On Sunday evening, former FBI director James Comey sat down for a two-hour interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos to talk about his new book, A Higher Loyalty. The interview was chock-filled with quotable moments; already, the media are going haywire over it. President Trump has signaled his own displeasure on Twitter.
So, here’s what was important.
1. Comey’s A Political Actor. Over and over again, Comey suggested that he allowed political considerations to impact his legal work. He says he decided to announce Hillary’s non-indictment in order to avoid allowing the FBI to look like a tool of the Department of Justice after Loretta Lynch’s tarmac meeting with President Clinton. He said that he took the polls into consideration when determining whether or not to inform the public about the re-opening of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
2. Comey Hates Trump. Either he hated Trump before the election or learned to hate him afterward. But he didn’t quit — he was fired. Despite all of his nasty words about Trump, at no point did he walk away from his job in protest, and simply say everything on his mind. Instead, he waited to be fired after refusing to say publicly what he was telling Trump privately: that Trump wasn’t under investigation. Nonetheless, Comey spent the interview ripping Trump as a crime boss, tore into Trump’s physical appearance, called Trump a “forest fire,” and suggested that Trump not be impeached but be thrown out by voters. He even said that Trump never laughs in public or private.
3. Comey Loves Obama And Company. Comey described how much he loved Obama, Loretta Lynch, and Jeh Johnson, among others; Trump, he says, was unfit for a hug: “And so I'm not an unusually strong person but I work out and so I tighten my abs and my core and I'm thinking, this-- 'Unless he's a lot stronger than he looks, he's not getting a hug.' And so he pulls and he doesn't get the hug.”
3. Comey Loves Him Some Comey. Comey talked about how he was like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense, not one but two times; he talked about drinking on his way back from Los Angeles after being fired; he talked about his own history of wonder going all the way back to Martha Stewart. At one point, he seemed to stop and assess his own ego problem, then went right back into pumping his book: ““I have to be careful not to fall in love with my own view of things. And so that battle with ego and my sense that memoirs are an exercise in ego convinced me I was never going to write a book.” Spoiler alert: he wrote a book.
4. Comey’s Grandstanding. Comey admits he had no good reason for not telling Trump that the Steele dossier was funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but he also had no problem telling Stephanopoulos that Trump was morally unfit to be president, and that Trump might be subject to Russian blackmail. He even said that the Trump pee tape story could be true, although he provided no evidence to that effect. He also suggested Trump could be guilty of obstruction of justice. Comey knows how to make a headline, and he’s stretching to make one here.
5. Comey Was Upset He Cost Hillary The Election. Comey said over and over that he was “sick to my stomach” over the FBI’s interference in the election, and asked that Hillary Clinton read specific chapters of his book to see that he had good intentions — and he even said he announced the re-opened investigation because he thought she was leading in the polls. He admitted as well that his daughters were big Hillary fans.
Comey didn’t do himself any favors with this interview, although he certainly sold some books. He didn’t come off as non-partisan and dispassionate, which would have been devastating to Trump. He didn’t come off as apolitical, either. He came off as a glory-seeking character in yet another ugly Washington production. And that won’t hurt Trump.