WASHINGTON — Former FBI director James Comey, in his first interview since being fired last year by President Donald Trump, described the president as a “serial liar,” someone he deemed “morally unfit to be president,” and a commander in chief possibly vulnerable to blackmail by Russia.
“Our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country,” Comey said in an hourlong interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.”
Asked if he believed Russia has compromising information on Trump, Comey replied: “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.
“It is stunning and I wish I wasn’t saying it, but it’s just — it’s the truth,” said Comey. “It always struck me and still strikes me as unlikely, and I would have been able to say with high confidence about any other president I dealt with, but I can’t. It’s possible.
The scathing sit-down interview came as Comey promotes his forthcoming tell-all book “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” which chronicles his interactions with Trump leading up to his ouster in May.
Comey on Sunday not only took aim at Trump’s leadership style, but his appearance, saying he believed Trump’s tie was “too long” and “he looked slightly orange up close,” after meeting Trump face to face for the first time at Trump Tower in 2017.
On Sunday, the president assailed the book, set to be released on Tuesday, as “a badly reviewed book” and suggested Comey should be jailed for some of his actions as FBI director.
“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.
Comey, who served as FBI director starting in 2013, told Stephanopoulos that days after Trump was sworn into office, in a one-on-one dinner, the president told Comey he might call on him to investigate the salacious allegations against Trump outlined in a dossier compiled by a former British spy to “prove that it didn’t happen.”
“I remember thinking, ‘How could your wife think there’s a 1 percent chance you were with prostitutes . . . In Moscow?’” Comey said, referring to allegations that Russian operatives had a compromising video of Trump.
Comey said he decided to go public with the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, in part because he believed the Democratic presidential nominee was en route to winning the election.
“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,” Comey said, explaining his thought process at the time.
He defended reopening the investigation into Clinton’s emails in the final weeks of the election, saying “it really was the right thing to do.”
“If I ever start considering whose political fortunes will be affected by a decision, we’re done,” Comey said of the FBI’s integrity.
Comey acknowledged that his wife and four daughters supported Clinton’s presidential candidacy.
Comey recalled his one-on-one meeting with Trump in the Oval Office in February 2017, where he felt Trump was pressuring him to drop the investigation into Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and possible ties to Russia.
“It’s certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice,” Comey said of Trump’s attempt to intervene on Flynn’s behalf. Trump has denied ever asking Comey about Flynn.
In the days leading up to Comey’s book release, Trump and his allies have aggressively pushed back against Comey’s book, casting him in tweets and media interviews as a “liar and a leaker.” The Republican National Committee launched a website — lyincomey.com — aimed at discrediting Comey.
The president on Twitter outlined questions he believes weren’t answered in Comey’s book, including “how come he gave up Classified Information (jail), why did he lie to Congress (jail), why did the DNC refuse to give Server to the FBI (why didn’t they TAKE it), why the phony memos, McCabe’s $700,000 & more?” Trump tweeted.
Trump did not detail what classified information he believes Comey released, or what he believed Comey lied to Congress about. Trump’s mention of McCabe was in reference to former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, who was fired last month just days before his retirement.
Trump has accused McCabe of siding with Clinton during the FBI email server probe because his wife took donations from the Democratic Party for a State Senate race in Virginia. McCabe and his wife have repeatedly denied the accusations.
Asked about the questions outlined in Trump’s tweet, and what specifically Comey lied about, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told ABC’s “This Week” that Comey was “a self admitted leaker,” referring to Comey providing a close associate with his notes regarding his conversations with Trump that were later disclosed to The New York Times.
The president also accused Comey of throwing former Attorney General Loretta Lynch “under the bus!” referring to excerpts from Comey’s book in which he described Lynch’s handling the Hillary Clinton email server probe with a “tortured half-out, half-in approach.”
“Why can’t we all find out what happened on the tarmac in the back of the plane with Wild Bill and Lynch?,” Trump tweeted, referring to a 2016 encounter between former President Bill Clinton and Lynch. Both have said they did not discuss the ongoing email probe involving Hillary Clinton.
On Sunday, Lynch released a statement defending her handling of the Clinton email server probe.
“At no time did I ever discuss any aspect of the investigation with anyone from the Clinton campaign or the DNC,” Lynch said.
The president, on Twitter, also said he “never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty,” as Comey claims to have occurred in a private dinner with Trump.
“I hardly even knew this guy,” Trump tweeted. “Just another of his many lies. His “memos” are self serving and FAKE!”
Comey said when asked to pledge his loyalty he told Trump: “You will always get honesty from me.”