On Sunday night, former FBI Director James Comey spoke with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos for five hours as part of a media blitz for his new memoir. In the highly anticipated interview, an hour of which made it on air, Comey said he believed that Trump is not morally fit to be president but that he should not be impeached; that Comey’s actions regarding the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails were likely influenced by his assumption that Clinton would win the presidency; and that Trump’s alleged request for Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn could amount to obstruction of justice.
The interview contained little that was new, except possibly an unaired bit in which Comey said that he publicly reopened the investigation when early emails between aide Huma Abedin and Clinton were found because he thought it was possible he would find a “smoking gun” in which Clinton was advised against using a private server. But many who watched the interview noted that Comey appeared to be shifting from publicly portraying himself as an impartial man of the law to a political pundit or resistance figure. And conservative figures—starting with Trump—reacted as you might expect.
Trump’s accusations here about Comey are not particularly shocking: Trump already spent the weekend ranting about “slimeball” Comey on Twitter. He also wasn’t particularly clear about what crimes he was accusing Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe of. Trump’s more specific accusations here have to do with documents, revealed long ago, showing the FBI began drafting the statement that would conclude the Clinton email investigation months before the FBI interviewed Clinton (Comey has defended this as a common practice). The other, that he “based his decisions on her poll numbers,” came from Comey’s own admission that his belief that Clinton would win the election likely influenced his decision to announce the FBI was reopening the investigation into Clinton’s emails in the days before the election. (Clinton has maintained that this move cost her the election).
Trump surrogates also responded with variations of outrage and scorn following the interview. On Monday morning, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said on Good Morning America that Comey gave a “revisionist version of history” and “struggled to answer basic questions and looked a little shaky.”
Sean Hannity, responding in real time on Twitter on Sunday night, directed his anger not at Comey but at Stephanopoulos.
He still saved a bit of ire for Comey.
And former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka spoke for “all decent Americans.”
There’s likely more drama to come as Comey continues his media tour. He is planning to appear on ABC’s The View on Wednesday, CNN and MSNBC on Thursday, and Fox News on April 26.