Former FBI director James B. Comey says he does not know whether President Trump committed a crime in office or had a lewd rendezvous with Russian prostitutes in 2013, but Comey has a clear view about this: Trump is “morally unfit to be president.”
In an interview on ABC Sunday night, Comey's unsparing indictment of the president's character stood out from his equivocations on other matters, such as whether Trump has obstructed justice. Comey even dismissed speculation about Trump's mental health and described the president as “a person of above-average intelligence.”
What is clear after Comey's sit-down with George Stephanopoulos is that the former top cop's disdain for Trump is rooted in something more visceral than suspicion of a crime or a low IQ. Put simply, Comey thinks Trump is a bad person.
Over and over, Comey returned to the subject of morality. He went so far as to suggest that the truth of the salacious tale about Trump and prostitutes in Moscow is beside the point. The point, according to Comey, is that the story seems “possible,” rather than outlandish, because of Trump's moral deficiencies.
“He brings it up,” Comey said of Trump, recounting a conversation from January 2017 about the contentious Steele dossier, “and says he may want me to investigate it to prove that it didn’t happen. And then he says something that distracted me. ’Cause he said, you know, 'If there’s even a 1 percent chance my wife thinks that’s true, that’s terrible.'
“And I remember thinking, 'How could your wife think there’s a 1 percent chance you were with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow?' I’m a flawed human being, but there is literally zero chance that my wife would think that was true. So what kind of marriage to what kind of man does your wife think there’s only a 99 percent chance you didn’t do that?”
That is a deeply personal, comparative statement by Comey, who was a lifelong Republican until recently. Among GOP voters, there appears to be little agreement with Comey's contention that Trump's moral failings make him unqualified to be president.
In a Quinnipiac University poll published last month, 84 percent of Republicans approved of Trump's job performance, and only 31 percent said he is not a good role model for children. Strikingly, the results indicated that 1 in 7 Republicans believe Trump is not a good role model but nevertheless approve of him.
Comey's morality-based contempt for Trump appears so strong that he wondered aloud, in the interview: “Where are we as a country? … This president does not reflect the values of this country.”
Yet Comey said he hopes Trump will not be impeached and removed from office.
“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,” Comey said. “People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values.”
It is as if Comey believes that electing Trump was a kind of moral failing by the entire country — a sin that voters must pay for, until Election Day 2020 presents an opportunity for redemption.