On Tuesday night, Stephen Colbert conducted a fascinating interview with former FBI Director James Comey. Comey, who headed up the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s alleged election interference, was fired in May of last year. He wrote a book about his experience called A Higher Loyalty, and went on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to discuss it. “Of all the people to be fired by Donald Trump, my guest tonight is definitely one of them,” the host said by way of introduction.
The interview opened with a toast, as Colbert produced two paper cups of pinot noir, the drink Comey wrote he had on his flight home post-firing. “To the truth,” Colbert toasted, with Comey’s affirmation. “Yes, to the truth.”
The unabridged, half-hour interview, which CBS posted to YouTube late Tuesday night, covers all manner of issues, from Comey’s firing to Trump’s alleged golden shower sex tape (or, as Colbert delicately refers to it, “the pee pee tape”). Colbert dives deep into Comey’s controversial moments, including his decision to announce the FBI findings regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails—an unprecedented, perhaps underhanded move—and his decision to reopen the Clinton investigation right before the 2016 election. “It makes me sick to my stomach to think we might have had an impact [on the election]. I hope and pray we didn’t,” Comey said. Still, for him, “it wouldn’t change the decision” to reopen the investigation. Colbert, simultaneously gregarious and probing, was especially keen to challenge Comey on the necessity of that move.
One of the interview’s greatest moments came when Colbert brought up Trump’s tweets on Comey. (The president recently called Comey “Slippery James” and a “slimeball.”) Comey dissed Trump but ultimately cautioned America against complacency:
I’ve been gone a year, I’m like a breakup he can’t get over. I’m out there living my best life, he wakes up in the morning and tweets at me … My first reaction to those kinds of tweets is a shrug … But actually, then I caught myself and I said, “Wait a minute, if I’m shrugging, are the rest of the country shrugging? Does that mean we’ve become numb to this?” It’s not OK for the president of the United States to say a private citizen should be in jail. It’s not normal, it’s not acceptable, it’s not OK. But it’s happened so much, there’s a danger we’re now numb to it, and the norm has been destroyed … We have to talk about it and call it out, it’s not OK.
Comey’s words were met with raucous applause from Colbert’s crowd.
As noted in the interview, A Higher Loyalty has drawn criticism for describing Trump’s orange-y appearance and small hands. Still, as Colbert pointed out after ripping out the one page where that’s mentioned, there are plenty of other pages that are “pretty good, and pretty gripping.”