Five Takeaways From James Comey’s ABC Interview
On Sunday night, ABC aired an interview between George Stephanopoulos and fired FBI Director James Comey. The topic of the interview, of course, was Comey’s new book, “A Higher Loyalty,” which makes many accusations against President Trump, up to and including Comey calling him a “mob boss” bent on demanding loyalty form his subordinates on every matter. The book has already taken some criticism for an overly “bitchy” tone against the President, but clearly Comey has his side of the story to tell regarding the Hillary email scandal up to being fired by the President last year.
1) Mr. Comey thinks a meeting he had with Mr. Trump could be evidence of obstruction of justice.
Mr. Comey says that Mr. Trump asked him to drop the F.B.I.’s investigation of Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, after a White House meeting with Mr. Trump and other senior officials. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Comey says, the president asked everyone in the room to clear out, save for Mr. Comey.
2) He thought his firing was a “crazy” move by Mr. Trump.
“That makes no sense at all,” Mr. Comey recalled in the Sunday interview of his reaction to the news of his firing last May.
“I thought, ‘It’s crazy to fire me.’ I’m leading the investigation of Russian influence.”
When he saw news the same week that Mr. Trump had met with Russian officials in the Oval Office and called Mr. Comey a “nut job,” Mr. Comey said he saw right through it.
3) He said firing Robert Mueller would be “the most serious attack yet on the rule of law.”
Mr. Stephanopoulos asked Mr. Comey what he would think if Mr. Trump were to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
“It would I hope set off alarm bells that this is his most serious attack yet on the rule of law,” Mr. Comey said. “That is higher than all the normal fights about policy.”
4) He stands by his handling of the F.B.I.’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.
Mr. Comey used several portions of the interview to defend his decisions about revealing the closing and reopening of the F.B.I.’s investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Having announced an end to the inquiry in July 2016, Mr. Comey revealed on Oct. 28, just days before the election, that the F.B.I. was again investigating the case.
Those days leading up to the election “sucked,” Mr. Comey said. “I walked around vaguely sick to my stomach, feeling beaten down.”
Asked to address the fierce criticism he received for the move, Mr. Comey said Americans would benefit from stepping into his shoes and considering the options he had.
5) He said Mr. Trump was “morally unfit” to be president.
Asked if he believes Mr. Trump is unfit for office, Mr. Comey was quick to say yes, but not for reasons of his mental state.
Instead, Mr. Comey called Mr. Trump “morally unfit.”
“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,” Mr. Comey said.
From a critical standpoint, the most obvious question is why Comey didn’t resign once he started to believe that Trump was unfit to be Commander in Chief? Why stay on at all given what he foresaw as conflict between his style of doing business and that of the President? Beyond that question, what does Comey propose doing in light of his opinion on the President? Does he advocate invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the President from office? In other words, if the problem is so deep, how does Comey propose to remedy it?
When asked about impeachment, Comey said he thinks that would let the American people “off the hook” for their role in electing Trump. In other words, he is basically saying that impeachment would be like bailing out America and then voters wouldn’t learn their lesson. This is truly some astonishing stuff coming from a former FBI Director.
The reactions to Comey’s interview vary depending on partisan leanings. CNN Analyst Jeffrey Toobin called the interview “damning” to the President:
Toobin was asked during a segment on the network whether he thinks Comey’s claims that Trump asked him to let the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn go was evidence of possible obstruction of justice.
“I don’t think it’s evidence of obstruction of justice. I think it is obstruction of justice,” Toobin said.
“There’s just no other way to describe what the president was doing, if Comey’s account of the conversation is correct. He is trying to stop an investigation of a subordinate in the Russia investigation.”
Toobin said he believes it was a “crime committed in the Oval Office.”
“I just think it’s a completely devastating account of the president’s behavior,” Toobin said.
Meanwhile, within the FBI, reactions tended to be more negative against Comey with disbelief that he would essentially cast aside any semblance of objectivity and declare unfettered war against a sitting President:
Seven current or former FBI agents and officials spoke throughout and immediately after the broadcast. There was a lot of anger, frustration, and even more emojis—featuring the thumbs-down, frowny face, middle finger, and a whole lot of green vomit faces.
One former FBI official sent a bourbon emoji as it began; another sent the beers cheersing emoji. The responses became increasingly angry and despondent as the hour-long interview played out.
“Hoover is spinning in his grave,” said one former FBI official. “Making money from total failure.”
When a promo aired between segments announcing Comey’s upcoming interview with The View, the official grew angrier.
“Good lord, what a self-serving self-centered jackass,” the official said. “True to form he thinks he’s the smartest guy around.”
It is ironic, actually, that Trump goes around declaring the “deep state” is waging a war against him, and then someone so deeply entrenched in DC politics, such as Comey, devotes an entire book and broadcast TV interview basically demonstrating exactly what Trump says is happening. It is a way for the President to discredit Comey, and others, but it also serves in some capacity to lend credence to the concept of “the swamp” and/or the “deep state,” whatever your preferred term, being so entrenched within the government that elected officials cower in fear over what could happen to them when the anonymous leaks begin.
The President went on a twitter tirade this morning hitting back at Comey:
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
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2018
I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty. I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies. His “memos” are self serving and FAKE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2018
The dust hasn’t settled on this one fully, and the news of the week will still be dominated largely by Comey’s allegations, notwithstanding the Syria bombings.
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