the question of whether Loretta Lynch was controlling me and the F.B.I. and keeping the Clinton campaign informed about our investigation.”
Comey added that he does not believe the reports.
Comey’s first impressions of Trump
Comey detailed his first impressions of President-Elect Trump when he first met him in Trump Tower shortly after the election. Comey recalled Trump has, “impressively coifed hair, it looks to be all his. I confess, I stared at it pretty closely.”
Comey said he noted that Trump’s tie appeared to be too long.
“He looked slightly orange up close with small white — half moons under his eyes, which I assume are from tanning googles,” Comey said.
Reopening the Clinton investigation days before the election
Comey said he assumed that Clinton would win the 2016 presidential election and that factored into his decision to reopen the FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails just 11 days before the polls.
“I don’t remember spelling it out, but it had to have been, that she’s going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out,” he said.
Comey announced on Oct. 28 that the FBI had reopened its investigation after finding emails forwarded from her account on her close aide Huma Abedin’s laptop, which was seized as part of an investigation into whether her husband Anthony Weiner had sexted a 15-year-old girl. Comey then revealed on Nov. 6 – two days before the election, that he had closed the investigation again after finding no evidence of wrongdoing.
Clinton has explicitly blamed Comey’s decision for her election day loss, saying in her book, “If not for the dramatic intervention of the FBI director in the final days we would have won the White House.” Comey defended reopening the investigation, saying he wouldn’t have done anything differently – even if he knew Trump would have won as a result.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told ABC’s This Week on Sunday that Comey made the decision to announce he was closing the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server to give himself “political cover.”
“He thought that Hillary Clinton would win, and he thought that this would give him some cover. He made these decisions based on the political landscape and not the facts of the case,” she said.
Trump tweeted Sunday, “Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe. In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!”
Trump’s focus on prostitute claims in the Steele Dossier
Comey recounted how Trump became fixated on one particular allegation in the Steele Dossier, the unverified report compiled by an ex-British intelligence officer that purports to detail Trump’s ties with the Russians. The dossier – which was paid for by Clinton’s campaign and the DNC – was used as part of the evidence to conduct surveillance on members of the Trump campaign.
Comey said that in a meeting with Trump in January 2017, the President told him he was considering ordering an investigation to disprove the claims that Russian intelligence had a video of Trump with prostitutes. Trump said he was chiefly concerned that there may be a “1% chance” that First Lady Melania could think the allegations are true.
“And I remember thinking, ‘How could your wife think there’s a 1% chance you were with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow?’ ” Comey recounted. “I’m a flawed human being, but there is literally zero chance that my wife would think that was true. So, what kind of marriage to what kind of man does your wife think there’s only a 99% chance you didn’t do that?”
Comey also recounted how he briefed then President-elect Trump about the allegations in the memo during their first meeting at Trump Tower.
Comey said Trump responded by saying, “‘Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?” Comey said he told Trump he wasn’t suggesting the claims had credibility.
In retrospect, Comey told Stephanopoulos, he is less certain.
“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,” he said. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.”
He had a similar refrain when asked whether he could rule out the Russian government having compromising information on Trump.
“It is stunning and I wish I wasn’t saying it, but it’s just – it’s the truth. I cannot say that. It always struck me and still strikes me as unlikely, and I woulda been able to say with high confidence about any other president I dealt with, but I can’t. It’s possible,” he said.