The interview with Mr. Comey and the publicity tour of his book, which is scheduled to arrive at the bookstores on Tuesday, amount to a notable public assault on a sitting president by someone who served at the highest levels of office. government.  What is at stake for both men could hardly be higher. It is probable that Mr. Comey will be the star witness in any case of obstruction of justice that Robert S. Mueller III, the special advisor in the extensive investigation on Russia, may present against the president. Mr. Trump's legal destiny, as well as his political fortunes in Washington, may depend on whether he succeeds in undermining the credibility of Mr. Comey and the police institutions he considers armed against him.
While many of Mr. Trump's critics believe that the proper remedy for their perceived transgressions is the accusation, Mr. Comey insisted that he would simply "liberate the American people." He said the public was "forced" to vote Mr. Trump out of the office at the next election.
"You can not have, as president of the United States, someone who does not reflect the values that I believe Republicans treasure and Democrats treasure and independent treasures," said Mr. Comey. "That is the core of this country, that's our base, and so the accusation, in a way, would short-circuit that."
Epic Battle of Wills
Mr. Comey's intensely personal attacks – a reflection of his self-justification, say his detractors – are even more combustible because they are aimed directly at a president who proudly said on Twitter that "when someone attacks me, I always attack. .. except 100 times more. "
As if it were the moment, hours before the interview was broadcast, Mr. Trump called Mr. Comey "slobbery" for the second time in three days, saying in a couple of first thing in the morning, the Twitter messages that said he belonged to prison for what the president said were lies to Congress and leaked classified information. In another publication, Trump said that Mr. Comey would go down in history as "the worst director in the history of the FBI in history." He added that "he is not smart!"
In the ABC interview, Mr. Comey had nicer things to say about Mr. Trump's intellectual capacity, saying that he did not believe that the president suffered from mental incompetence or was in the first stages of dementia. He said Mr. Trump hit him as a person of "above average intelligence".
But Mr. Comey responded to the president's Twitter messages with a more subtle suction.
"My book is about ethical leadership and is based on stories from my life and lessons I learned from others" he wrote on Twitter. "3 presidents are in my book: 2 help illustrate values at the heart of ethical leadership; 1 serves as a counterpoint."
It is not clear where this epic battle of wills will lead, apart from a sustained escalation of insults between two men who have admitted to overcoming egos. But it's sure to be a test of powerful forces in the modern media landscape: the presidential megaphone, amplified by 50 million followers on Twitter, and the global reach of an adversary who is in an endless news channel 24 hours . Book travel conducted.
The president took a break from his attacks on Mr. Comey as he left the White House on a rainy Sunday afternoon to spend time at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia. But it seemed likely that he and his allies would not back down in the face of Mr. Comey's barrage of public accusations, which are expected to continue for weeks.
On ABC's "Week" on Sunday morning, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, press secretary, unloaded on Mr. Comey, calling him a "self-admitted infiltrator" and a liar. At the White House on Friday, she had called him a "dishonored party slacker" and a fired employee desperately trying to "rehabilitate his ragged reputation and enrich his own bank account."
Mr. Comey was equally rampant in his ABC interview, talking about the abandonment of a man who finally feels unleashed. He repeated for the cameras some of the affirmations in his book that he must know that they will be under the president's skin: that Mr. Trump's hands are "medium-sized", that his skin is "orange" and that it seemed lower than Mr. Comey had imagined that it would be.
"His tie was too long, as it always is," said Mr. Comey. "He looked slightly orange close up with little white moons under his eyes, which I guess are from tanning goggles."
Mr. Comey described in vivid detail the interactions he had with Mr. Trump, including meetings and phone calls about which he said he meticulously wrote notes for posterity. (In another Twitter post on Sunday morning, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Comey's "memos" are self-sufficient and FALSE!)
Some of Mr. Comey's most striking statements They revolved around their first meeting with the president-elect at Trump Tower a few days before the inauguration. On that day, intelligence officers, including Mr. Comey, informed the incoming president about Russia's attempt to interfere in the elections.
Mr. Comey said that Mr. Trump and his aides seemed interested only in what the former F.B.I. Director called "P.R. and rotate" on the subject.
"The conversation, to my surprise, moved into a P.R conversation about how the Trump team would position this and what they could say about this," said Mr. Comey. "I do not remember any questions about, then, what are you going to do next, how can we stop it, what is the future like, because we will be custodians of the security of this country." There was nothing like that.
"It was all," What can we say about what they did and how it affects the choice we just had? & # 39; "Mr. Comey said.
It was at the end of the meeting that Mr. Comey said he asked to speak with Mr. Trump just to inform him about Salaz's" Steele File, "which contains unverified allegations about Mr. Trump, including a claim that the Russian government has video recordings of him watching prostitutes urinate on each other in a hotel room in Moscow in 2013.
Mr Comey said that Mr. Trump denied the accusations of That day and said: "Do I look like a guy who needs whores?" Weeks later, in a phone call after BuzzFeed published the dossier, Mr. Trump again denied the account in graphic terms, said Mr. Comey.
"There's no way I can let people pee with me," Trump said, according to Mr. Comey's account. Mr. Comey said the president also raised the idea that the The FBI should investigate the claim as a way to prove that it never happened. omey said he warned Mr. Trump that doing so would add to "the narrative" that the president was under investigation.
Mr. Comey said in the interview that he did not know if the episode had taken place, or if the Russians had material they could use to blackmail Mr. Trump.
"I think it's possible, I do not know," Mr. Comey told Mr. Stephanopolous. "These are more words than I ever thought I would talk about a president of the United States, but it is possible."
Signs of a Mafia Boss
Mr. Comey also offered additional details about the one-on-one dinner in which he says Mr. Trump demanded his loyalty.
"And I said: You'll always get honesty from me," Mr. Comey recalled. "And he stopped and then said, 'Honest loyalty,' as if he were proposing some compromise or deal." And I stopped and said, "You'll give it to me."
That dinner felt like a kind of mafia initiation, Mr. Comey said in the interview, similar to what he used to find as a young prosecutor. working to separate the mafia.
"By the way, I'm not trying to suggest that President Trump is breaking his legs and, you know, shaking shopkeepers," Mr. Comey said. Instead, it was reminiscent of "the oaths of loyalty, the boss as the dominant center of everything." It is about how to serve the boss, what is in the boss's interest. It's family, family, family, family. "
In one of his Sunday posts on Twitter Mr. Trump insisted that" I never asked Comey for personal loyalty. He hardly knew this guy. "
As he does in his book, Mr. Comey maintained a great distance in the Russian research interview, but said that Mr. Trump must have known that it was wrong to ask his other senior advisers who left the Oval Office to ask Mr. Comey to leave the investigation in the hands of Michael T. Flynn, his newly advised national security adviser.
"If he did not know he was doing something wrong, why? What drove the attorney general, the vice president of the United States and the leaders of the intelligence community? "Mr. Comey said.
Certainly, it is evidence of obstruction of justice," he said, adding that The prosecutor would need to evaluate "other things that reflect his intention".
The president has repeatedly criticized Mr. Comey for his handling of Hillary Clinton's email case. On Sunday, he did it again in a Twitter post, stating that Mr. Comey had admitted in his book that it was easy for him because he thought he would win the election.
In fact, Mr. Comey said otherwise in his book, acknowledging that he may have unwittingly assumed that she would win when she reopened the investigation by email a few days before the election, something that Many Democrats believe it was devastating for their campaign.
In the ABC interview, Mr. Comey said he believed at that time that it would be extremely damaging to the FBI's credibility. if the reopened investigation did not come to light until after Mrs. Clinton won the White House.
"If I ever begin to consider what political fortune will be affected by a decision, we are finished," he said. "We are no longer that group in the United States that is separated from the supporters, and that can be trusted."
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