Donald Trump is “morally unfit” to be president, former FBI Director James Comey said in a highly anticipated prime-time interview, adding that he couldn’t rule out the possibility that the Russian government has incriminating information about the president.
“I think it’s possible. I don’t know,” Comey said in an interview with ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, when asked whether Trump has been “compromised” by the Russians.
“These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible.”
Comey said that he had concluded during the presidential campaign that Trump was dishonest. Americans should be united, he said, in the idea that “our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country. The most important being truth.”
“This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.” The comments were made in Comey’s first interview since writing his book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, which is scheduled for release on Tuesday. Excerpts have already been widely reported, prompting President Donald Trump and his conservative allies to launch a furious attack on Comey.
“Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!” Trump said on Twitter. Speaking on Fox Business Network, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said “the fix was in” against Trump and questioned why Comey waited two months after the election to conduct the briefing if he was so concerned about Russian influence on the campaign.
“This man’s trying to sell books not save the country,” Conway said. “You’re not under oath when you give TV interviews” or write books.
Trump fired Comey in May, leading to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election is reviewing whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey, and through other actions.
Comey said the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation into potential Russian election interference in July 2016, triggered by discussions that George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser, had in London. The FBI was also interested in Carter Page, another adviser.
Comey said an unverified dossier assembled by former British spy Christopher Steele had no impact on triggering the investigation.
Of Trump’s practice of not criticising Russian President Vladimir Putin, Comey said, “I don’t know what’s
Comey described a meeting with Trump where the president asked him to “let it go” when it came to the FBI investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. He told ABC that he maybe should have said something to Trump at the time to indicate the request was inappropriate.
He said Trump’s request “possibly” amounted to obstruction of justice.
“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,” Comey said.
Comey, who ran the Federal Bureau of Investigation for almost four years, portrays the president in his book as a liar, dumb and rude, and he compares elements of Trump’s behaviour to that of a Mafia boss.
Encounters with the president, Comey wrote, gave him “flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the mob. 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 organisation above morality and above the truth.”