In James Comey’s new memoir, the former FBI director writes that he even before he met President Trump, he was skeptical of the TV star-turned-politician — whom he views as “deeply insecure.”
In A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, out Tuesday, Comey reveals that his opinion got progressively worse as he realized that the president lacked “emotional intelligence” and never laughed.
Comey’s ultimate conclusion from his time up-close with Trump: that he is “unfit to be president.”
“My impression from the campaign was that he was a deeply insecure man, which made it impossible for him to demonstrate humility,” writes Comey of his concerns before his first meeting with Trump. “He seemed very unlikely to be confident and humble enough to ask the ‘What am I missing’ question at the heart of sound judgment.”
In A Higher Loyalty, Comey reflects on his lifelong goal to serve the American people, the challenges he faced during the 2016 election, and details the moral flaws he says he saw in Trump while serving as FBI director — until the president fired him in May 2017.
In response to Comey’s unflattering portrait, Trump has hit back in a series of tweets. Recently, the president called Comey a “slimeball” and liar who “will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!”
Comey, meanwhile, maintains that he is simply relaying his interactions with the president prior to his ouster.
The former FBI director states that had multiple phone and in-person meetings with Trump — most at the president’s request. In one private dinner, Comey writes that the president demanded his loyalty (“I need loyalty. I expect loyalty,” he recalls the president saying), denied mistreating “a long list of women,” and asked Comey to investigate the “golden showers thing” to prove it was a lie.
Comey writes that Trump dominated the conversation and none of his behavior “was the way a leader could or should build rapport with a subordinate.” In Comey’s opinion, a true leader doesn’t assume that everything is about him or her. According to the book, it’s this lack of arrogance and the ability to understand other people’s perspectives that are at “the heart of emotional intelligence.”
“Some seem to be born with a larger initial deposit of emotional intelligence, but all of us can develop it with practice. Well, most of us. ” he writes. “I got the sense that no one ever taught this to Donald Trump.”
Donald Trump and James Comey
“I don’t recall seeing [Trump] laugh, ever. Not during small talk before meetings. Not in a conversation. Not even here, during an ostensibly relaxed dinner,” writes Comey.
“I suspect his apparent inability to do so is rooted in deep insecurity,” he adds later, “his inability to be vulnerable or to risk himself by appreciating the humor of others, which, on reflection, is really very sad in a leader, and a little scary in a president.”
Not only does Comey liken Trump to the Mafia mobsters he once prosecuted, in the book Comey explained why he created memos after every interaction with Trump — especially after the president asked him to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation and find a way to publicly announce that Trump wasn’t personally being investigated. (Trump has repeatedly denied his campaign colluded with Russia, even as the investigation closes in on those in his inner circle.)
The White House has been quick to denounce Comey’s account.
“[The book] is nothing more than a poorly executed PR stunt by Comey to desperately rehabilitate his tattered reputation,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters last Friday, according to NPR.
Sanders also declared that A Higher Loyalty is full of “lies,” but Comey is sticking to his narrative.
In an interview with ABC News that aired on Sunday, the former FBI director dismissed conjecture that Trump is suffering from a health problem.
“I don’t buy this stuff about him being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia,” Comey said. “He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence who’s tracking conversations and knows what’s going on.”
He added to ABC News, “I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president.”
A Higher Loyalty is on sale now.