Ex-FBI Director James Comey on Donald Trump: ‘I’m not trying to pick on the guy’

James Comey interviewed by Bruce Alan and Joan Jones on WTOP

WASHINGTON — Former FBI Director James Comey joined WTOP on Wednesday to discuss his new book, in which he sharply criticizes President Donald Trump, compares him to a Mafia boss and said he is threatening American ideals.

Comey said the revelations in the book don’t jeopardize the work of investigators, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who are probing potential ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.

“My testimony is already locked down,” Comey told WTOP. “I gave it under oath to the Senate a year ago. In fact, even before then, it was locked down because I wrote memos about key events and so there really isn’t a serious risk that my story will somehow change. It’s in concrete, frankly, and I’ve offered it to the Senate and to the American people, already.”

Some critics have chided Comey for apparently taking cheap shots at Trump, by including references to president’s height and hand size in the book.

Comey rebutted those charges.

“I’ve never been an author before, but what my editors told me you have to do as an author is bring the reader with you, show them the scene, let them see it through your eyes,” Comey said. “And so I described in detail how Donald Trump seemed to me. I’m not trying to pick on the guy. I’m trying to describe what I saw.”

He added: “If people read the book, I think they will see — in fact, I know they will see — that kind of detail throughout it. Look, I’m not trying to make fun of the guy’s hands. I say in the book, I actually found them to be normal-size hands. It’s about description, not doing anything that’s underhanded or negative.”

During the 2016 primary campaign, Sen. Marco Rubio, one of Trump’s opponents for the Republican nomination, taunted Trump about the purported size of his hands.

In a series of media interviews as part of an extensive book tour, Comey has said Trump is “morally unfit” to be president and that the president may have obstructed justice by firing him last May.

“When people ask me did Donald Trump commit obstruction of justice, my answer is: I don’t know,” Comey said. “Could be. It would depend upon: Is there evidence to establish that he took actions with corrupt intent.”

In his book, the former FBI chief also said the president was preoccupied by salacious details involving Trump and prostitutes in a Russian hotel, which were included in the so-called Steele dossier. Comey has said Trump asked him repeatedly to investigate the matter so it could be disproved, because the details might upset his wife.

Comey said it’s possible Russia has damaging information on Trump but unlikely.

“It just seems far-fetched, the notion that the Russians would have a videotape of the president engaged like that in Moscow. I had to admit, look, it’s possible. But it just seems fantastical and far-fetched.”

Trump and his supporters say the Russia probe amounts to a witch hunt and say there’s a double standard between how Trump is being treated and the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices as secretary of state.

Last summer, shortly after Mueller was appointed special prosecutor, Trump tweeted: “Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, ‘bleached’ emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared- & they talk about obstruction?”

In a 2016 FBI report into her email practices, an aide told investigators he destroyed two of the Clinton’s mobile devices and that other aides sought to permanently delete some emails from the  private email server she used.

Is there a double standard?

“That’s a great question,” Comey said. “That’s the first time I’ve been asked that. And the answer is, it would depend upon what the intent of the people doing it was … Lots of people smash their cellphones so they’re not resold on the secondary market and your personal stuff ends up in somebody else’s hands. But if you smash your cellphone knowing that investigators want it, and that they’ve got a subpoena for it, for example, that is a different thing and can be obstruction of justice.”

Comey announced in 2016 that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in using a private email server but that there was no evidence any crimes had been committed.

Comey’s book is called “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.” It was published Tuesday.

On Twitter, Trump has called Comey a “slime ball,” the “WORST FBI Director in history, by far!” and suggested he should be put in jail.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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