President Donald Trump is preparing for former FBI Director James Comey’s upcoming book tour media blitz the only way he knows how: by losing his cool on Twitter.
On Sunday morning, Trump sent a series of angry, over-the-top tweets (even for Trump) attacking Comey, whose book A Higher Loyalty, a memoir that includes explosive details about the runup to his firing as FBI director by Trump, will be released on April 17.
The gist of the tweet screed Sunday morning are three-fold:
One, he attacks Comey personally, again calling him a “slime ball.”
Second, he questions Comey’s integrity, calling the memos Comey relies on to make his claims about Trump’s decision to fire him, “phony.” “I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty,” Trump wrote. “I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies. His ‘memos’ are self serving and FAKE!”
Third, Trump gets into his claim that there’s a partisan conspiracy working against him — claiming former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is corrupt, and that this is all somehow actually Hillary Clinton’s fault.
Trump’s had a very bad week — his personal attorney’s office and house were raided. It looks like a trip to Prague the lawyer, Michael Cohen, claimed never happened, might have. And he’s continued to have trouble finding a lawyer to take his case. His reaction to all this (amid American strikes on the Assad regime) is lash out publicly.
Comey responded with a not-so-subtle tweet of his own. “My book is about ethical leadership & draws on stories from my life & lessons I learned from others,” he wrote. “3 presidents are in the book: 2 help illustrate the values at the heart of ethical leadership; 1 serves as a counterpoint. I hope folks read the whole thing and find it useful.”
What Trump’s talking about
There’s a lot going on in Trump’s Sunday morning tweets, so let’s back up a bit to see what he’s trying to get at.
Comey told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview with 20/20 to be aired Sunday evening that his decision to publicly announce the FBI had reopened its investigation into Clinton’s emails just days before the election was likely influenced by the fact that he thought she would win. “It must have been,” he said, adding he was “operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump.”
In his book, Comey expresses something similar, writing that it is “entirely possible” he was making the decision because he thought Clinton would win. “[M]y concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in the polls,” he wrote. Clinton herself has said she thinks Comey’s handling of the email probe ultimately caused her loss.
In Sunday’s tweets, Trump cited Comey’s admission about his decision-making and asserted, confusingly, that he handled the investigation how he did because he wanted a job, presumably in the Clinton administration.
Comey kept contemporaneous memos of his interactions with the president and told the Senate Intelligence Committee last June that he did so because he thought Trump might lie about them. One of the memos, which was initially reported by the New York Times in May 2017, said that the president encouraged Comey to drop the investigation into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump also asked why the Democratic National Committee did not give its email server to the FBI, or why the FBI didn’t seize it after it was hacked by Russians during the presidential campaign. The FBI and the DNC have had a strange back-and-forth on what happened on this issue — the DNC told BuzzFeed last year that the bureau “never requested access” to the servers and the FBI said the DNC wouldn’t grant them access.
As for McCabe: He’s the former FBI deputy director Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired in March. In 2015, McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, ran for a state Senate seat in Virginia, backed in part with money provided by the state Democratic Party and a Clinton ally. Trump has often invoked the issue as a reason to accuse McCabe of corruption, even though there is no evidence it influenced his decision-making.
Trump also accused Comey of throwing former Attorney General Loretta Lynch “under the bus,” drawing his phrasing from a New York Post headline from Friday. The president appears to be referring to passages in A Higher Loyalty in which Comey wrote that he had a “tortured half-in, half-out approach” to the investigation into Clinton’s emails. The former FBI director said he considered calling for a special prosecutor to be brought in to oversee the probe but decided it would be “brutally unfair” to do that.
During the summer of the 2016 campaign, Lynch met with former President Bill Clinton on a tarmac while the email investigation was still underway. Conservatives cried foul, insinuating there was something corrupt about the meeting, which Clinton and Lynch said was largely friendly talk about their grandchildren.
Trump on Sunday revived the tarmac conspiracy, asking what happened between “Wild Bill” and Lynch. He publicly wondered whether she had been promised a Supreme Court seat or to become attorney general to “lay off Hillary.”
Comey recommended no criminal charges to the Justice Department in the Clinton email probe, instead reprimanding the former Secretary of State as “extremely careless.” Lynch accepted Comey’s recommendation not to charge Clinton.
The former FBI director has multiple media appearances lined up in the coming days before his book release, starting with 20/20 on Sunday. A number of excerpts have already been released, and they don’t paint the best picture of the president — which seems to explain his preemptive protests and attacks.