On Friday, President Trump tweeted again about firing James Comey, saying that getting rid of the former FBI director had been a "great honor" and calling him an "untruthful slime ball." The tweets came as Comey prepares to release his highly-anticipated memoir on April 17 and days after excerpts from the book began to be shared in the media.
Comey's memoir is called A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership and apparently contains some nasty passages about Trump. He reportedly calls the president's tenure in office a "forest fire," compares Trump to a mafia boss, and even degrades his appearance. "His face appeared slightly orange," Comey writes, "with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assume he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coiffed, bright blond hair, which on close inspection looked to be all his. I remember wondering how long it must take him in the morning to get that done."
Unsurprisingly, Trump was quick to fire back after such excerpts were released.
"James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR," he wrote at the start of his tweetstorm. "He is a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst 'botch jobs' of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!"
Comey's book isn't just about his interactions with Trump — it covers his experiences working for three presidential administrations — but the stories about the current president are the ones that have dominated the public's attention in anticipation of the book's release. He writes about his initial visit to Trump Tower in January 2017 to talk to the president incumbent's team about the Steele Dossier, and then delves into all of his subsequent conversations with the president over the next few months.
Trump's infamous demand for loyalty from Comey ("I need loyalty, I expect loyalty") gets attention, of course. As does Comey's notorious firing, which happened in early May, just one month shy of a year before the book's release. In A Higher Loyalty, Comey writes that he first thought that the news of his dismissal was a practical joke, but then realized it was real and "wasn't laughing any longer."
Comey also calls Trump "untethered to the truth" and "unethical" in his memoir and says that "our country is paying a high price" for his presidency.
Friday was far from the first time that the president had bashed Comey on Twitter. He wrote last month that "Sanctimonious James Comey [...] knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!" Comey responded by teasing his book: "Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not."
Trump may not be lashing out this time purely because he feels personally insulted. The Republican National Committee is overseeing a coordinated effort — endorsed by the White House — to discredit Comey's book, in part with anti-Comey advertisements and talking points distributed to GOP members. The campaign's purpose is to spread the impression that Comey is dishonest and distrusted across the aisle.
The latter point is somewhat true, because he's alienated himself from both parties in recent years: As FBI director, Comey was responsible for investigating members of the Trump administration and also reopening an investigation into Hillary Clinton that helped turn public opinion against her before the 2016 election. Notably, though, while the country may not have the greatest confidence in James Comey, a recent poll shows that the public at least trusts him more than it does the president.
The GOP effort against A Higher Loyalty is working to brand the former FBI director as "Lyin' Comey," a moniker in the spirit of Trump's famous insults (though an obvious rip-off of "Lyin' Ted"). The project even has a website, LyinComey.com.
"If Comey wants the spotlight back on him, we'll make sure the American people understand why he has no one but himself to blame for his complete lack of credibility," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told CNN about the campaign.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has evidently already launched her participation in "Lyin' Comey," tweeting on Friday that "one of the few areas of true bipartisan consensus in Washington is Comey has no credibility."
Trump's Friday morning tweets were probably motivated in part by anger at having his presidency compared to a forest fire, but he also signed off on "Lyin' Comey." His tweets are often more strategic than they seem; these ones may be deliberate attempts to bolster the RNC's anti-Comey campaign.