James Comey doesn’t think Donald Trump is fit to be president.
Comey, whom Trump fired as FBI director in May, did not hold back during his first major news interview following his ouster last year.
Comey sat down with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos for an interview that aired Sunday night. It came as part of the buildup for Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” set for release Tuesday.
“You write that President Trump is unethical, untethered to the truth,” Stephanopoulos said. “Is Donald Trump unfit to be president?”
“Yes,” Comey replied. “But not in the way I often hear people talk about it. I don’t buy this stuff about him being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia. He strikes me as a person of above-average intelligence who’s tracking conversations and knows what’s going on.”
He added: “I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president.”
Comey cited Trump’s response to the white nationalist riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, his treatment of women, and what Comey called a tendency to lie “constantly about matters big and small.”
“There’s something more important than that that should unite all of us, and that is our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country,” Comey said. “The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.”
Comey doesn’t think Trump should be impeached
Comey did not, however, advocate that Trump be impeached, calling it a “question of law and fact and politics.”
After Stephanopoulos pressed him for an answer to that question, Comey said, “I hope not because I think impeaching and removing Donald 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.”
He added that US citizens needed to “fight” for American values and that “impeachment, in a way, would short-circuit that.”
Comey’s firing last year led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel in charge of the FBI’s Russia investigation. In addition to looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow during the 2016 election, Mueller is examining whether Trump sought to obstruct justice when he fired Comey.
The White House initially said Comey was fired because of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But Trump later told NBC’s Lester Holt that “this Russia thing” had been a factor in his decision. Ahead of Comey’s book release, Trump, his allies, and the Republican National Committee have launched an aggressive campaign to discredit the former FBI director.
Trump responds on Twitter
“Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning, hours before Comey’s interview was set to air. “In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!”
He later added: “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!”
Comey, however, described in his memoir that his concern lay not with keeping his job but with the possibility of making Clinton appear to be an “illegitimate president” by not disclosing the fact that the FBI had restarted its investigation into her use of a private email server.
“The big question in Comey’s badly reviewed book aren’t answered like, how come he gave up Classified Information (jail), why did he lie to Congress (jail), why did the DNC refuse to give Server to the FBI (why didn’t they TAKE it), why the phony memos, McCabe’s $700,000 & more?” Trump tweeted.
When Stephanopoulos asked Comey what the remedy should be if Mueller found evidence of obstruction of justice, Comey again suggested he thought it was an issue for the voters.