Ahead of his highly anticipated book release this week, former FBI Director James Comey sat down for five hours with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos to discuss the inner details of the book. The final interview aired on Sunday on a special edition of “20/20.”
Here 10 important takeaways from the interview that you need to know:
#1: Comey believed the Clinton investigation was a ‘no-win’ situation.
If we decide there is no criminal case there and we recommend no prosecution, the Republicans will be screaming that we let, you know, the greatest crime go since the Rosenbergs were executed for selling our nuclear secrets. And if we prosecute her, the Democrats will scream that we’re just doing it out of some sort of partisan bias because I’m a former Republican appointee and so the system is rigged against Hillary Clinton. Either way, we were going to be attacked.
Of course, at the time, I had no idea that I could make both halves angry at us.
#2: Loretta Lynch gave Comey an ‘uncomfortable feeling.’
It’s now long known that in September 2015, about three months into the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch directed Comey to refer to the Clinton email probe as a “matter” instead of “investigation,” which was a more apt description.
That directive made Comey uncomfortable, he explained after being asked whether he believe Lynch sought to protect Clinton.
“I didn’t know exactly why she was doing that,” Comey said. “It worried me. It gave me an uncomfortable feeling.”
Comey elaborated that his worry came from a real place. He explained that the Clinton campaign was using other phrases and words to refer to the FBI’s investigation, so it felt Lynch was ordering him to publicly spin the bureau’s investigation in a similar way. He lamented over his decision to not challenge Lynch on her directive.
#3: Comey doesn’t regret re-opening the Clinton investigation in the days before the 2016 election.
Clinton partially blames her loss to President Donald Trump on Comey’s decision to inform Congress in late October that the FBI had found potential new evidence in the Clinton case and was re-opening it. That evidence came in the form of hundreds of thousands of emails on disgraced Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop from Clinton’s private email server and Blackberry accounts.
For Comey, he believed he had two options: Inform Congress or conceal the new developments. He chose the former because he believed the latter would destroy the public’s trust in the FBI.
“Speaking is really bad; concealing is catastrophic,” Comey explained. “If you conceal the fact that you have restarted the Hillary Clinton email investigation … it would destroy the Department of Justice and the FBI.”
#4: Comey says Trump demanded his loyalty — just like a ‘mob boss’ would.
Comey alleged that during a private dinner with Trump at the White House on Jan. 27, 2017, Trump demanded his loyalty. The demand, Comey said, caught him completely by surprise.
“He said, ‘I expect loyalty, I need loyalty.’ And I did not reply,” Comey explained. “And I just stared at him and had this little narrative with myself inside, saying, ‘Don’t you move, don’t you dare move. Don’t even blink.'” Because I was so struck by — caught by it.”
Comey explained that Trump made the request a second time, and he again, didn’t take the bait. The requests, Comey said, reminded him of the days he prosecuted powerful mob bosses in New York City. Comey said he felt like Trump wanted to initiate Comey into a mob-like family, a comparison he admitted he doesn’t make lightly. He said:
Very strange. And I don’t do it lightly. I — and 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’ 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?”
#5: Trump may be compromised by the Russians.
Even though a lot has developed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Comey revealed he believes the Russians may have compromising information on Trump, though he never elaborated on what that information may be.
“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,” Comey explained.
“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,” he added.
#6: Trump may have obstructed justice with one private request in the Oval Office.
During a meeting in the Oval Office in February 2017, in which Trump dismissed Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Vice President Mike Pence from the room, the president asked Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn, who at the time was Trump’s national security adviser.
The request may be evidence of obstruction of justice, Comey said.
“I mean, it’s certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice. 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,” he explained.
#7: Comey believes Trump is ‘morally unfit’ for the presidency.
In response to a question from Stephanopoulos, Comey said Trump is “morally unfit” for the White House, alleging the president is a compulsive liar with racist tendencies who “treats women like they’re pieces of meat.”
“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,” Comey explained.
But Comey said he doesn’t think Trump should be impeached. That remedy “would let the American people off the hook,” he claimed, explaining because the American voters chose Trump in 2016 the buck should stop with them.
“People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values,” Comey said.
#8: John Kelly was angry over Trump’s decision to fire Comey.
John Kelly, who was then secretary of homeland security and now serves as Trump’s chief of staff, reportedly called Comey in the immediate moments after Comey’s termination to voice his frustration with Trump’s decision.
“He was very upset. He was very emotional and said he had seen the news and that he intended to resign because he wouldn’t work for people who would treat someone like me in such a dishonorable way and that he was going to quit,” Comey explained.
Comey said he told Kelly not to quit because “this president needs people of character and principle around him.”
#9: Comey believes Rod Rosenstein acted ‘dishonorably’ over his firing.
In the immediate aftermath of Comey’s firing, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein released “pretext” explaining Comey’s termination, which Comey said was full of “lies.” The move, Comey said, was “dishonorable” on Rosenstein’s part.
Comey explained: “[T]he deputy attorney general, in my view, had acted dishonorably by putting out this pretext about why I was fired. So I thought, ‘Well he’s ‘amica nostra.’ Right? He’s part of the family now. I can’t trust him.'”
#10: Comey says Americans can trust Robert Mueller.
According to Comey, Americans can trust that Mueller will complete his investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign with justice, not politics, in mind.
“He’s not on anybody’s side. He does not care about anything except the truth. And so they can have great confidence if Bob Mueller is let– left in place to do his job, he will find the truth,” Comey said.
However, if Trump fires Mueller, then “alarm bells” will be set off, Comey said, adding that if Mueller requests him to be a witness in any case, he will do so.
The one thing Comey wants the American people to know: He had their interests at heart during his FBI tenure.
Throughout the hours-long interview, Comey reiterated countless times that in every decision he made as FBI director, he had the American people’s interest, and the integrity of the FBI, at the forefront of his mind.
The integrity of the FBI, Comey said, is vital to a free and democratic America.