“I think he’s morally unfit to be president.”
That’s what former FBI director James Comey had to say about President Trump, who he claimed treated women like “they’re pieces of meat” and was a “stain” on the presidency and those around him during a marathon interview with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
“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 said.
Among Comey’s most stunning claims made during the interview, which aired Sunday night on 20/20 to promote the release of his new memoir, A Higher Loyalty, was the possibility the Russians actually have dirt on Trump, something claimed in an explosive dossier prepared during the election by former British spy Christopher Steele.
“I think it’s possible. I don’t know,” Comey revealed. “These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible.”
Here are some additional moments between Comey and Stephanopoulos that stand out:
Did Trump obstruct justice by asking to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn?
“Possibly. I mean, it’s certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice. It would depend – 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.”
On Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo justifying Comey’s firing
“Well the attorney general was recused and the deputy attorney general, in my view, had acted dishonorably by putting out this pretext about why I was fired. So I thought, “Well he’s ‘amica nostra.’ Right? He’s part of the family now. I can’t trust him.” And so what can I do? I can do something now.”
Should Trump be impeached?
“I hope not, because I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they’re duty bound to do directly. People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values.”
On the salacious allegation involving Trump and Russian hookers
“I honestly never thought this 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.”
On President Obama publicly downplaying any investigation into Hillary Clinton
“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.”
All told, Stephanopoulos spent five hours speaking to Comey, and editors worked into Sunday afternoon to cut it all together to fit 20/20’s hourlong run time. ABC has posted the full transcript online.
Some details about ABC’s interview with Comey were released well ahead of the broadcast. On Good Morning America Friday, ABC aired a clip of Comey expressing shock over then-president-elect Trump’s reaction to intelligence showing Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
“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.”
Sunday’s interview was the beginning of a whirlwind media tour for Comey, who will appear on ABC’s The View, CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show. He’ll also appear on CNN twice — once in an interview with The Lead’s Jake Tapper, and once as a member of a town hall hosted by Anderson Cooper.
“It’s going to be the media equivalent of the carpet bombing of Tokyo,” Jon Levine, the media reporter for The Wrap, told The Hill. “It has the potential to eclipse everything we saw from Michael Wolff. Provoking Trump into additional responses on Twitter and elsewhere is now part of the equation.”
Trump attacked Comey in a series of tweets, calling him a “slimeball” and “slippery.” Trump denied ever asking his former FBI director for “personal loyalty.”
Trump wasn’t alone in going after Comey. About an hour before the interview aired, former attorney general Loretta Lynch slammed Comey over a claim made in his book (and previously in testimony to Congress) that she requested the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails be referred to as a “matter,” potentially to soften the impact on Clinton and her presidential campaign.
“I have known James Comey almost 30 years,” Lynch wrote in a statement. “Throughout his time as director we spoke regularly about some of the most sensitive issues in law enforcement and national security. If he had any concerns regarding the email investigation, classified or not, he had ample opportunities to raise them with me both privately and in meetings. He never did.”