Donald Trump “treats women like they’re pieces of meat” and may be compromised by the Russians, according to James Comey, the former FBI director who was fired by the US president last year.
The claims were made in an ABC News interview broadcast on Sunday night in the latest round of an extraordinary slanging match between a sitting president and a former top law enforcement official.
The former FBI director, speaking before the release of his memoir on Tuesday, called Mr Trump “morally unfit to be president”, referring to the clashes between white supremacists and anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
“A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person’s not fit to be president of the United States,” he said.
In one portion of the interview, Mr Comey claimed Mr Trump was reluctant to criticise Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, even in private, and suggested the Russians may have compromising information about the US president.
“I think it’s possible. I don’t know. These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible,” he said.
The provocative new book by Mr Comey — and the media campaign around it — comes as the president’s legal woes continue to build. Mr Trump is grappling not just with the investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, into alleged Russian election meddling, but also a criminal investigation of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
On Sunday evening, shortly before the ABC News interview aired, lawyers for Mr Trump asked a New York court to stop prosecutors examining materials seized from Mr Cohen in raids earlier this week. Mr Trump’s legal team requested that any seized information relating to the president be reviewed by him first to protect his attorney-client privilege.
Mr Comey’s book recounts his career up until he was fired by Mr Trump in May 2017, a decision the long-time prosecutor learned about on television. It details the relationship between the former FBI boss and the president, which has become a key part of the story of the early Trump White House.
Mr Comey is a witness to the case that the president attempted to obstruct justice and said Mr Trump asked him to drop the criminal investigation of Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The president has denied the claims.
He also said Mr Trump asked for personal loyalty, comparing him to a Mafia boss.
The book, A Higher Loyalty, has kicked off a political firestorm, with Republicans branding Mr Comey “Lyin’ Comey” in an effort to discredit him.
Mr Trump has responded furiously and fired off no fewer than five tweets on Sunday morning, calling the book “badly reviewed” and Mr Comey himself a “slimeball”.
“I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty. I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies. His “memos” are self serving and FAKE!” said the president in one tweet.
Mr Trump added, later: “Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!”
The media war between the pair is unlikely to end soon, with Mr Comey due to do further television interviews in the coming weeks. A nationwide book tour is also scheduled.
In the ABC News interview, Mr Comey recounted meeting the president for the first time at a meeting at Trump Tower.