James Comey ABC interview: Trump ‘morally unfit’ and ‘lies constantly’

By Rachel Dobbs

Last night James Comey, the former FBI director, gave his first televised interview since being fired by US President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration claims that Comey was fired last May over the way he handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Clinton was the Democratic presidential nominee and Trump’s rival for the White House.

Since his dismissal, Comey has written a memoir – entitled ‘A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership’ – about his dealings with Trump, which will be published by Flatiron Books tomorrow.

Speaking to George Stephanopoulos, Comey gave a brutal, no-holds-barred account of President Trump. The one-hour interview broadcast by ABC News was reportedly edited down from five hours of footage.

In it, Comey weighed in on some important topics including:

  • The scandal he was fired over
  • Trump’s fitness to lead
  • The truth about that dossier
  • …um, hand size.

Comey on…whether Trump is a ‘stable genius’

Earlier this year, Trump slammed reports questioning his mental stability in a series of tweets, with the most notable claiming that he was a “a very stable genius” (and, like, “really smart”).

It seems that Comey doesn’t agree with suggestions that Trump isn’t fit to rule because he’s unhinged.

Comey told Stephanolpoulos:

I don’t buy this stuff about him being mentally incompetent or in early stages of dementia. He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence who’s tracking conversations and knows what’s going on. I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president.

Comey on…Trump’s morality

For Comey, Trump’s unsuitability for office is an issue of morality. He said:

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.

Comey on…his first meeting with Trump

Comey really didn’t pull his punches when describing his first impressions of Trump.

Comey said:

He looked shorter to me than he did on television, but otherwise exactly the same … He had impressively coiffed hair, it looks to be all his. I confess, I stared at it pretty closely and my reaction was, ‘It must take a heck of a lot of time in the morning, but it’s impressively coiffed.’ His tie was too long, as it always is. He looked slightly orange up close with small, white, half moons under his eyes, which I assume are from tanning goggles.

This scornful description will undoubtedly enamour Comey to those who hate Trump, and help sell some books, but endless ad hominem attacks don’t necessarily lend credence to a man claiming that a president is unsuitable due to a lack of morality and professionalism.

Comey on…the Hillary Clinton emails scandal

Eleven days before the presidential election in November 2016, Comey wrote to Congress in his capacity as head of the FBI. He informed Congress that the FBI had found new emails that “appeared to be pertinent” to its ongoing investigation of whether Clinton violated government policy by using a private email server for her work as Secretary of State.

The resulting furore is frequently cited as one of the main reasons that Clinton lost the election. Comey subsequently informed lawmakers that Clinton’s email did not warrant any further action.

Yesterday, Comey revealed that his decision to write to Congress so soon before the election was, at least partially, due to a belief that Clinton would win the presidency regardless, and a desire for her opponents not to have ammunition to challenge her win.

Stephanopoulos asked:

Wasn’t the decision to reveal influenced by your assumption Hillary Clinton was going to win, and your concern that, she wins, this comes out several weeks later and then tat’s taken by her opponents as a sign she’s an illegitimate president?

Comey replied:

It must have been…I don’t remember consciously thinking about that, but it must have been. I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. I’m sure that it was a factor. 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.

However, despite the unforeseen consequences of this decision, Comey told Stephanopoulos that he stands by it and would do it again.

He said:

If I ever start considering whose political fortunes will be affected by a decision, we’re done. We’re just another player in the tribal battle.

Comey on…Trump’s dirty dossier

Comey was also willing to talk about the so-called Steele dossier, which was passed to him before being leaked to the press in January 2017.

The dossier made several claims about the relationship between Trump and Russia, including that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been “cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least five years”.

However, the part of the dossier that received the most attention from the press was the claim (strongly denied by Trump) that the Kremlin had kompromat (compromising material) showing Trump watching prostitutes urinate on each other at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Moscow in 2013. The suggestion was that Trump complied with the Kremlin’s wishes to prevent this tape ever getting out.

Comey went further in his discussion of the dossier’s contents than many thought he would.

Comey said:

I didn’t ask about the business with the prostitutes, but he launched into an explanation as to how I should know that wasn’t true and that he remembered now, from talking to friends who had been with him, that he’d never stayed overnight at the hotel, he’d just changed clothes there and went to the Miss Universe pageant.

I don’t know whether any of this true, but this is what he said. And then went right back without staying overnight. And then he said, ‘Another reason you know it’s not true is I’m a germaphobe. There’s no way I’d let people pee on each other around me.’ And that me caught me so much by surprise I actually let out an audible laugh and – ’cause it was just one of those – I was startled by it.

When asked directly if he thought the alleged kompromat existed, Comey said:

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. It’s possible, but I don’t know.

Comey on…obstructions of justice

Stephanopoulos asked Comey whether he thought that Trump had obstructed justice by asking him to “let it go” in February 2017, referring to the investigation into by the FBI into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn was fired by the White House for allegedly misleading Vice President Mike Pence over communications with Russia.

Comey replied that Trump might have been trying to obstruct justice in an FBI investigation, but said that he didn’t know for sure.

Comey said:

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.

Comey on…Trump’s relationship with his administration

Comey also commented extensively on Trump’s relationship with his administration, criticising the culture that Trump demands.

He said:

I’m not trying to, by the way, suggest that President Trump is out breaking legs and — you know, shaking down shopkeepers. But instead, what I’m talking about is that leadership culture constantly comes back to me when I think about my experience with the Trump administration.

The — 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 and not, ‘So what’s the right thing for the country and what are the values of the institutions that we’re dealing with?

He also claimed that Trump’s staff were responsible for enabling Trump and not advising him correctly on important issues.

Comey said:

That is the question that people have to ask themselves. And — and there’s no easy way to define it in the abstract, that you– the challenge of this president is that he will stain everyone around him.

And the question is, how much stain is too much stain and how much stain eventually makes you unable to accomplish your goal of protecting the country and serving the country? So I don’t know. And it would be hard for anybody to answer that. But everyone’s gotta answer that individually.

Comey on…Trump’s hands

And, finally, the question on everyone’s lips: does Trump really have tiny hands?

Diminutive hand size is one of the enduring rumours to haunt Trump’s presidency. In 2016, Marco Rubio, a Republican who was also competing for the presidential nomination, mocked the size of Trump’s hands at a rally.

Rubio said:

He’s taller than me, he’s like 6’2″, which is why I do’t understand why his hands are the size of someone who is 5’2″…

And you know what they say about men with small hands…You can’t trust them!

Ever since, speculation over the size of Trump’s hands has been used to ridicule him (though, the insult seems to date back all the way to 1988, when a Vanity Fair editor called him a “short-fingered vulgarian”). Trump has even seen fit to publicly denounce rumours about his hand size.

As a man who has actually seen (and shook!) Trump’s hands up close, Comey weighed on this surreal topic. His answer is likely to disappoint many.

Comey said:

I say that in my book cause I’m trying to be honest, cause that’s the truth there had been all this controversy and mocking about hand size, I can’t remember the details. But as I shook his hand I made a note to check the size and it seemed like he had average-sized hands.

Donald Trump has responded describing Comey as “slippery” and “THE WORST FBI Director in history”.

Here are Trump’s Twitter messages responding to Comey’s criticism:

Topics in this article: