Fired FBI director Comey says Trump ‘morally unfit’

Ex-FBI director slams US president in first interview since being fired last year

WASHINGTON: Former FBI director James Comey said in an ABC News interview on Sunday that US President Donald Trump is a dangerous, "morally unfit" leader doing "tremendous damage" to institutional and cultural norms.

Mr Comey, fired by Mr Trump last May, was worried the president may be open to blackmail by Russia, given claims he was present when prostitutes urinated on each other during a 2013 Moscow visit.

Mr Comey's firing came as the FBI was probing possible connections between Mr Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia's election meddling.

Both Russia and Mr Trump have denied any collusion or improper activity.

In the interview, Mr Comey said that it is "possible, but I don't know" whether Russia has evidence to back allegations about Mr Trump's Moscow trip.

Mr Trump told him that he had not stayed overnight in the Moscow hotel and that the claims related to the prostitutes were not true, Mr Comey said.

"A person ... 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," Mr Comey said.

"He is morally unfit to be president," he added.

Mr Comey has a tell-all book, A Higher Loyalty, due out today.

The book's imminent release - and the ABC News interview - prompted Mr Trump to hurl new insults at Mr Comey earlier on Sunday, challenging accusations made in the book, and insisting that he never pressed Mr Comey to be loyal to him.

"Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!" he wrote early on Sunday in one of five Twitter posts aimed directly at Mr Comey.

Reuters and other news outlets have obtained copies of Mr Comey's book before its formal release. In it, Mr Comey wrote that Mr Trump, in a private meeting, pressed the then-FBI director for his loyalty.

Mr Comey said that the title of the book came from that "bizarre conversation" he had with Mr Trump at the White House in January last year, shortly after his inauguration.

"He asked for my loyalty personally as the FBI director. My loyalty's supposed to be to the American people and to the institution," Mr Comey said.

Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far! A tweet by Mr Donald Trump

The FBI has long tried to operate as an independent law enforcement agency.

"I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty. I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies," Mr Trump said on Twitter.

Mr Comey is now a crucial witness for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether Mr Trump has tried to obstruct the Russia probe.

He said that he believes there is "certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice."

Mr Comey also defended his decision to publicly disclose the FBI's re-opening of its investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's handling of e-mail when she was secretary of state.

The Clinton probe was already public, he said, whereas the FBI's examination of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was in its early stages.

It did not become publicly known until after the 2016 presidential election.

Despite his criticisms of Mr Trump, Mr Comey told ABC News that he did not believe he should be impeached, as it would let the American people "off the hook"for something "they're duty bound to do directly."

"People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values," he said.

US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan,when asked on Sunday morning, expressed qualified support for Mr Comey.

Asked whether Mr Comey was a man of integrity, the Republican speaker said: "As far as I know," but added that he did not know him well.- REUTERS

Key Comey quotes from ABC interview

Mr Donald Trump's hair

"He has impressively coiffed hair... it looks to be all his.

"He looks slightly orange up close with small white half moons under his eyes, which I assume are from tanning googles."

Blackmail by Moscow

"These are more words I never thought I'd utter about a president of the United States, but it is possible (the Russians have something on Mr Trump)."

Obstruction of justice?

Asked if Mr Trump obstructed justice by directing Mr James Comey to drop the investigation on former national security adviser Michael Flynn, he said: "Possibly. I mean, it is certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice. It would depend... upon other things that reflected on his intent."

Claims that Russia videotaped Mr Trump having prostitutes urinate on each other in a Moscow hotel room

"He... said he may want me to investigate it to prove that it didn't happen. And then he said something that distracted me.

"'If there's even a 1 per cent chance my wife thinks that's true, that's terrible.'

"So what kind of marriage to what kind of man does your wife think there is only a 99 per cent chance you didn't do that?"