James Comey’s book tour hasn’t even started and it’s already becoming ground zero in the political and media war over President Trump.
The RNC has set up a website called LyinComey.com, trying to blunt the television blitz that begins with a prime-time Sunday special with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
One thing is clear: the man will sell plenty of books.
It was Trump’s decision to fire Comey nearly one year ago that set off the Russia investigation that continues to dog him and the White House. Had Comey not been canned—and some Trump advisers thought his firing would bring plaudits—then Rod Rosenstein would never have named another ex-FBI director, Bob Mueller, as special counsel.
Any notion that Comey would take the high road was dispelled by an advance ABC clip in which Stephanopoulos asked why he referred to Trump as a mob boss.
This is not going to be a polite debate as Comey peddles his book “A Higher Loyalty.”
The Washington Post has an advance copy, in which Comey says Trump seemed obsessed with having Comey disprove the unsubstantiated “pee tape” — part of the unverified dossier on Russia — raising the issue several times.
“Comey paints a devastating portrait of a president who built ‘a cocoon of alternative reality that he was busily wrapping around all of us.’ Comey describes Trump as a congenital liar and unethical leader, devoid of human emotion and driven by personal ego.
“Comey narrates in vivid detail, based on his contemporaneous notes, instances in which Trump violated the norms protecting the FBI’s independence in attempts to coerce Comey into being loyal to him — such as during a one-on-one dinner in the White House residence.”
And dealing with this “forest fire” of the Trump presidency, Comey writes, gave him “flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob.”
Comey has Republican roots, having served as U.S. attorney and deputy attorney general in the Bush administration before Barack Obama tapped him to run the FBI. And in 2016 he managed to enrage the Republicans (by not seeking an indictment of Hillary Clinton) and the Democrats (by reopening the probe in the campaign’s final days).
He has already testified about his tense interactions with Trump, how the president asked for his loyalty as well as assurances that the FBI wasn’t personally investigating him. Comey said he gave those assurances three times, just as Trump had claimed.
But Comey also had to confess to being a leaker. Shortly after his firing, the New York Times reported on a memo he had written, saying that Trump had suggested he drop his investigation of Mike Flynn, the former national security adviser who has since pleaded guilty. Comey testified that he gave the memo to a friend to share with the Times, and hoped it might lead to the naming of a special counsel.
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel told CNN that “Comey is a liar and a leaker and his misconduct led both Republicans and Democrats to call for his firing.”
Comey, for his part, tweeted last month: “Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.”
The leaks are already under way. The Daily Beast reports Comey’s claim—denied by the White House—that John Kelly told him that he was “sick” over the firing and “intended to quit” because he didn’t “want to work for dishonorable people.” Kelly was then running the Homeland Security department.
The reactions to Comey largely hinge on partisan politics. Republicans denounced him for not bringing charges in the Hillary email scandal. Democrats condemned him just as vigorously when he reopened the probe over an Anthony Weiner laptop, a move that prompted candidate Trump to praise Comey’s “guts.” Clinton has blamed him for costing her the election.
Now the roles are again reversed, with the GOP vilifying Comey and the Dems viewing him as a savior.
The book tour has the potential to be a media lovefest, with journalists who are no fans of Trump embracing Comey’s narrative as a victim of the president. No wonder the Trump team is already trying to blacken his image.