Prostitutes, impeachment and Russia’s Vladimir Putin— nothing was off limits in the one-hour ABC special that comes just days before the release of “Higher Loyalty,” Mr. Comey’s tell-all about his time in the Trump administration.
“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 told George Stephanopoulos, a former key figure in Bill Clinton’s campaign and presidency, on a “20/20” special.
Mr. Comey recounted a tumultuous two years in American politics, from the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server to Mr. Trump’s stunning White House victory and the probe into Russian meddling in the presidential race.
He said the salacious claims in the unverified Steele dossier, which was financed by the Clinton campaign, came from a “credible source” and could be true.
“I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth,” he said. “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.”
He also said it’s “possible” but “unlikely” that the Russians have compromising information on the president.
“It is stunning and I wish I wasn’t saying it, but it’s just – it’s the truth. I cannot say that” the U.S. president hasn’t been compromised, Mr. Comey said. “It always struck me and still strikes me as unlikely, and I would’ve been able to say with high confidence about any other president I dealt with, but I can’t. It’s possible.”
“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!” the president tweeted.
“I don’t buy this stuff about him being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia,” Mr. Comey said, referring to claims by some Democrats and conspiracy theorists.
“He strikes me as a person of above-average intelligence who’s tracking conversations and knows what’s going on. I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president,” he said, citing among other things that Mr. Trump had the presence of mind to ask the vice president and attorney general to leave the room before engaging in dubious queries about letting slide the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Mr. Comey did not reveal any evidence to suggest that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to swing the election. But he said Mr. Trump may have obstructed justice when he tried to get Mr. Flynn off the hook for lying to the FBI.
“I mean, it’s certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice,” Mr. Comey said. “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.”
Reflecting on what the Trump presidency means for the nation’s future, Mr. Comey said he’s witnessed an erosion of the values that Americans have long lived by.
“I worry that the norms at the center of this country— we can fight as Americans about guns or taxes or immigration, and we always have. But what we have in common is a set of norms,” Mr. Comey said. “Most importantly, the truth. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident,’ right? Truth is the fourth word of that sentence. That’s what we are. And if we lose that, if we lose tethering of our leaders to that truth, what are we?”
But he doesn’t believe the affliction is fatal. In fact, he said it could be remedied as early as 2020 — but not if Mr. Trump is impeached.
Having Congress remove Mr. 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,” Mr. Comey said. “People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values.”
Ending on a poetic note, Mr. Comey likened Mr. Trump to a “forest fire” that will do “tremendous damage to our norms and our values, especially the truth,” but will provide an opportunity for “things to grow that never could’ve grown” on their own.
“And so I see already things growing and flourishing that didn’t before this fire,” he said.
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