WASHINGTON ― Former FBI Director James Comey, in his first television interview promoting his new memoir, described a January 2017 meeting with then-incoming president Donald Trump as “really weird” and “almost an out of body experience.”
“I was floating above myself, looking down, saying, ‘You’re sitting here, briefing the incoming president of the United States about prostitutes in Moscow,’” Comey told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, describing the meeting with the president-elect at Trump Tower.
Comey, in a clip of the interview that aired Friday, said he briefed Trump on the so-called pee tape allegations contained in an unverified dossier from former British spy Christopher Steele.
“I started to tell him about the allegation was that he had been involved with prostitutes in a hotel in Moscow in 2013 during the visit for the Miss Universe pageant and that the Russians had filmed the episode, and he interrupted very defensively and started talking about it, you know, ‘Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?’” Comey said. “And I assumed he was asking that rhetorically. I didn’t answer that, and I just moved on.”
Comey repeatedly said he was flabbergasted that the conversation was even happening. When Stephanopoulos asked if he believed Trump’s denials, Comey said he wasn’t sure.
“I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” Comey said. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.”
The interview was taped earlier this week, and the full version is set to air on Sunday, ahead of the book’s release on Tuesday.
Excerpts of the book began to leak on Thursday, revealing no major new bombshells. Comey testified before Congress in June, a month after Trump abruptly fired him amid the FBI investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia.
But the book appears to contain vivid new details of Comey’s interactions with Trump, and searing criticisms of the president’s demeanor and fitness for office.
The excerpts reported on Thursday included Comey’s description of Trump’s obsession with disproving the pee tape allegations, which came up in several conversations.
In the clip of his ABC interview aired Friday, Comey said he was stunned that Trump and his team were focused on what he called “a PR conversation” rather than concerns about Russian meddling in the election and “what’s coming next.” He said Trump’s team started discussing “drafting a press release” before he left the meeting.
“That’s just not done,” the former FBI boss said. “The intelligence community does intelligence, the White House does PR and spin.”