Former FBI Director Comey's Memoir Paints A Damning Portrait Of Trump Presidency
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Former FBI Director James Comey's memoir runs 304 pages, pages that paint a damning portrait of Donald Trump's presidency and character. The book is officially out next Tuesday. But some reporters are already speed-reading, among them The Washington Post's Philip Rucker, who joins me now. Hey, Phil.
PHILIP RUCKER: Hi.
KELLY: So much for the book embargo, I guess. Which upsets you as the headline here?
RUCKER: Well, you know, there are a number of headlines. But the most interesting thing, the newest thing that I found reading the book was that President Trump, according to Comey's account, was fixated on the most sensitive allegations in an intelligence dossier regarding his trip to Moscow in 2013 and the...
KELLY: The Steele dossier, as we've come to know it. Right.
RUCKER: The Steele dossier. Yes, that infamous dossier. And it is that the allegation - which is not confirmed, by the way - is that the Russians had filmed Trump interacting with prostitutes in that hotel room in Moscow. And the president repeatedly brought this up with Comey, tried to convince Comey it wasn't true, even asked Comey to have the FBI investigate the dossier allegations in order to prove that they were not true so that Trump would be vindicated with the public.
KELLY: And part of this, according to Comey's account, is that President Trump was allegedly really, really concerned about the first lady's reaction to all of this. That's a new detail.
RUCKER: He was. He repeatedly told Comey that this had been very painful for first lady Melania Trump. And at one point he said that it bothered him - President Trump said it bothered him if his wife believed - had any - had even 1 percent chance that this story was true. It just gnawed at the president. And it came up every time they met just about, according to the account in Comey's book.
KELLY: I gather there's also a detailed account about the February 2017 meeting in the Oval Office. This is where Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to clear the room. He wanted to speak one-on-one with Comey. And the subject, as Jim Comey recounts, is the FBI investigation of Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser. What new details did we learn about that that we didn't already know?
RUCKER: Well, we learned in that part of the account that - we already knew that President Trump had asked Comey to try to let Flynn go, to let it go, that he was a good man. But what's new is the interaction that Comey had later after the fact with the attorney general Sessions. Comey explained to Sessions, according to his book, that he can't be kicked out of the room. You can't let me be alone with the president. That's just not appropriate between an FBI director and the president of the United States.
And according to Comey's observations that he recounts in this book, Sessions said nothing in this meeting. He just sort of cast his eyes down, darted back and forth. And Comey interpreted from that posture and his facial expressions that there was nothing Sessions could do to help him.
KELLY: So lots of new information here about lots of relationships inside the Trump administration. Phil Rucker, as somebody who's covered the Trump administration closely, does Comey's account ring true?
RUCKER: Well, it does ring true. One thing that we know that's important for the listeners to understand is that Comey wrote this memo based on contemporaneous notes. He took very detailed notes, almost like diary entries, after all of these interactions that he had with President Trump as well as with the attorney general and others. And so he's not creating this out of his memory from a year ago. He's creating it based on his real notes in real time.
KELLY: Phil, thanks very much.
RUCKER: Thank you.
KELLY: Philip Rucker of The Washington Post talking there about former FBI Director Jim Comey's new memoir, which officially is out on Tuesday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.