James B. Comey, the ousted FBI chief, is about to release a tell-all book.
And President Trump, the commander in chief, is not happy.
As Comey’s book nears release, Trump’s rhetorical attacks against the man he fired as FBI director have escalated in both frequency and viciousness.
Here’s a look at how we got here.
‘A real nut job’
The day after he unceremoniously fired Comey, Trump reportedly described him as “a real nut job” during an Oval Office meeting with a pair of Russian envoys.
The meeting was closed to the press, but Trump’s reported comments became public after the New York Times reviewed what it described as the official White House memorandum chronicling the encounter.
“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump told Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and its ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, according to the Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
The statement, which the White House did not dispute, appeared to be Trump’s most direct admission that he had fired Comey with an eye toward affecting the FBI’s investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion among members of Trump’s campaign team.
It also appeared to contradict the president’s previous contention that he based his decision to fire Comey on the recommendation of Atty. Gen.
“The FBI has been in turmoil,” Trump said, suggesting that Comey deserved blame.
Trump insisted that he would have fired Comey even if
He also acknowledged that the Russia investigation was among his considerations when he made the move, saying: “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’”
Legal experts said at the time that Trump might have opened himself up to a charge of obstruction of justice with the comment.
‘Very unpopular with most people’
During a joint news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Trump said that, as FBI director, Comey “was very unpopular with most people.”
Trump was responding to a reporter who asked if the president had done anything that could warrant criminal charges, presumably in connection with his firing of Comey.
“I actually thought when I made that decision — and I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein — but when I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision,” Trump said. “Because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, that were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.”
Trump also cited Comey’s May 3 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, during which he defended his decision to inform Congress late in the 2016 presidential race that the FBI would reopen its inquiry into whether
“That was a poor, poor performance,” Trump said. “So poor, in fact, that I believe — and you would have to ask him because I don’t like to speak for other people — but I believe that’s why the deputy attorney general went out and wrote his very, very strong letter.”
By relying on the Justice Department’s recommendation to explain his firing of Comey, Trump appeared to again shift his account, pivoting from the justification he offered on NBC News just four days earlier.
On June 9, the president slammed Comey as “a leaker” in a tweet.
During the explosive hearing, Comey testified that he had written memos documenting his meetings and phone calls with Trump. He said he had directed a friend to share their contents with a reporter in the hopes of prompting the appointment of a special counsel to take over the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
In his tweet, Trump also insisted that Comey’s testimony had provided “total and complete vindication” because the former FBI director confirmed that he had told Trump he wasn’t personally under investigation.
‘Very “cowardly” ’
Still apparently fuming over Comey’s congressional testimony three days before, Trump again went after the former FBI chief on Twitter.
The president repeated his claim that Comey had perpetrated “leaks” by orchestrating the public release of notes documenting his interactions with Trump. This time, Trump went a step further and questioned whether Comey’s actions were “totally illegal.”
The tweet echoed comments from Trump’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, who days earlier issued a statement accusing Comey of “unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications.”
“We will leave it [to] the appropriate authorities” to determine whether the leaks “should be investigated along with all those others being investigated,” Kasowitz wrote.
Legal experts said at the time that Comey probably didn’t violate any law or privilege by sharing his notes.
‘Leadership was a disaster’
While live-tweeting an episode of Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Trump pointed to a segment critical of the FBI as evidence that Comey’s leadership “was a disaster!”
Carlson opened the episode by criticizing the bureau’s handling of an investigation into a mass shooting at a Las Vegas country music festival Oct. 1 — five months after Trump fired Comey as FBI director.
“This is not the only federal investigation that has shaken public confidence recently,” Carlson said.
He cited as other examples the FBI’s handling of the 2009 Ft. Hood shooting, the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in June 2016, the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server, and the deadly truck attack in New York earlier that week.
Of those, just two — the Clinton investigation and the Pulse nightclub shooting — took place while Comey was head of the FBI.
‘Leakin’ James Comey’
Trump coined a new nickname for Comey in a tweet suggesting that the former FBI director and his onetime deputy, Andrew McCabe, harbored anti-Trump bias.
The president repeated the falsehood that McCabe’s wife, Jill, received a campaign contribution from Clinton for a Virginia state Senate race in 2015.
‘Sanctimonious James Comey’
The president suggested that the FBI officials had conspired to perpetrate “lies and corruption” at the bureau, though he did not specify how.
‘Lying James Comey’
Trump accused Comey of lying during his May 2017 Senate testimony, in which the former director denied having been an anonymous source for news reports related to the Trump or Clinton investigations.
The president also expressed doubt at reports that McCabe, like his former boss, had maintained memos contemporaneously documenting his interactions with Trump.
“Can we call them Fake Memos?” Trump wrote.
‘Untruthful slime ball’
Days before the release of Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership,” Trump unleashed an extraordinary string of invective against the former FBI director on Twitter.
Trump called Comey an “a weak and untruthful slime ball” and said it had been his “great honor” to fire Comey as FBI chief.
According to the Associated Press, which reviewed a copy of the title, Comey “casts Trump as a mafia boss-like figure who sought to blur the line between law enforcement and politics and tried to pressure him regarding his investigation into Russian election interference.”
‘Slippery James Comey’
Hours before Comey was scheduled to appear on ABC News’ “20/20” for his first televised interview to promote his book, Trump launched his longest Twitter tirade against the former FBI chief to date.
Weaving together a number of conspiracy theories about the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, Trump called Comey “the WORST FBI Director in history” and suggested that he be jailed.