WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Friday lashed out at former FBI director James Comey on Twitter, calling him an “untruthful slime ball” who deserved to be fired “for the terrible job he did.”
“It was my great honour to fire James Comey!” Trump wrote in his first remarks since the release of Comey’s book that includes blistering descriptions of Trump and his presidency.
In a pair of tweets, Trump accused Comey of leaking classified information and lying to Congress under oath. And Trump said Comey’s handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state would “go down as one of the worst ‘botch jobs’ of history.”
Trump fired Comey in May 2017 in an act that has been under scrutiny by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Trump’s tirade came in response to news stories Thursday on leaked copies of A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, a 304-page tell-all by Comey that describes Trump’s presidency as a “forest fire” and portrays the president as an ego-driven congenital liar.
Among the many revelations is that Trump fixated on unconfirmed allegations in a widely circulated intelligence dossier that Russians had filmed him interacting with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013.
In attempt to blunt the impact of the new book, the Republican National Committee is waging a widespread campaign to undercut Comey’s credibility, including a new website that dubs the former FBI director as “Lyin’ Comey.”
The RNC effort was launched in advance of a media blitz by Comey that began Friday morning as ABC News aired segments of a longer interview scheduled for Sunday night. During the segment, Comey said he didn’t know whether to believe Trump’s denial that he had spent time with prostitutes in Moscow.
“I honestly thought these words would never 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,” Comey told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
Some of the early news coverage of Comey’s memoir has made a mockery of Trump, including the cover of Friday’s Daily News in New York. Its lead headline is “PEE BRAIN!” — a reference to unconfirmed allegations in the dossier that Trump had watched prostitutes urinate on themselves in a Moscow hotel suite.
In the book, Comey also writes of some of Trump’s physical attributes in an unflattering way.
“His face appeared slightly orange,” Comey writes, “with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coifed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his.”
On Friday morning, White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway called the Comey book “a revisionist view of history” and accused the former FBI director of taking “unnecessary immature potshots.”
Comey revealed that the president — whom he likens in a new book to a Mob boss — at one point last year mulled asking the bureau to investigate the allegation.
Trump was briefed by Comey before his inauguration about the allegation and immediately went into damage control mode, Comey said. The lawman said he told Trump, “I’m not saying we credit this. I’m not saying we believe it. We just thought it was important that you know.”
In a subsequent meeting with Trump, Comey said the president worried about a “1 per cent chance” that First Lady Melania Trump would believe the reports were true.
“I remember thinking ‘how can your wife think there’s a 1 per cent chance you were with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow?’” Comey said. “I’m a flawed human being, but there’s literally zero chance that my wife would think that was true. So what kind of marriage to what kind of man does your wife think there’s only a 99 per cent chance you didn’t do that?”
The White House fired back within moments.
“One of the few areas of true bipartisan consensus in Washington is Comey has no credibility,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a Twitter posting.
ABC and other news organisations said they had obtained copies of the book, which does not go on sale until next week.
According to ABC, Comey writes that when Trump demanded loyalty from him at a White House dinner, “The demand was like Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony.” That was a reference to the mobster Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, whose testimony helped convict John Gotti, the leader of New York’s Gambino crime family.
Encounters with the president gave Comey, according to the Washington Post, “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.”
Trump eventually fired Comey in May, an action that helped lead to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The investigation by Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election is reviewing whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey, and through other actions.
Comey provides new details of his dismissal, according to the Associated Press. He said then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly — who is now Trump’s chief of staff — offered to quit out of a sense of disgust over how Comey was fired, according to the AP.
Kelly told him that he “intended to quit in protest” because “he didn’t want to work for dishonourable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner,” ABC News reported.
Comey makes clear his disdain for Trump. At one point, Comey describes Trump’s manner of speaking as “an oral jigsaw puzzle contest, with a shot clock,” ABC said.
Comey also wrote about what would become one of the most consequential actions during his tenure as FBI director when he took it upon himself to publicly announce in July 2016 that the FBI wouldn’t charge Clinton for compromising classified information by using a private email system.
Loretta Lynch Factor
Comey said he felt obligated to become the public face of the investigation in part because of something involving then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch he refers to as a “development still unknown to the American public to this day,” according to ABC News. Comey asserts that he didn’t sense Lynch interfered with the investigation, ABC said.
He also said he shouldn’t have used the term “extremely careless” to describe Clinton’s behaviour because it too closely mirrors the term “grossly negligent,” which is the legal standard for prosecution, ABC said.
Comey writes that his public handling of the Clinton case may have been influenced by an assumption that Trump would lose the election. “Certainly not consciously, but I would be a fool to say it couldn’t have had an impact on me,” Comey wrote, according to ABC.