Scathing James Comey Interview Provokes Trump
Asked whether he believed Trump should be impeached, the former FBI director said, "People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values" — but then he wouldn't rule it out.
President Donald Trump is renewing his attacks on James Comey after the former FBI director's scathing tell-all interview on ABC.
Trump tweeted Monday that Comey drafted an exoneration of Hillary Clinton long before he talked to her as part of an investigation into her email practices. He labeled Comey "disgruntled" and accused him and others of having "committed many crimes."
Comey drafted the Crooked Hillary exoneration long before he talked to her (lied in Congress to Senator G), then based his decisions on her poll numbers. Disgruntled, he, McCabe, and the others, committed many crimes!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 16, 2018
Comey said in the interview broadcast Sunday night with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that Trump is "morally unfit" for office.
Referring to what Trump called a premature Clinton exoneration, Comey said that after nine or 10 months he had a "clear picture" of the investigation into Clinton's email practices and it's common to draft statements before a probe is complete.
Trump again accused Comey of lying to Congress. There is no indication he is under investigation for doing so.
During the televised sit-down, Comey said he thinks it's possible the Russians have compromising information on Trump. He also said there is "some evidence of obstruction of justice" in the president's actions.
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway criticized Comey on Monday's Good Morning America. She accused him of peddling a "revisionist version of history" and sinking into the "gutter" with petty comments about the size of Trump's hands and the length of his tie.
Comey's remarks, coupled with the coming release of his book, offer his version of events surrounding his firing and the investigations into Russian election meddling and Hillary Clinton's email practices. Several of the episodes he describes in detail, including a private conversation about former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, are central to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and his recollections are presumably valuable for prosecutors examining whether the president's actions constitute obstruction of justice.
The FBI director, who until his firing last May led an investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, acknowledged that it was "stunning" to think that Russia could have damaging information about an American president. But he said that in Trump's case, he could not discount the possibility that the president had been compromised.
"These are more words I never thought I'd utter about a president of the United States, but it's possible," Comey told ABC News' chief anchor Stephanopoulos. He also acknowledged he had no proof that Russia has dirt on Trump: "I think it's possible. I don't know."
The president's attacks on Comey began even before the interview came out.
He seized on an excerpt shown Saturday in which Comey said his belief that Clinton would beat Trump in the 2016 presidential election was probably a factor in his decision to disclose the investigation into her emails. Comey, Trump tweeted, "was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!"
That argument was startling given that Comey's handling of the email investigation, including his disclosure shortly before the election that the FBI had reopened its probe, enraged Democrats. After Clinton's loss, many Democrats blamed Comey, and Clinton herself has said it hurt her election prospects.
Comey again defended his actions, telling ABC that he made what he thought was the best decision at the time. Comey said he did not remember "consciously thinking" about the election results as he decided to disclose that the FBI had reopened its investigation into candidate Clinton's email use. But, he acknowledged, "I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump, and so I'm sure that it was a factor."
"I don't remember spelling it out," he added, "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."
Trump fired Comey in May 2017, setting off a scramble at the Justice Department that led to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation. Mueller's probe has expanded to include whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey. So far, 19 people — including Flynn and Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort —have been charged in the investigation. Flynn and two of the president's campaign aides, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with Mueller.
Asked whether he believed Trump ought to be impeached, Comey replied, "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."
He added: "But you cannot have, as president of the United States, someone who does not reflect the values that I believe Republicans treasure and Democrats treasure and independents treasure. That is the core of this country. That's our foundation. And so impeachment, in a way, would short circuit that."
Read a full transcript of the interview here and watch clips below.