From his handling of a probe into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to his investigation into Russian meddling in the election, former FBI Director James Comey has long been a punching bag for President Trump.
After Comey left the FBI, Trump accused him of leaving the agency in “tatters.” And as Comey prepares for his explosive tell-all book to be released, Trump called for the former FBI boss to be “prosecuted” for allegedly leaking information and lying under oath to Congress.
“He is a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI,” Trump said in April 2018. “It was my great honor to fire James Comey!”
But while Trump has publicly hit the nation’s former chief investigator hard, his public opinion throughout his presidency and campaign hasn’t been all bad.
On Clinton’s emails
Trump has often tweeted about Comey’s involvement in the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state, saying that his handling of the probe has left the FBI in “tatters.”
“Hillary and the Dems loved and praised FBI Director Comey just a few days ago. Original evidence was overwhelming, should not have delayed!” Trump tweeted in October 2016.
In May 2017, before Comey was officially sacked, Trump tweeted that Comey “was the best thing that ever happened to” Clinton because he “gave her a free pass for many bad deeds.”
“The phony Trump/Russia story was an excuse by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?” he continued.
After the FBI confirmed that Comey had drafted a statement about Clinton before the investigation was completed, Trump took to Twitter to lambast the former FBI chief even more.
“Wow, FBI confirms report that James Comey drafted letter exonerating Crooked Hillary Clinton long before investigation was complete. Many people not interviewed, including Clinton herself,” Trump tweeted. “Comey stated under oath that he didn’t do this – obviously a fix? Where is Justice Dept?” Trump tweeted.
“As it turned out, James Comey lied and leaked and totally protected Hillary Clinton. He was the best thing that ever happened to her!” he said.
In December 2017, Trump tweeted, “After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness!”
On stopping government leaks
Trump has several times expressed his disappointment with Comey and the FBI not being able to stop “national security ‘leakers’” – and has even accused the former FBI boss of leaking as well.
“The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time. They can’t even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S.” Trump tweeted in February 2017.
In May 2017, seven days after Comey’s termination, Trump said he had asked the former FBI director “from the beginning of [Trump’s] administration” to find “leakers in the intelligence community.”
Trump also threatened Comey against leaking, himself, information to the media.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press,” Trump tweeted.
His tweet came after The New York Times reported Trump asked for Comey’s loyalty during a private dinner, which Comey declined to give. The New York Times cited sources who said they knew about the details of the dinner through Comey.
On Comey’s firing
Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017 and sent his FBI chief a short, impersonal letter to make him aware of his termination.
Trump predictably took to Twitter to defend the firing and slam Democrats and those critical of Comey’s removal.
“James Comey will be replaced by someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI,” Trump said the morning after the firing.
“Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!” Trump said in a subsequent tweet.
On the Russia investigation
Comey told Trump that he was not under investigation by the FBI, Trump said in a May 2017 interview with NBC News.
“I said, if it’s possible would you let me know, am I under investigation? He said, ‘You are not under investigation,’” Trump said.
The president added during the interview that Comey is a “showboat” and a “grandstander.”
When asked if he was angry with Comey over his investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, Trump just said he “want[s] somebody that’s competent” to lead the FBI. He added that he is “a big fan of the FBI.”
Trump reportedly called Comey “crazy” and a “nut job” during a conversation with Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after Comey’s firing, according to The New York Times.
“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said according to a document of the meeting obtained by the Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
And when it comes to his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump has denied asking Comey to stop his investigation into potential wrongdoing.
“I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 3.
On Clinton’s emails
While the president eventually castigated Comey’s handling of the probe into Clinton’s private email server, Trump initially praised him for investigating Clinton at all.
“It took a lot of guts,” Trump said in October 2017 of Comey’s decision to reopen the Clinton investigation.
“I have to give the FBI credit. That was so bad what happened originally,” Trump said of the FBI’s original decision not to recommend charges be brought against Clinton by the Justice Department.
“It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they’re trying to protect her from criminal prosecution,” Trump said at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“I was not his fan, but I’ll tell you what — what he did, he brought back his reputation,” Trump continued.
He also encouraged Comey then to “hang tough.”
On the Russia investigation
In prepared remarks released ahead of Comey’s testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2017, Comey confirmed reports that Trump asked the FBI to lay off his former national security adviser as the department investigated Russia’s influence on the 2016 presidential election. But Comey also confirmed that he did reassure the president that Trump was not under investigation.
Trump was “pleased” by Comey’s admission.
“The president is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the President was not under investigation in any Russian probe,” Trump’s lawyer said in a statement. “The President feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda.”