James Comey’s much-hyped interview with George Stephanopoulos aired tonight. In a five-hour interview condensed to a one-hour special, Comey said that there’s evidence that Trump obstructed justice, that “it sucked” to be him following the election, and that Trump “will stain everyone around him.”
The interview ranged from Comey’s childhood to his firing, and dedicates a big portion to his role in the 2016 election. Comey said he thought he made the decision to send the October 28 letter because he subconsciously thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election.
“I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump,” Comey said. “There was a lotta passion in this house for Hillary Clinton...But again, I hope it illustrates to people that I really wasn’t making decisions based on political fortunes.”
While Comey said he “hoped” the letter “had no impact,” he expressed no regrets for it.
“If you conceal the fact that you have restarted the Hillary Clinton email investigation,” Comey said, “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?”
“It sucked,” Comey said of the period after the election. “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...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.”
Comey talked about the meeting in the White House after Trump assumed the presidency, where he says the president asked him to drop the criminal investigation of Michael Flynn. “It’s certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice,” he said of Trump’s request. “It would depend and — and I’m just a witness in this case, not the investigator or prosecutor, it would depend upon other things that reflected on his intent.”
The former FBI director also went into detail about the pee tape—he says he doesn’t know if it’s real—and his discussions about the pee tape with Trump, who said the pee tape couldn’t be real because he’s a germaphobe and that he doesn’t “look like a guy who needs hookers.”
“I just remember thinking, ‘Everything’s gone mad,’” Comey recalled. “And then, [Trump] having finished his explanation, which I hadn’t asked for, he hung up. And I went to find my chief of staff to tell him that the world’s gone crazy.”
Comey called Trump a “stain,” and referred to his presidency as a “forest fire.”
“The challenge of this president is that he will stain everyone around him,” Comey said. “And the question is, how much stain is too much stain, and how much stain eventually makes you unable to accomplish your goal of protecting the country and serving the country? So I don’t know.”
“I think of it as a forest fire,” he said. “That forest fires do tremendous damage. His presidency is doing, and will do, tremendous damage to our norms and our values, especially the truth. And so that’s bad. And terrible things happen in forest fires. But I’m an optimistic person. And so I choose to see the opportunity in a forest fire ‘cause what forest fires do is allow things to grow that never could’ve grown. Were crowded out, didn’t have the light or the water to grow. And so I see already things growing and flourishing that didn’t before this fire.”
Stephanopoulos asked Comey if Trump is unfit to be president.
“Yes. But not in the way I often hear people talk about it,” Comey said. “I don’t buy this stuff about him being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia. He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence who’s tracking conversations and knows what’s going on. I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president.”
But somehow, Comey doesn’t think this forest fire should be impeached.
“I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they’re duty bound to do directly,” Comey told Stephanopoulos. “People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values.”
Comey’s book is out on Tuesday. The full transcript of the interview is available here.