If there was any chance that President Donald Trump and James Comey could have avoided all-out war, it ended Sunday night.
While ABC aired one hour of its conversation with Comey, it had conducted a five-hour interview with him, a transcript of which was obtained by The New York Times. In it, Comey called Trump a serial liar who treated women like “meat,” and described him as a “stain” on everyone who worked for him.
He said a salacious allegation that Trump had cavorted with prostitutes in Moscow had left him vulnerable to blackmail by the Russian government. And he asserted that the president was incinerating the country’s crucial norms and traditions like a wildfire. He compared the president to a mafia boss.
“Our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country,” Comey told ABC’s chief anchor, George Stephanopoulos, on the program “20/20.” “The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.”
The interview with Comey and the publicity tour for his book, which is scheduled to hit bookstores Tuesday, amount to a remarkable public assault on a sitting president by someone who served at the highest levels in the government.
The stakes for both men could hardly be higher. Comey seems likely to be the star witness in any obstruction of justice case that might be brought against the president by Robert Mueller. Trump’s legal fate may depend on whether he succeeds in undermining the credibility of Comey and the law enforcement institutions he views as arrayed against him.
While many of Trump’s critics believe that the proper remedy for his perceived transgressions is impeachment, Comey insisted that would just “let the American people off the hook.” He said the public was “duty bound” to vote Trump out of office in the next election.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.