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During a Sunday night interview with George Stephanopoulos of “20/20”, former FBI Director James Comey claimed that President Donald Trump was “morally unfit to be president.” Sunday marked Comey's first interview since being fired in May of 2017.
“There's something more important than 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 told Stephanopoulos. “The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.”
Comey added that supporters of the president who admire his gumption and outsider mentality are “kidding themselves,” as no amount of agenda-driven policy is worth a slip-back on basic principles. The former prosecutor and FBI director declined to answer directly whether or not he thought that Trump should be impeached, however.
The exclusive “20/20” interview provided little new information, instead providing a tremendous amount of context around the months leading up to the 2016 general election and the relationship between the president and a federal department tasked with probing into the more salacious accusations of his administration.
Touching on one of the more obscene charges against Trump, Comey hinted at the existence of the much-talked-about “pee tape,” a video allegedly containing compromising footage of President Trump and sex workers. The tape was first described in detail in the infamous Steele Dossier published by BuzzFeed.
“I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” said Comey. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.”
Both Trump and the former-FBI director discussed the alleged dossier during their first meeting in Trump Tower before the inauguration. However, Comey neglected to tell the president-elect that the aforementioned dossier was funded by his political opponents.
Where Trump's political opponent — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — was concerned, Comey took time to explain the FBI's involvement in the scandal involving Clinton's alleged use of a private email server to send and receive confidential emails.
Many of Comey's critics point to an assumed public mishandling of the case as a key reason why Clinton lost the presidency. In speaking to Stephanopoulos, Comey repeatedly defended his decision to break from Attorney General Loretta Lynch and hold an independent press conference announcing that the FBI would not prosecute Clinton.
“This wasn't your ordinary bureaucrat who just mishandles one document. This was something more than that,” Comey said, “but not something that anybody would prosecute.”
Comey added that the press conference was his “way to both convey that and to capture that it was more than just ordinary carelessness.” He was sure to criticize his former boss President Barack Obama for speaking in defense of Clinton in the heat of investigations.
“I think he felt a pressure in the political environment because he wanted Hillary Clinton to be elected, to give her a shot in the arm,” he said. “And he shouldn’t have done that.”
The interview comes days before Comey's book “A Higher Loytaly: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” hits the shelves; even before its launch, the book has sold nearly 200,00 copies.
As excerpts circulated online over the past week, Trump took to Twitter to push back on several allegations from the tell-all. Trump called Comey “slippery” and “out of whack,” and someone who will be known as the “worst FBI director in history.”
Trump also pushed back on the claim that he demanded the former FBI director pledge his loyalty to him and the administration.
“I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty. I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies. His “memos” are self serving and FAKE!” Trump tweeted Sunday morning, just hours before the interview was scheduled to air.
It seems, though, that the bad blood flows both ways. Comey suggested that working for the administration leaves an unerasable black mark on an individual's life.
“The challenge of this president is that he will stain everyone around him,” Comey said. And he suggested that stain may have a permanent effect on U.S. democracy.
He added: “And the question is, how much stain is too much stain and how much stain eventually makes you unable to accomplish your goal of protecting the country and serving the country?”