“He is morally unfit to be president,” former FBI Director James Comey said of his former boss Donald Trump in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that aired Sunday night.
“A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it — that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds.”
And Comey was just getting warmed up.
In the former FBI Director’s first media interview since Trump abruptly fired him nearly a year ago, Comey compared the president to a mob boss who will “stain everyone around him.”
Comey is speaking out for the first time ahead of the release of his memoir “A Higher Loyalty” which paints a harsh picture of the president. Since the first excerpts of the book became public earlier this week, Trump himself has been tearing into Comey with tweet after tweet calling him an “untruthful slime ball” and saying it was his “great honor” to fire him.
Comey’s dismissal will likely go down as one of the most consequential decisions of the Trump administration, if not presidential history. The firing led to the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, which has dogged Trump both personally and politically ever since.
Here are some of the highlights of the interview, which reportedly lasted 5 hours:
Comey says Trump turned on him over Putin
“Well, you think our country is so innocent?” Trump told Bill O’Reilly in an interview early on in his presidency when pressed about Vladimir Putin being a killer. “We have a lot of killers.”
In the ABC interview, Comey recounted an Oval Office meeting with Trump soon after that controversial O’Reilly segment:
In fact, he was telling me it was a good answer and then said-- gave me an opening by saying, "You think it was a great answer. You think it was a good answer." And then he was starting to move on. And I jumped in and I said, "Mr. President, the first part of the answer was fine, not the second part. We're not the kind of killers that Putin is."
And when I said that, the weather changed in the room. And like a shadow crossed his face and his eyes got this strange, kinda hard look. And I thought in that moment, "I've just done something unusual maybe." And then (SNAP) it passed and the meeting was over. And, "Thanks for coming in," and-- and Priebus walked me out….Although in that moment I was thinking, "I just succeeded," although I hadn't intended to, in ending any personal relationship between me and the president by th-- by interrupting him and also criticizing him to his face.
Comey can’t rule out the pee-tape
Did Trump watch prostitutes in Russia pee on each other in Moscow in 2013? And did the Russian government secretly tape it in order to blackmail him? Those salacious accusations in the infamous Steele dossier were a constant source of tension between Trump and Comey. It began at their first meeting in January at Trump Tower in New York City before the inauguration. The former FBI Director was briefing Trump on the Steele dossier (he left out the peeing part, but Trump found out about that later). Comey remembered that Trump then “interrupted very defensively and started talking about it, you know, ‘Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?’”
Comey added: “I honestly never thought this words would come out of my mouth, but I don't know whether the-- the-- current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It's possible, but I don't know.”
Comey can't say whether or not Russia has leverage on Trump
When asked if Russia may have information that it could use as leverage over Trump, Comey said he wasn't sure. From the interview:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the Russians have something on Donald Trump?
JAMES COMEY: I think it's possible. I don't know. These are more words I never thought I'd utter about a president of the United States, but it's possible.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That's stunning. You can't say for certain that the president of the United States is not compromised by the Russians?
JAMES COMEY: It is stunning and I wish I wasn't saying it, but it's just-- it's the truth. I cannot say that. It always struck me and still strikes me as unlikely, and I woulda been able to say with high confidence about any other president I dealt with, but I can't. It's possible.
Comey tried to explain why he reopened the Clinton email investigation 11 days before the election: "Speaking is really bad; concealing is catastrophic.”
While Comey’s interactions with Trump were drama-filled, his interference in the final days of the presidential election may ultimately be more consequential. His announcement that he was reopening the Hillary Clinton email investigation created a political firestorm.
Comey briefly defended this decision to Congress last year but it is the first time he has addressed it at length and he concedes that political considerations likely influenced his thinking.
"Speaking is really bad; concealing is catastrophic," Comey said. "If you conceal the fact that you have restarted the Hillary Clinton email investigation, not in some silly way but in a very, very important way that may lead to a different conclusion, what will happen to the institutions of justice when that comes out?"
Here's more from the interview:
Stephanopoulos: At some level, wasn’t the decision to reveal influenced by your assumption that Hillary Clinton was going to win? And your concern that she wins, this comes out several weeks later, and then that’s taken by her opponent as a sign that she’s an illegitimate president?
Comey: It must have been. I don’t remember consciously thinking about that, but it must have been. Because I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. And so I’m sure that it — that it was a factor. Like I said, I don’t remember spelling it out, but it had to have been. That — that she’s going to be elected president, and if I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out.
Comey went on to describe what the final days of the campaign were like from his point of view:
Stephanopoulos: What did it feel like to be James Comey in the last ten days of that campaign after ya sent the letter?
Comey: It sucked. Yeah, it was-- it was a very painful period. Again, my whole life has been dedicated to institutions that work not to have an involvement in an election. I walked around vaguely sick to my stomach, feeling beaten down. I felt, when I went to the White House-- I don't want to spoil it for people, but there's a movie called “The Sixth Sense” that I talk about in the book where Bruce Willis doesn't realize he's dead.
That's the way I felt. I felt like I was totally alone, that everybody hated me. And that there wasn't a way out because it really was the right thing to do. And that-- that, in a way, I'm ruined. But that's what I have to do. I had to do it the way.
This article originally appeared on VICE News US.