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Thursday, September 20, 2018

James Comey told ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos that Donald Trump, who fired him as FBI director last year, is “morally unfit” to serve as president. In an exclusive interview on ABC News’ 20/20 to promote his new memoir, A Higher Calling, Comey offered a variety of scorching observations about Trump, whom he described as sharing the worldview of the mobsters he once prosecuted as a law enforcement official:

I’m not trying to, by the way, suggest that President Trump is out breaking legs and — you know, shaking down shopkeepers. But instead, what I’m talking about is that leadership culture constantly comes back to me when I think about my experience with the Trump administration. The — the loyalty oaths, the boss as the dominant center of everything, it’s all about how do you serve the boss, what’s in the boss’s interests. It’s the family, the family, the family, the family. That’s why it reminds me so much and not, “So what’s the right thing for the country and what are the values of the institutions that we’re dealing with?

Discussing a conversations with White House chief of staff John Kelly, who he says expressed an urge to quit after learning that Comey had been fired, he said that he had urged Kelly to say and added:

The challenge of this president is that he will stain everyone around him. 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.

Comey said he doesn’t believe that Trump is suffering from mental illness or any medical disability — and has “average-sized hands” — but that he regards the president as disqualified for entirely moral reasons:

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.

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 that’s not a policy statement. Again, I don’t care what your views are on guns or immigration or taxes.

There’s something more important than that that should unite all of us, and that is our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country. The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.

And Comey seems to share the widespread sense of anxiety and horror that has gripped many Americans since Trump’s election — a feeling that he felt especially strongly after a conversation with the president about the infamous (and uncorroborated) “pee tape” allegation mentioned in the Steele dossier:

And then he said, “Another reason you know it’s not true is I’m a germophobe. There’s no way I’d let people pee on each other around me.” And that caught me so much by surprise I actually let out an audible laugh and — because it was just one of those — I was startled by it.

And — and I remember thinking, “Well, should I say that, ‘As I understand the activity, sir, it doesn’t require an overnight stay. And given that it was allegedly the presidential suite at the Ritz-Carlton, I would imagine you could be at a safe distance from the activity.’” All these things are bouncing around my head. But instead of saying it, it just led me to think, “The world’s gone crazy.”

I’m the director of the F.B.I. and I’m standing at my window, looking out on the darkened Pennsylvania Avenue. And I remember this moment like it was yesterday. And I can see the lit Washington Monument that’s rising from my vantage point of the F.B.I. just over the Trump — new Trump hotel. And I just remember thinking, “Everything’s gone mad.” And then, 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.

IMAGE: FBI Director James Comey in Washington. REUTERS/Gary Cameron