President Trump took fresh aim at fired FBI director James B. Comey on Monday, lambasting his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server and asserting again that Comey and another FBI official had committed crimes.
Trump’s comments on Twitter were his first since Comey’s high-profile television interview Sunday night in which he said he believes Trump is “morally unfit” to be president and that he hopes Trump will be voted out of office.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump had watched “bits and pieces” of the interview but not the entire thing.
In his tweet, Trump complained that Comey “drafted the Crooked Hillary exoneration long before he talked to her” and asserted that in deciding how to handle the case, Comey “based his decisions on her poll numbers.”
Trump was referring to a July 2016 recommendation by Comey that Clinton not be charged in relation to her practice of using a private email server while secretary of state.
Documents show that Comey and other FBI officials began discussing the statement he would ultimately deliver months before Clinton was interviewed.
Conservatives have seized on the documents to suggest the outcome of the case was baked in from the start. Comey, though, has defended the practice. He asserted in an interview that aired Sunday night on ABC that it is commonplace for agents and prosecutors to draft indictments when they are far along in the case and have an idea where it might be headed, and this was no different.
“Anybody who’s actually done investigations knows that if you’ve been investigating something for almost a year and you don’t have a general sense of where it’s likely to end up, you should be fired because you’re incompetent,” Comey said.
During the interview, Comey also said that his decision to announce shortly before the election that the FBI was going to reopen the case was influenced by his belief that Clinton would beat Trump and his desire to make sure that the election results were viewed as legitimate.
In his Monday morning tweet, Trump also accused Comey of lying to “Senator G.”
The purported lie to which Trump is referring is likely from Comey’s May testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Comey if he had ever “been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?” or if he had ever “authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?”
Comey responded “never” and “no.”
That response has come under question, after former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe was found by the Justice Department inspector general to have authorized two FBI officials to talk to a reporter on background for an October 2016 story about two Clinton related investigations.
McCabe’s attorney has asserted publicly that emails show “that Mr. McCabe advised Director Comey that he was working with colleagues at the FBI to correct inaccuracies before the stories were published, and that they remained in contact through the weekend while the interactions with the reporter continued.” The inspector general, though, concluded McCabe misled Comey about the interactions he authorized.
In his tweet, Trump asserts, without citing evidence, that a “disgruntled” Comey and McCabe “committed many crimes!”
Though Trump’s tweet was his first since the Comey interview aired, he fired off a series of others before Sunday night, calling Comey a “slimeball,” among other things, and suggesting the former FBI director should be jailed.
The White House and Republican National Committee have launched a widespread campaign to undermine Comey’s credibility as he conducts a media blitz to promote his book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” which is set to be released Tuesday.
“James Comey is a disgraced, disgruntled, discredited individual fired from the FBI for lying and leaking,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said on Fox News on Monday morning. “Only in Washington, D.C., could a proven, admitted liar and leaker be paraded around town as though he were the paragon of virtue. It’s quite frankly disgusting.” (Comey has never admitted lying.)
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Monday that Trump is perplexed that Comey is receiving so much attention for what she characterized as a “revisionist” version of his limited interactions with her boss.
“The president is very confounded that this person is always able to divert the spotlight to him,” Conway said during an appearance on “Good Morning America” on ABC. “He has a very deft way of making things about him.”
Conway said that, in her view, Comey “struggled to answer basic questions and he looked a little shaky” during the interview that aired Sunday night.
“This is somebody who’s giving a revisionist version of history,” Conway told host George Stephanopoulos, who also conducted the interview of Comey. “The president hardly knew the man.”
Conway also complained to Stephanopoulos that Comey was given a “free commercial” to urge viewers to vote against Trump.
In the interview that aired Sunday, Comey said that he would not favor impeaching Trump to remove him from office, because that “would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they’re duty-bound to do directly” — meaning through elections.
“At the end of your interview, George, he gave a free political commercial, telling people to go out there and vote against the president and his interests,” Conway said.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Monday as Trump traveled to Florida, Sanders said she thought there was little new information in the ABC interview. She also questioned Comey’s truthfulness.
“It’s quite interesting that he would question someone else’s when he has such a lack of credibility himself,” Sanders said.
Appearing on CNN on Monday, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said “it’s part of our job to push back.”
“This is somebody who wants a pay day,” McDaniel said of Comey. “He has taken his private conversations with the president and monetized them.”