U.S. President Donald Trump is “morally unfit” to be president, former FBI director James Comey charged in an interview broadcast on Sunday night.
Comey said anyone who can see “moral equivalence” in protests by white supremacists and people who oppose them, who treats women like “pieces of meat” and who “lies constantly” and insists Americans believe it is “not fit to be president of the United States on moral grounds,” Comey said in the interview on ABC.
The man, who served as Trump’s FBI director until the president fired him in May, said the truth, the rule of law and integrity were “things [that] matter before any fights about policies” like whether the U.S. should build a border wall or more strictly regulate the sale guns.
He said he was not hoping for Trump’s impeachment because that would “let the American people off the hook.”
“He believes Americans are “duty bound” to “go to the voting booth and vote their values.”
The interview was Comey’s first ahead of the publication on Tuesday of “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership,” his book about his short tenure in the Trump administration.
Excerpts of the book released last week paint a devastating portrait of the president as a congenital liar and an unethical leader, and it already has Trump’s attention.
It was the subject of five of eight tweets the president sent Sunday morning.
Comey spoke in the interview about a “dossier” containing raw intelligence on Trump’s connections with Russians.
He said it was raised in his first meeting with Trump shortly after the election in which Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election was discussed.
Comey said he believed from the outset in the credibility of the source who wrote the dossier, former a British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.
Because of that Comey said he believed it “was important that we try to understand [the dossier], and see what could we verify.”
The dossier includes salacious details about Trump’s alleged behaviour with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013.
It raises the possibility that the Russians had filmed Trump and could use the recording to blackmail him.
He said he thinks it’s possible the Russians have something that could compromise Trump.
“It is stunning and I wish I wasn’t saying it, but it’s just – it’s the truth,” he said, but added, “It always struck me and still strikes me as unlikely.”
Trump has slammed the dossier as fake and a disgrace. Comey also said that when Trump said, “I hope you can let it go” during a subsequent meeting at which an investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, was raised, he took that as a “direction,” which he said “certainly (is) some evidence of obstruction of justice.”
The former FBI director reiterated that Trump asked for his loyalty, saying it reminded him of how mafia bosses operate. But Comey, an appointee of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, told him his loyalty is supposed to be to the American people and the FBI.
There was no reaction from Trump after the interview but his pre-emptive tweets made clear his thoughts.
He called Comey a “slime ball” and said he would go down as the worst FBI director in history.
The assertion that Trump demanded loyalty was “another of his many lies,” Trump tweeted.
He had already attacked Comey on Friday, calling him “a proven LEAKER & LIAR” who should be prosecuted for leaking classified information.
Trump said Comey’s book fails to answer questions about why the Justice Department didn’t prosecute Hillary Clinton for using a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
Comey in the interview stood by decisions he made regarding Clinton during the campaign – first not to prosecute and then to re-open the investigation 10 days before the election, only to close it again a day or two prior to the vote.
He said his choice of words in deciding not to prosecute her was a mistake.
Comey said they should have conveyed that what she did was more than just an ordinary mistake, but was not criminal behavior.
He re-opened the case after some of her emails were discovered on the server of her closest aide’s husband, who was being prosecuted in a sexting case.
Clinton has asserted that she would have been elected president if Comey hadn’t re-opened the investigation.