‘The possibility of Trump exploding has gone up’
President Donald Trump and his top aides wasted no time in launching pointed attacks on former FBI Director James Comey on Friday over his bombshell tell-all book — and the offensive is only expected to intensify in the coming days.
White House officials were scouring news reports and reaching out to allies who have copies of the book, hoping to home in on passages that they believe undercut Comey’s credibility or make him seem sympathetic to Democrats.
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Trump’s allies are trying to avoid a repeat of the fallout from Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” the hard-edged insider account of life in Trump’s White House that caught many in the West Wing by surprise and dominated headlines for weeks.
But so far, the White House’s strategy was doing little to stop the barrage of news stories about the book.
Over the last 24 hours, a steady stream of embarrassing details from the book have emerged, including that chief of staff John Kelly allegedly called Trump “dishonorable” for firing Comey and that the president urged Comey to investigate unsubstantiated rumors that he was secretly filmed with prostitutes urinating in front of him in a Moscow hotel room. The New York Daily News pounced on the latter revelation with a front-page headline that read, “Pee Brain.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is expected to offer a harsh rebuke of the book during Friday’s televised briefing, according to a White House official, and Trump’s top aides will echo that message in television interviews in the coming days.
Trump, for his part, is said to be fuming about the book, and White House aides are angry over what they see as Comey’s unnecessarily personal jabs at the president, the official said.
The White House press shop originally had assumed the Comey book would re-litigate the former FBI director’s past testimony and statements, just re-packaged into a different form, said one former White House official.
The communications staff was caught by surprise when excerpts of the book also raised the question of the existence of the “pee tape” and talked about the size of the president’s hands — details they were unprepared for and that set off a scramble inside the West Wing.
“It’s almost like Comey wrote some of the stuff in the book just to get under Trump’s skin and goad him into saying something outrageous,” said the former official. “With the salacious stuff that came out Thursday night, the possibility of Trump exploding has gone up.”
In the book, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, Comey, in describing his first meeting with the president in January 2017, wrote, “His face appeared slightly orange, with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coiffed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his. I remember wondering how long it must take him in the morning to get that done. As he extended his hand, I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.”
Trump unleashed on Comey on Friday morning.
“James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR. Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did-until he was, in fact, fired. He leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted. He lied to Congress under OATH,” Trump wrote in a statement that stretched across two Twitter posts. “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!”