On Sunday evening, former FBI director James Comey gave a much-anticipated interview to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos as part of the promotion for his upcoming book, A Higher Loyalty, and everyone was eager to see if Comey would finally divulge damning information about his time spent working with the Trump administration.
In the interview, Comey discusses Trump, the Mueller investigation, the 2016 election, some recollections of his childhood, and even mentions the rumored “pee tape.” With so much to cover, it’s not surprising that ABC had to edit down the original interview from five hours to one hour.
One of the main talking points of the interview was Comey’s involvement and influence on the outcome of the 2016 election — in particular, the moment he announced that the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server was being reopened. While many accused Comey of shamelessly tipping the election in Trump’s favor, Comey says that he was attempting to be as transparent as possible. He even says that he assumed Clinton was going to win the presidency.
“I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump,” Comey claims in the interview. “There was a lotta passion in this house for Hillary Clinton … But again, I hope it illustrates to people that I really wasn’t making decisions based on political fortunes.”
“If you conceal the fact that you have restarted the Hillary Clinton email investigation … not in some silly way but in a very, very important way that may lead to a different conclusion, what will happen to the institutions of justice when that comes out?”
That said, Comey claims that the period following the election was deflating.
“It sucked. It was a very painful period,” he admits. “Again, my whole life has been dedicated to institutions that work not to have an involvement in an election …That’s the way I felt. I felt like I was totally alone, that everybody hated me. And that there wasn’t a way out because it really was the right thing to do.”
Comey definitely made sure to give the people what they wanted, though (or at least brush upon it), and offered some small opinions on the ongoing Mueller investigation. Specifically, Comey mentioned when Trump strongly suggested to him that it might be in his best interest to drop the investigation of former security advisor Michael Flynn.
“It’s certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice,” Comey said of Trump’s pointed request. “It would depend and — and I’m just a witness in this case, not the investigator or prosecutor, it would depend upon other things that reflected on his intent.”
As for the pee tape? Well, Comey claims he had no idea whether or not the tape itself is real, but he seems to have confidence in the Steele Dossier’s validity, saying that “certainly the source was credible.”
Comey also adds that Trump did feel the need to proclaim his innocence of the allegations presented in the document, and called Comey up to offer his own unsolicited explanation. It was during this conversation that Trump apparently told Comey that the allegations couldn’t be real because he’s a germaphobe who doesn’t “look like a guy who needs hookers.”
“I just remember thinking, ‘Everything’s gone mad,'” Comey says. “And then, [Trump] having finished his explanation, which I hadn’t asked for, he hung up. And I went to find my chief of staff to tell him that the world’s gone crazy.”
And make no mistake: Comey does not think Trump is suited to be president, and had some choice words on the matter.
“I don’t buy this stuff about [Trump] being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia,” Comey asserts. “He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence who’s tracking conversations and knows what’s going on. I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president … The challenge of this president is that he will stain everyone around him. 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?”
“I think of it as a forest fire,” Comey continues. “That forest fires do tremendous damage. His presidency is doing, and will do, tremendous damage to our norms and our values, especially the truth. And so that’s bad. And terrible things happen in forest fires.”
As bleak as that forest fire analogy might be, Comey says that he still has hope for the future.
“I’m an optimistic person. And so I choose to see the opportunity in a forest fire ’cause what forest fires do is allow things to grow that never could’ve grown. Were crowded out, didn’t have the light or the water to grow. And so I see already things growing and flourishing that didn’t before this fire.”
You can read the entire transcript of the interview here.