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Comey Book Blasts Trump


Former FBI Director James Comey is getting ready for a media blitz. His new memoir comes out next Tuesday. But some news organizations, including NPR, have gotten hold of early copies. In the book, Comey writes pretty frankly about his interactions with the president and about the president's leadership style. Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR. He's with us in studio. Hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: So fair to say a lot of anticipation around this book. What's in there? What stands out?

LUCAS: Well, Comey does not - doesn't really hold back. It's a pretty scathing view of Donald Trump. He describes the president as unethical, as untethered to truth and institutional values. At root, basically, he's accusing the president of being a liar. And he expresses concern about the impact that this is going to have long term on the country. One thing that appears to be striking a nerve is that he compares Trump to a mafia boss. Remember, Comey worked as a federal prosecutor working mob cases earlier in his career, and he draws some comparisons.

He talks about the loyalty oaths, the us-versus-them worldview and then the line about things large and small in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth. The real value in this book for a lot of readers, though, is going to be the inside view on a series of really kind of important events that took past - over the past couple of years, including the Hillary Clinton investigation and, of course, his interactions with the president.

KING: Comey already testified before Congress about a lot of this stuff, testified under oath. Are there any details in the book that we didn't hear in his testimony?

LUCAS: There are. There are. We get some vivid details on a number of the interactions that he had with the president. In one instance, it's the first briefing that Comey gave to Trump, in which he discussed a dossier of unconfirmed allegations regarding Trump's alleged Russia ties and including a salacious story about Trump and prostitutes at a Moscow hotel in 2013. Now, remember, these claims haven't been verified, but Comey says that Trump seized on the hotel allegation in particular, kept returning to it and told Comey that it wasn't true but wanted Comey to corroborate his denials.

There's another interaction in which, in the Oval Office, during which Trump says - Comey says that Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to leave the room. This is when Comey says that Trump asked Comey to let Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, go. He's talked about this before, but Comey in the book is very critical of Sessions, whom he describes as overwhelmed and overmatched by the job. And he recalls telling Sessions that he can't allow himself to be kicked out of the room, that he has to provide a shield between the president and the FBI.

KING: All right. Look. A memoir, of course, is about getting your own narrative, your own story out there. So when Comey describes the president as unethical, devoid of human emotion, do you think that's bad for President Trump? Or can Trump say, look - I fired the guy - this is a hit job?

LUCAS: Well, it certainly is a damning portrait that Comey paints here but, as you noted, for people who dislike the president, there's ammunition in this book that will bolster their opinions. But for people who support the president, as you noted, this is going to be the work of a disgruntled former employee, and they can kind of just take it off as that.

KING: NPR's Ryan Lucas, thanks so much.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.
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