White House lashes out at Comey after explosive interview

The White House on Monday renewed its attacks on James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Trump orders intel agencies to cooperate with Barr probe into 'spying' on 2016 campaign Attorney General Barr puts former intel bosses on notice MORE after the former FBI director denounced President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE during an explosive interview with ABC News.

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump tweeted that Comey drafted an exoneration of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton slams Trump for spreading 'sexist trash' about Pelosi Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign DNC boss says candidates to be involved in debate lottery MORE “long before he talked to her” in the investigation into her use of a private email server as secretary of State. He also accused the “disgruntled” Comey of having “committed many crimes!” 

Trump has repeatedly accused Comey of lying to Congress during the former FBI director's dramatic testimony last year when he detailed meetings in which the president asked for his loyalty and requested that he take it easy on former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

In the interview that aired Sunday night, Comey refused to rule out the possibility the Russians could have information to blackmail Trump and said evidence exists that the president obstructed justice in the Russia investigation — all charges that have angered the president.

Trump only watched "bits and pieces" of the interview, which reinforced his belief that Comey has a "lack of credibility," according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayGeorge Conway: Pelosi is playing Trump 'like a drum' Schumer: Trump was 'agitated' during White House infrastructure meeting Trump, Pelosi exchange insults as feud intensifies MORE on Monday said the president believes Comey is spreading “revisionist history.”

“I saw a man last night very shaky and unsure to answer questions, not even under oath,” Conway said on CNN. “But we know that when Comey was under oath that he had a very difficult time telling the truth.”

She attacked Comey's tenure as FBI director, saying the organization was a “hot mess” under his leadership. Conway went on to label Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Trump accuses Hillary Clinton of 'destroying the lives' of his campaign staffers The Mueller report concludes it was not needed MORE, who was fired last month, as “Clinton people.”

“Jim Comey loves to be in the center of power,” Conway said. “He loves to divert the spotlight to himself and be in the center of power. So the president is correcting the record.”

The president and his allies are seeking to discredit Comey, who told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos that Trump is “morally unfit” for office. 

Comey also sought to rebut criticism of his handling of the Clinton email probe, including allegations he decided before the investigation concluded that the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee did not commit a crime.

“We had a very clear picture after nine or ten months of investigation of this case ... It looked like on the current course and speed, this is going to end without charges. And so what will we do? Smart people, competent people plan ahead,” Comey said. 

The former FBI chief is embarking on a media tour to sell his tell-all memoir, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” which offers an inside view of key events in the Russia investigation.

Many of the events, including Comey’s private discussions with Trump, are of interest to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions Trump: Democrats just want Mueller to testify for a 'do-over' Graham: Mueller investigation a 'political rectal exam' MORE, who is examining whether the president obstructed the federal investigation into Moscow’s election interference. 

Comey, who led the Russia probe before he was fired last May, did not rule out that Trump obstructed the probe.

“Possibly. I mean, it's certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice,” he said.

The book tour comes at a pivotal time in the probe, as Mueller has begun to zero in on members of Trump’s inner circle. The FBI last Monday raided the offices and residences of Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, in part due to a referral from Mueller’s team.

The events have consumed Trump’s attention over the past week, even as he debated a military response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria and handled other weighty decisions.

The White House and its outside allies have launched a public relations effort to rebut Comey.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said Monday the organization is working to get a “counternarrative” into the public as Comey continues on the media circuit. 

“This is one man’s opinion, one man’s version,” she said on CNN. “The president pushes back on a lot of the things that James Comey asserts, and we’re here to put that narrative out there.”

--This report was updated at 12:29 p.m.