President Trump has launched into a public tirade over newly released details from former FBI director James Comey’s highly anticipated new memoir.
In a pair of tweets Friday morning, the president called Comey a “weak and untruthful slime ball” and said it was “my great honor to fire him.”
James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR. Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did-until he was, in fact, fired. He leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted. He lied to Congress under OATH. He is a weak and…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2018
….untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst “botch jobs” of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2018
Trump’s tweets come as multiple media outlets rushed to release details from Comey’s new 304-page memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, which is scheduled to be released Tuesday. Comey will appear on ABC’s 20/20 Sunday night in an interview with George Stephanopoulos.
The New York Post was first to report details from the book, focusing on Comey’s claim that Trump asked him to investigate allegations he paid Russian hookers to urinate on a hotel bed at the Ritz-Carlton during a trip to Moscow in 2013.
“He brought up what he called the ‘golden showers thing’ … adding that it bothered him if there was ‘even a 1 percent chance’ his wife, Melania, thought it was true,” Comey wrote. “He just rolled on, unprompted, explaining why it couldn’t possibly be true, ending by saying he was thinking of asking me to investigate the allegation to prove it was a lie.”
CNN also obtained a copy of the book, and outlined Comey’s comparison between Trump and the mob bosses Comey prosecuted during the earlier part of his career.
“The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth,” Comey wrote.
Here’s what you need to know about Comey’s new book and how it’s rattling the political world, especially within the White House:
5 stand-out passages from Comey’s book
As more an more reporters post excerpts from Comey’s yet-to-be-released book, here are five of the most surreal passages that have been made public so far:
5. Comey on the now-infamous “loyalty dinner” with Trump at the White House on Jan. 27, 2017, which he compared to “Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony” (via Axios):
“The setup of the dinner, both the physical layout of a private meal and Trump’s pretense that he had not already asked me to stay on multiple occasions, convinced me this was an effort to establish a patronage relationship… Somebody probably had told him, or maybe it just occurred to him at random, that he’d ‘given’ me the job for ‘free’ and that he needed to get something in return.”
“This only added to the strangeness of the experience. The president of the United States had invited me to dinner and decided my job security was on the menu.”
4. Comey on the reaction of embattled White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who was still Trump’s secretary of homeland security at the time, to the news of Comey’s firing (via CNN):
“[Kelly] said he was sick about my firing and that he intended to quit in protest. He said he didn’t want to work for dishonorable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner. I urged Kelly not to do that, arguing that the country needed principled people around this president. Especially this president.”
3. Comey felt Trump was sitting “on a throne” when he met with him in the Oval Office, pointing out that neither President George W. Bush nor President Barack Obama would sit behind the Resolute desk during meetings (via Axios):
“Though this was not the first time I’d seen the new president, it was the first time I had seen him in his new office. He didn’t look comfortable. He was sitting, suit jacket on, close against the famous Resolute desk, both forearms on the desk… But when the president sits on a throne, protected by a large wooden obstacle, as Trump routinely did in my interactions with him, the formality of the Oval Office is magnified and the chances of getting the full truth plummet.”
2. Comey hinted at potentially damaging information involving former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who he said had a “tortured half-out, half-in approach” to the investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified emails (via ABC News):
“The source and content of that material remains classified as I write this…Had it become public, the unverified material would undoubtedly have been used by political opponents to cast serious doubt on the attorney general’s independence in connection with the Clinton investigation.”
1. Comey didn’t hold back about his personal opinions on President Trump (via New York Times):
“This President is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”
Comey doesn’t accuse Trump of committing any crimes
Comey certainly didn’t hold back his personal opinions about Trump, calling him “unethical” and “untethered to the truth and institutional values.”
But according to the Washington Post’s Callum Borchers, one thing Comey didn’t do was accuse President Trump of committing any crimes.
“I have one perspective on the behavior I saw, which while disturbing and violating basic norms of ethical leadership, may fall short of being illegal,” Comey wrote, adding that he defers judgement to Mueller and his investigation.
Comey tells Stephanopoulos Trump didn’t appear interested in stopping Russia
During a clip from Comey’s upcoming 20/20 interview that aired on Good Morning America Friday morning, the former FBI director claimed he met with Trump at Trump Tower on Jan. 6, 2017. Among the items discussed was intelligence that showed how the Russians interfered with the 2016 election.
Comey said he was surprised that neither Trump nor any members of his team asked what steps should be taken to stop Russia from acting in a similar way in the future, instead focusing more on spinning the information to make sure it didn’t undermine Trump’s election victory.
“President-elect Trump’s first question was to confirm that it had no impact on the election … and then the conversation, to my surprise, moved into a PR conversation about how the Trump team would position this, and what they could say about this, with us still sitting there,” Comey said. “And the reason that was so striking to me [is] that’s just not done. That the intelligence community does intelligence, the White House does PR and spin.”
— GeorgeStephanopoulos (@GStephanopoulos) April 13, 2018
Stephanopoulos said he was stunned by his interview with Comey, which was reportedly a marathon session that took more than five hours.
“I couldn’t believe at times what I was here, and Comey said he could not believe what he was saying,” Stephanopoulos said, hinting at new details that will be revealed Sunday evening when the interview airs.
Former Clinton campaign manager weighs in on Comey’s regret
Among the details released from Comey’s new book was a reflection on his decision to publicly announced that the FBI reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails just 11 days before the 2016 election, while keeping the fact that the FBI was also investigating Trump silent.
“Assuming, as nearly everyone did, that Hillary Clinton would be elected president of the United States in less than two weeks, what would happen to the FBI, the justice department or her own presidency if it later was revealed, after the fact, that she still was the subject of an FBI investigation?” Comey wrote. “Hindsight is always helpful, and if I had to do it over again, I would do some things differently.”
On Friday afternoon, former Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook offered his thoughts about the admission on MSNBC.
“I wish that Mr. Comey reflected a little bit more deeply and maybe called what he did a mistake because I think it was,” Mook told CNN’s John Berman. “Particularly because he talked so much about how important it is to follow the rules and follow the law, there were really clear rules in place that he shouldn’t have done what he did and he chose to break them. And, apparently did that based on politics.”
Mook said he wasn’t angry or bitter over Comey’s revelation, because there’s nothing anyone can do to change the past.
“Frankly there is so much else in that book, so much else swirling outside, I’m a little more concerned for the country than worried about 2016,” Mook said.
NY Times reporter: Trump ‘personally cornered’
New York Times White House reporter Maggie Haberman, about as well-sourced as any reporter covering Trump’s administration, wrote on Twitter that the president hasn’t felt this cornered since the release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape during the 2016 presidential campaign.
This is about as personally cornered as Trump has been since “Access Hollywood” weekend
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) April 13, 2018
“This is about as personally cornered as Trump has been since “Access Hollywood” weekend,” Haberman wrote, which prompted CNN national security analyst and former Obama staffer Sam Vinograd to question how Trump may react to the news.
“What’s the in-office equivalent of bringing your rivals sexual accusers to a debate with his spouse? Start there,” Haberman responded, alluding to Trump’s move to appear beside Clinton accusers Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick and Paula Jones prior to a 2016 presidential debate with Clinton.
Haberman’s comments are in line with the claims of at least one former White House official, who told Politico that the details emerging from Comey’s book appear designed to anger Trump.
“It’s almost like Comey wrote some of the stuff in the book just to get under Trump’s skin and goad him into saying something outrageous,” the former official told Politico. “With the salacious stuff that came out Thursday night, the possibility of Trump exploding has gone up.”
Former CIA Director lashes out at Trump
Former CIA Director John Brennan lashed out at the president over Trump’s tweets aimed at Comey.
“As the greatest Nation history has known, we have the opportunity to emerge from this nightmare stronger & more committed to ensuring a better life for all Americans, including those you have so tragically deceived,” Brennan wrote.
Your kakistocracy is collapsing after its lamentable journey. As the greatest Nation history has known, we have the opportunity to emerge from this nightmare stronger & more committed to ensuring a better life for all Americans, including those you have so tragically deceived. https://t.co/eC6LATH2Gd
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) April 13, 2018
“Kakistocracy” is a system of government which is run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens, used often by former CNN and Fox News host Glenn Beck to describe the Obama administration.
Back in March, Brennan described Trump as “unstable, inept, inexperienced, and also unethical” in an interview with MSNBC.
“There’s a part of me that had been very angry at Donald Trump for the things he said and things he did. I am now moving into the realm of deep worry and concern that our country needs strong leadership now,” Brennan said. “And I do think, unfortunately, it is going to get more painful, a bit worse before it gets better.”
Reaction from reporters and pundits mixed
On CNN, Maggie Haberman predicted that coverage of the details from Comey’s new book were going to drive Trump crazy, pointing to the president’s unusually light schedule due to his decision to cancel a planned trip to South America.
“This is going to be a lot of downtime with him in front of the TV stewing, and that is always a danger point,” Haberman said.
CNN host and Inquirer columnist Michael Smerconish described Comey’s descriptions of meetings with Trump as “substantive,” but said the former FBI director surrendered the “high ground” by offering salacious details about the size of Trump’s hand (“It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so”) and skin tone (“His face appeared slightly orange with bright white half-moons under his eyes”).
— Michael Smerconish (@smerconish) April 13, 2018
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace had a similar opinion, pointing out that the 6-foot-9 Comey went “out of his way” to note that President Trump wasn’t as tall as he thought.
“One could argue that by getting into the kind of political food fight, James Comey has done more damage to his own reputation than he has to President Trump’s,” Wallace said on America’s Newsroom.
— America's Newsroom (@AmericaNewsroom) April 13, 2018
On Fox & Friends, White House counselor and South Jersey native Kellyanne Conway lashed out at Comey, calling him “self-aggrandizing” and a “disgruntled ex-employee” only interested in selling books.
“He’s a psychoanalyst, he’s giving advice on people look, he’s a marriage counselor,” Conway said, referring to a passage involving the president’s concern over Melania Trump potentially believing unverified information involving Russian hookers. “I find that particular excerpt to be really egregious and over the top and unacceptable.”
What happened between Trump and Comey?
Trump fired Comey in May 2017, initially claiming that the decision was over Comey’s “botched” handling of the FBI’s investigation into how classified emails were handled by Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent in the 2016 presidential election. But during an interview with Lester Holt on NBC News, Trump admitted he fired Comey in part because of “this Russia thing,” alluding to Comey’s investigation into the Kremlin’s interference in the election.
Comey’s firing eventually led to the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged election meddling, and whether any members of Trump’s campaign either colluded with the Russians or tried to obstruct the investigation. So far, Mueller’s investigation has led to 22 indictments, including 100 felony charges, and five guilty pleas, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign staffers Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos.