On Tuesday, former FBI Director James Comey told Stephen Colbert he's like a breakup Trump "can't get over," noting how the president just can't seem to resist tweeting about him. Comey, who just published a book called A Higher Loyalty, has sparked the ire of Trump recently, with the president calling the former FBI head a "slimeball" in one tweet and suggesting he should be jailed in another.
On his show, Colbert asked Comey his thoughts on the president's recent disparaging comments about him on Twitter. In response, Comey noted that he did not understand why the president seems to be so focused on him. As Comey described:
He's tweeted at me probably 50 times. I've been gone for a year. I'm like a breakup he can't get over. He wakes up in the morning ... I'm out there living my best life ... he wakes up in the morning and tweets at me.
Comey also suggested that he usually just shakes off what the president has to say about him on Twitter. However, he also noted that he is concerned by his own apathetic reaction to the president's words, saying,
... My first reaction to those kind of tweets is a shrug. Like, 'there he goes again.' But actually then I caught myself and I said, wait a minute, if I'm shrugging, are the rest of the country shrugging? And does that mean we've become numb to this? It's not okay for the president of the United States to say a private citizen should be in jail. It's not normal, it's not acceptable, it's not okay. But it's happened so much there's a danger we're now numb to it and the norm has been destroyed. And I feel that norm destroying in my own shrug. And so we can't allow that to happen. We have to talk about it and call it out ...
Following his comments about Trump, Comey also discussed the Clinton email scandal at length with Colbert. For reference, in October, shortly before the 2016 presidential election, Comey announced that the FBI would be re-opening an investigation into presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State under the Obama administration.
Comey had previously said in July of that year that he was not recommending charges related to the email server use. He also ultimately found that no further action needed to be taken after he announced the re-opening of the investigation in October — and announced that the investigation was again closed two days before the presidential election. However, some, including Clinton herself, blame Comey's announcements for at least partially causing Clinton's loss in the presidential election.
Colbert asked Comey why he had chosen to publicly announce himself that Clinton had been careless, but that there had been no grounds on which to prosecute her for her use of a private email server. Comey's announcement closing the investigation was particularly controversial because it was made separately from the Department of Justice, under the auspices of which the FBI falls. In reflecting on why he made the announcement, Comey replied:
Because it was the least worst way to close the investigation and maintain public confidence that it was done in a competent, honest way ... So, my judgement was the public faith in the FBI and Justice Department is all we have ... and I thought if I make my announcement separate [from the Department of Justice] it will maximize the chances that people have confidence in the result. And so I made that judgement, something very unusual ... and decided that was the best chance we had of closing it in a credible way.
Colbert closed his interview with Comey by asking the former FBI director how the United States should move forward in the future, particularly in regards to how to protect American norms and institutions. Comey ended the interview by offering hope for the future, saying, "Although I see Donald Trump as a forest fire, he will do great damage to our norms, forest fires allow things to grow that couldn't grow before ... And so I'm optimistic that this country's values are strong enough ... that we will thrive in the wake of this."