James Comey interview: Trump 'morally unfit' to be president as a man who treats women 'like pieces of meat,' says former FBI chief

World

Former FBI director James Comey has said President Donald Trump, is “morally unfit” for office as part of a publicity tour for his highly-anticipated new book A Higher Loyalty.

Mr Trump fired Mr Comey in May 2017, as Mr Comey was leading an investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election of 2016, which has now expanded to include investigations into possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia. Mr Trump has repeatedly hit out at Mr Comey, in a series of tweets since experts of the book started to appear on Thursday, the president has called him a “slimeball” and a “liar”.

In his first interview since being fired, Mr Comey painted a scything picture of the president.

“Our president must embody respect, and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country. The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president,” he said.

See the liveblog below to follow the interview as it happened, please give a few seconds for it to load.

Live Updates

13 hours ago

Hello, and welcome to our coverage of the ABC interview with former FBI Director James Comey

13 hours ago

It is the start of a week of interviews for his new book A Higher Loyalty, which is one of the most high-profile political memoirs of recent times.

13 hours ago

Mr Trump’s firing of Mr Comey back in May 2017 was one of the biggest decisions of the first year of Mr Trump’s presidency.

Mr Comey was leading an investigation into Russian meddling into the presidential election that Mar Trump won – with investigations also taking place in both the House and the Senate in Congress.

Mr Comey’s firing brought the investigation into even greater focus, and the investigation has expanded under Special Counsel Robert Mueller who was hired in the wake of the ousting of the then-FBI director.
 

13 hours ago

Mr Trump has repeatedly called the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt”.

But he has also made clear his disdain for Mr Comey in a number of recent tweets,

In a run of tweets on Sunday he touched on a number of topics, including Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server when Secretary of State – a frequent target for him during the presidential contest between the two.
 

13 hours ago

The second asked why Mr Comey wasn’t being invested for this conduct and suggesting he should be in jail. 
 

13 hours ago

Another on former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

As for Ms Lynch, today, she has pushed back against Mr Comey’s criticism in his book that, early in the Hillary Clinton email inquiry, she had instructed Mr Comey to refer to it as a “matter” rather than an “investigation.”

In a statement to The Associated Press Ms Lynch said she was simply following longstanding Justice Department protocol against confirming or denying the existence of an investigation. She also said that Mr Comey never raised any concerns with her regarding the email investigation. 
 

12 hours ago

Another couple of tweets bashed Mr Comey’s character, and his assertion in the book Mr Trump had asked him for loyalty.
 

12 hours ago

Mr Comey hit back via Twitter on Sunday – saying his book was about “ethical leadership” and appearing to suggest Mr Trump is the “counterpoint” to that.
 

12 hours ago

The war of words is over some of the contents of the book, which no doubt has the capacity to embarrass President Trump.
 

12 hours ago

For those that want a quick primer ahead of the interview – which is about 30 mins away – here is our reporter Andrew Griffin live-blogging his reading of the book.

12 hours ago

While we wait for the interview to start, some more news related to the White House:

An attorney for President Donald Trump has told a federal judge that prosecutors should not get to study evidence seized from his personal lawyer until that lawyer and the president have reviewed those materials to see what is subject to attorney-client privilege. 

Attorney Joanna Hendon made the request in a letter submitted late on Sunday to federal Judge Kimba Wood in a Manhattan court. 

Federal officials raided Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s residences, office and safety deposit box, taking records and electronic devices including two mobile phones. 

Mr Cohen has been ordered to appear on Monday in federal court in New York for arguments over last week’s raid. 

Prosecutors say they are investigating Mr Cohen’s personal business activities, but haven’t said what law they think he’s broken. Mr Cohen denies any wrongdoing.

12 hours ago

The new book from Mr Comey is no doubt an issue for the president, let’s not forget that Mr Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Banon called Mr Comey’s firing “the biggest mistake in modern political history”.
 

12 hours ago

The book itself is out on Tuesday, with the publisher said to have printed nearly a million copies.

12 hours ago

And hear we go…

12 hours ago

He comes the opening statement from George who calls him a “polarising man”.

12 hours ago

Mr Comey says we are living through “dangerous times” – but he did not vote.

12 hours ago

Mr Comey says he was afraid before his first meeting with Trump, and we are onto Steele dossier, which contained allegations about prostitutes in Moscow.

12 hours ago

His says his view on Mr Trump’s hair was that “it must take a long time in the morning”

12 hours ago

We are now onto the much publicised elements of comparisons to the mafia.

12 hours ago

And here comes the Steele dossier, which Mr Trump has denied all elements of. Mr Comey says that he told Trump about some of the details but not all.

He didn’t tell Mr Trump that he had been financed by his political opponents.

The wide-ranging television interview with ABC lasted for five hours, with a condensed one hour version being broadcast on Sunday night. Questions centred around the new book, which challenges the president’s character in labelling him a mafia don and raises doubts about his commitment to serving America. In the transcript of the interview Mr Comey said Mr Trump will “stain” everyone around him.

Mr Comey is clearly trying to set up a dichotomy between himself and the president, but there were few absolutely new revelations in the interview. Still that does not diminish the powerful spectacle of the former FBI director – who was involved in a number of major events in Mr Trump’s run for, and then first year in, the White House – denigrating the sitting president.

Having started as the one in charge of the FBI investigation into Russian election meddling, which included investigating any possible collusion between Trump campaign personnel and Moscow, Mr Comey had plenty to say on that subject.

Mr Comey said he thinks it is “possible” that President Donald Trump might be compromised by the Russians. He said it struck him as unlikely but he could not say it with “high confidence” like he could with other presidents he has worked.

“It is stunning, and I wish I wasn’t saying it, but it’s the truth,” Mr Comey said.

He also described the “weird” Trump Tower meeting in which after the election he briefed the president-elect on the contents of an unverified intelligence document compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, including allegations that Mr Trump had been in a Moscow hotel room in 2013 with urinating Russian prostitutes.

“I did not go into the business about people peeing on each other” in his briefing with Trump, Comey said. “I just wanted to get it done and get out of there.”

Mr Trump has denied all allegations around the dossier. 

As Mr Comey also described the two famous episodes of being alone with Mr Trump, one a dinner where Mr Comey said that Trump “I expect loyalty, I need loyalty.” and the other in the Oval Office when Mr Trump asked him “I hope you can let it go”, which Mr Comey took as a “direction” to drop an FBI investigation into Mr Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. 

James Comey ‘compares Donald Trump to mob boss’ in ABC News exclusive interview promo

Mr Trump and the White House have denied wither conversation taking place, while Mr Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Asked whether he believed Mr Trump had committed obstruction of justice, Mr Comey said “it’s possible” and there was “ certainly some evidence” that it may have happened. Mr Trump has denied collusion with Russia and allegations of obstruction of justice.

Mr Comey has come under attack from Mr Trump in recent days in a number of tweets that have labelled him “slippery” and a “slimeball”. It is something he has in common with the man that took over the FBI Russia investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, with Mr Trump having labelled that investigation a “witch hunt”.

The former FBI director said that if Mr Trump were to fire Mr Mueller, both Democrats and Republicans would have to recognise as  Mr Trump’s “most serious attack yet on the rule of law.”

While there  were a couple of lighter moments, including Mr Comey saying that when meeting Mr Trump for the first time he realised he had “impressively coifed hair” that “looks to be all his”.

“I stared at it pretty closely”, Mr Comey said, “and my reaction was, ‘It must take a heck of a lot of time in the morning, but it’s impressively coifed.’”

Mr Comey said that his role in the 2016 election, in re-opening and than closing an FBI investigation into the emails of Mr Trump’s rival candidate Hillary Clinton close to polling day “sucked”. Ms Clinton and some Democrats blame him for her loss, but Mr Comey said it was a “no-win” situation and that he was a “flawed human” trying to make decisions based on “higher values”.

Agencies contributed to this report

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