5 key takeaways from Comey's interview ahead of tell-all book release
Comey is the latest author set to make a fortune from a damning tell-all book about Trump. Titled 'A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,' his book paints a predictably unflattering picture of Trump, who fired Comey in May 2017 over his handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for classified emails during her time as secretary of state. Ahead of the book's release, Comey sat down with ABC's George Stephanopoulos for an almost equally hyped-up mammoth interview. Here are some of the more interesting points.
Comey doesn't really know about Trump & Russia
Speculations about Trump's potential ties to the Kremlin keep swirling without producing much in the way of evidence. Among them are rumors that Moscow has some damaging materials on Trump that it can use as leverage against him. Outlined in the infamous Steele Dossier are some salacious details about Trump's stay in Moscow during a beauty pageant (keywords 'pee tape'). Asked if he believes Moscow could possibly be holding Trump on a tight leash, Comey essentially said that he has no clue.
"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," he told ABC News' chief anchor, George Stephanopoulos, before adding that it "always struck and still strikes" him as "unlikely." Most mainstream US media chose to latch onto the "it's possible" part, though.
He couldn’t imagine Clinton losing
Speaking about his decision to go public about the FBI restarting the Hillary Clinton email probe, Comey conceded that part of his inner reasoning might have been that Clinton should not have a skeleton in a closet once she becomes president – which he had no doubt that she would.
“I don’t remember consciously thinking about that, but it must have been… That — 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,” Comey said.
“I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump,” he added.
‘Hope we had no impact on election, but I'd do the same again'
After Clinton’s stunning defeat, the former FBI chief became a kind of an anti-hero for many Democrats, who blamed him for their candidate’s underperformance. Clinton herself pointed a finger at Comey, writing in her book that if it were not for his “dramatic intervention,” she would have grabbed the White House. Comey admitted that he had the same concerns, but he eventually came to the conclusion that it would not have changed the final score.
“God, I hope we had no impact. I hope we had no impact. But it — I know — I worry it sounds arrogant to say, but it — it wouldn’t change the result.”
“I really wouldn’t have done it any differently,” he said.
Comey didn't tell Trump Steele dossier was paid for by Clinton allies
Comey revealed that, while he alerted Trump to the existence of the ‘Steele dossier’ containing potentially compromising “additional material” on him, he did not consider it ‘necessary for his goal’ to tell him that it had been funded by Team Clinton.
“No, I didn’t,” Comey said in a pre-published excerpt from the interview, when asked if he had told Trump about the link. Pressed whether he thought Trump was entitled to know that the dossier “had been financed by his political opponents,” Comey responded that he “doesn’t know an answer to that.”
The former FBI chief admitted he knew all along that the report was funded initially by a rival Republican source, and then by a “Democratic-aligned group trying to get opposition research on Trump,” but did not have the details.
In October last year, it was revealed that the dossier had been funded by Fusion GPS, led by Glenn Simpson. Clinton herself repeatedly denied any prior knowledge of the “dossier.”
Comey really, really doesn't like Trump (and the feeling's mutual)
A verbal war between Trump and Comey has exacerbated recently, as the former FBI chief touted his book on Twitter, and the US president responded in his usual indignant fashion. Comey predictably did not hold back either when speaking about his former boss on ABC.
In his book, Comey portrays Trump as a mafia-style boss. That's because, he says in the interview, the US leader puts personal loyalty and his family above the interests of the state.
“The loyalty oaths, the boss as the dominant center of everything, it’s all about how do you serve the boss, what’s in the boss’s interests. It’s the family, the family, the family, the family. That’s why it reminds me so much,” he said.
While Comey doesn’t “buy this stuff” about Trump being physically or mentally unfit for duty, he said the president is “morally unfit,” as he “treats women like they're pieces of meat” and lies “constantly about matters big and small.”
Trump “will stain everyone around him,” Comey said, adding that he “doesn’t know” how much “stain” would render one incapable of serving the country.
The president, of course, held nothing back, either – though he was somewhat less sophisticated – calling Comey "slippery," a "slime ball" and “the WORST FBI Director in history” on Twitter.