Rachel Maddow’s interview with former FBI director James Comey tonight included the revelations that he thought Donald Trump might not tell the truth about their interactions, that there was an “orchestrated campaign” against him and deputy director Andrew McCabe, and that Trump claimed Vladimir Putin told him Russia had the “most beautiful hookers in the world.”
The Rachel Maddow Show’s interview with Comey was occasioned by the release of his memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, but in an unforeseen development, it came the same day the Justice Department agreed to give Congress memos Comey had written as a record of his conversations with Trump. The memos were quickly leaked to the media.
Comey, who was fired by Trump last May, told Maddow he decided to keep a written record because “given the nature of the person … he might not tell the truth if it ever became an issue.” He didn’t keep similar records of conversations with other presidents, said Comey, who was appointed FBI director by President Barack Obama in 2013.
If Comey is ever asked to testify about his interactions with Trump – say, in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election – the memos, written right after the meetings occurred, will bolster the credibility of his recollections, he told Maddow.
Comey has said Trump fired him after telling him to “lay off” the investigation of Russian interference, especially as it involved Michael Flynn, then Trump’s national security adviser. Trump even told NBC’s Lester Holt that he fired Comey because of the investigation.
Maddow also asked Comey about the firing of McCabe in March, just two days before he could retire with a full pension. Trump claimed McCabe had mishandled internal investigations in the department and leaked information to the media, and the president regularly attacked McCabe’s credibility and objectivity because of his wife’s political activities. Jill McCabe had run unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat in Virginia in 2015 as a Democrat, and she had received campaign contributions from a donor with ties to Hillary Clinton.
“I'm being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” McCabe said at the time of his own dismissal, which came shortly after he testified that he would corroborate Comey’s accounts of his meetings with Trump.
Maddow, after reading the McCabe quote to Comey, asked, "Do you think that is the case? Are you concerned there's been an orchestrated campaign to target you and other people who could corroborate your testimony as witnesses?"
"There's certainly been an organized campaign to target me," Comey replied. "There was definitely an organized campaign to attack Andy McCabe, urge his firing, tear down his reputation, attack his wife. Just shameful attacks from the president directly.”
Maddow brought up another memo released today in which Comey said Trump mentioned the allegations that the future president hired prostitutes during a 2013 trip to Russia. According to Comey’s memo, Trump called the report “nonsense” but said Russian President Vladimir Putin had told him, “We have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.”
Maddow said that if this conversation indeed took place between Trump and Putin, it would be a very unusual conversation for two heads of state to have. “I think that’s a fair characterization,” Comey responded.
Comey also revealed that Trump considered suing Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent who authored the infamous Russia dossier, which includes the report of Trump hiring sex workers. The dossier has not been independently confirmed. But the FBI did consider Steele a generally credible source.
In another portion of the interview, Comey said he didn’t think Loretta Lynch, attorney general in the later years of the Obama administration, acted improperly in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of State. But he aired some concerns about Lynch, he said, because he worried about how her actions would be perceived, such as her request to call the probe a “matter” instead of an investigation.
Comey said he didn’t know if his announcement of further developments in the Clinton investigation, which came shortly before the election, had been leaked to Trump ally Rudy Giuliani; after the announcement, Giuliana claimed to have known it was coming. Now that Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, has joined Trump’s legal team, their similarly “imperial” styles may lead to clashes, Comey added.
Maddow also asked if Trump could end the Russia investigation by firing Mueller. Comey replied that Trump would have to fire the entire FBI and Justice Department to do so.
Watch clips below.