7 Quotes From Comey's Stephanopoulos Interview About Trump That'll Raise Your Eyebrows
The James Comey media blitz has begun. The former FBI director's highly-anticipated new memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, comes out Tuesday, April 17, and will be followed by a month-long book tour — likely to President Donald Trump's chagrin. On Sunday night, April 15, Comey kicked off the press tour with an ABC exclusive (and explosive) sit-down with George Stephanopoulos, and nothing was off limits. These are the seven quotes from Comey's Stephanopoulos interview about Trump that'll raise your eyebrows.
President Trump fired Comey as FBI director on May 9, 2017, which Comey has said he learned about on the news. Trump told reporters that same day that Comey was fired "because he wasn't doing a good job," but it quickly aroused suspicion that Trump was trying to derail the FBI's investigation of Russian's interference in the 2016 election.
"Regardless of recommendation [from Rod Rosenstein], I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact when I decided to just do it. I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won," Trump said of Comey in a May 11, 2017 interview with NBC's Lester Holt, not exactly assuaging those suspicions.
Comey has not taken the firing lightly.
Just days after Comey was let go, The New York Times reported on a memo that Comey wrote after Trump had reportedly asked him to end the criminal investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn. According to the memo, the one-on-one meeting took place Feb. 14, 2017 — a day after Trump fired Flynn. "I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!" Trump tweeted in December 2017.
If Comey's chat with Stephanopoulos is any indication, the next few weeks are likely to draw even more fury from Trump, who fired off a round of tweets ahead of the highly-anticipated TV interview.
In case you missed it, here are the highlights from Comey's ABC interview on Sunday, and you can find the full transcript here.
Comey believes America is in danger.
Stephanopoulos kicked off the interview by directly citing Comey's book. In it, Stephanopoulos said, Comey alludes to the fact that it is a dangerous time for America. Here's what Comey responded,
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. 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? And so I started to worry. Actually, the foundation of this country is in jeopardy when we stop measuring our leaders against that central value of the truth.
Comey addressed Trump's criticism that he botched the Clinton email investigation.
Trump on Sunday again tweeted about how Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation was done "stupidly," but Comey said that he wasn't an investigator for that case.
"Folks forget I didn't actually do this investigation," Comey said of the Clinton email investigation. "I supervised an organization that did it."
Comey admitted that he didn't think Clinton would be prosecuted from the start, but that it was because of his experiences as a prosecutor — not partisan bias. Comey said,
And so the investigators knew that, unless they found something that was a smoking gun, where someone told Secretary Clinton, 'You know, you shouldn't be doing this,' or where she acknowledged it or where somehow there's an indication of her obstructing justice, the case was unlikely to be prosecuted.
He gave his thoughts on Trump's apparent refusal to criticize Vladimir Putin.
I don't know what's behind that. I mean, that's — that mystified me even after President Trump became president 'cause I discovered that he wouldn't criticize him even in private, which — I can understand a president making a geopolitical decision that, 'I ought not to criticize an adversary country's leader for some reason publicly.' But I discovered President Trump wouldn't even do it privately, and I don't know why that is.
Apparently, Comey's wife and daughters voted for Hillary Clinton?
Comey revealed to Stephanopoulos that his wife and daughters went to the Women's March in D.C. just days after Trump's inauguration, saying,
I didn't take a poll among all the kids, but I'm pretty sure that at least my four daughters, probably all five of my kids, wanted Hillary Clinton to be the first woman president. I know my amazing spouse did. My wife and girls marched in the Women's March the day after President Trump's inauguration.
Comey also noted that he didn't vote in the 2016 election, to preserve his integrity as a member of a non-partisan organization.
Comey discussed what it was like to inform President Barack Obama that the Russians had meddled in the election of Trump.
Comey detailed the moment he briefed President Obama on Jan. 5, 2017 about Russian's interference in the election — remembering incredible details about where they each were sitting and how they looked, saying,
The president and the vice president in arm chairs with their back to the fireplace, and I was sitting slightly off to the right so the president would have to look slightly left to see me. Director Clapper was sitting in the center and he briefed them on the findings of the joint intelligence community assessment and the conclusions about what Russia had done ... And [Clapper] conveyed that it was a joint high-confidence assessment, which is very unusual ... You never say you're sure in the intelligence business. The top level is high-confidence.
Comey was nervous about first meeting Trump.
Comey told Stephanopoulos he was already nervous about meeting President Trump, before former colleague of his made it even worse. Comey said Jeg Johnson, a friend and former colleague, told him to "be careful."
"And it's one of those things that you appreciate a friend saying," Comey said, "[but] it's not really helping me, except to make me feel even more nervous, the lump in my stomach bigger."
The pee tape might be real, and Comey says he talked to Obama about it.
As part of the briefing on Jan. 5, 2017, Comey said he also briefed Obama on what he called "additional material," that could potentially exist and be used as blackmail against President Trump. The "additional material" referred to the Trump-Russia dossier, a private intelligence report comprising 17 memos that were written from June to December 2016 by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer.
The document, made public by BuzzFeed News in January 2017, alleges that the Russians had "compromised" President Trump years ago during a trip to Moscow. During that trip, the document alleges that Trump sought out the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, in which he knew Barack and Michelle had once stayed, and employed a number of prostitutes to perform "golden showers" on the bed. The White House and Trump himself have repeatedly denounced the document as false.
When Comey broached the subject with Obama, he said,
He didn't say a word. President Obama has a great poker face. But he simply turned ... so [he] kind of gave me a — Groucho Marx is how I thought of it, double eyebrow raise. Didn't say a word, but communicated to me at least ... Like, 'Good luck with that.' And — and that was it ... But I read it as, 'You poor bastard.' And almost like, 'Whoa' — but, you know, he didn't explain it and so, like I said, I might be misinterpreting it.
Can't really blame Obama's eyebrows on that one.