In a pair of tweets, Trump accused Comey of leaking classified information and lying to Congress under oath. And Trump said Comey’s handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state would “go down as one of the worst ‘botch jobs’ of history.”
Trump fired Comey, a registered Republican for most of his adult life, in May 2017 in an act that has been under scrutiny by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Trump’s tirade came in response to news stories Thursday on leaked copies of “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership,” a 304-page tell-all by Comey that describes Trump’s presidency as a “forest fire” and portrays the president as an ego-driven congenital liar.
Among the many revelations is that Trump fixated on unconfirmed allegations in a widely circulated intelligence dossier that Russians had filmed him interacting with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013.
In an attempt to blunt the impact of the new book, the Republican National Committee is waging a widespread campaign to undercut Comey’s credibility, including a new website that dubs the former FBI chief as “Lyin’ Comey.”
On Friday, the RNC sent an email to reporters highlighting several tweets from journalists and pundits that questioned the timing of Comey’s book, including some that said Comey should have waited until after the Mueller probe was over to weigh in. Playing off the title of Comey’s book, the subject header on the email was: “A Higher Royalty.”
The RNC effort was launched in advance of a media blitz by Comey that began Friday morning as ABC News aired segments of a longer interview scheduled for Sunday night. During the segment, Comey said he didn’t know whether to believe Trump’s denial that he had spent time with prostitutes in Moscow before he became president.
“I honestly thought these words would never 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. It’s possible, but I don’t know,” Comey told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
In the ABC segment that aired Friday, Stephanopoulos asked Comey if he had disclosed to Trump the source of funding of the dossier, compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer. Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund the research.
“No, I didn’t even think I used the term Steele dossier,” Comey said.
Stephanopoulos asked whether Trump had a right to know about the source of funding.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Comey said. “It wasn’t necessary for my goal, which is to alert him we have this information.”
The dossier included intelligence suggesting the Kremlin was engaged in an effort to assist Trump’s campaign for president. Comey said Trump was most fixated on the allegations about the prostitutes and said that Trump later asked him if he could investigate those claims.
“He said if there’s even a 1 percent chance my wife thinks that’s true, that’s terrible,” Comey recalled. “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’s literally zero chance that my wife would think that was true.”
Some of the early news coverage of Comey’s memoir has made a mockery of Trump, including the cover of Friday’s New York Daily News. It’s lead headline is “PEE BRAIN!” — a reference to unconfirmed allegations in the dossier that Trump had watched prostitutes urinate on themselves in a Moscow hotel suite.
In the book, Comey also writes of some of Trump’s physical attributes in an unflattering way.
“His face appeared slightly orange,” Comey writes, “with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coifed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his.”
On Friday morning, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway called the Comey book “a revisionist view of history” and accused the former FBI director of taking “unnecessary immature potshots.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders heavily criticized Comey at her Friday afternoon briefing with reporters and chided the media for giving him so much coverage.
“We shouldn’t be praising Jim Comey, we should be putting him down,” she said.
The allegation in Trump’s tweets about Comey leaking classified information appears to be a reference to Comey passing along to a friend a memo about his interactions after Trump fired him. Comey has said that some of the memos he wrote after meeting with Trump included classified material but that the one he passed to a friend did not.
Toward the end of the 2016 campaign, Trump praised “the courage” of the FBI for reopening its investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server — a development Clinton has blamed for her election loss.
More recently, Trump has complained that the FBI treated Clinton more leniently than it has treated his associates during the probe into Russian interference in the presidential election.
Philip Rucker contributed to this report.