With Comey Interview, It’s All-Out War Against Trump


The interview with Mr. Comey and the weekslong media blitz he plans for his book amount to a remarkable public assault on a sitting president by someone who served at the highest levels of power in the government.

The stakes for both men could hardly be higher. Mr. Comey seems likely to be the star witness in any obstruction of justice case brought against the president by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the sprawling Russia investigation. Mr. Trump’s legal fate, as well as his political fortunes in Washington, may depend on whether he succeeds in undermining the credibility of Mr. Comey and the law enforcement institutions he views as arrayed against him.

The ABC interview is Mr. Comey’s first major attempt to prevent that from happening, and in it he speaks with the abandon of a man who finally feels unleashed. But Mr. Comey’s liberation is all the more combustible because it is aimed directly at a president who has said with pride on Twitter that “when someone attacks me, I always attack back…except 100x more.”

As if on cue, hours before the interview aired, Mr. Trump called Mr. Comey a “slimeball” for the second time in three days, saying in a pair of early-morning tweets that he belongs in jail for what the president said were lies to Congress and leaks of classified information. In another tweet, Mr. Trump said Mr. Comey would go down in history as “the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!”

Mr. Comey responded later in the day with a more subtle dig of his own.

“My book is about ethical leadership & draws on stories from my life & lessons I learned from others,” he tweeted. “3 presidents are in my book: 2 help illustrate the values at the heart of ethical leadership; 1 serves as a counterpoint.”

It is unclear where the epic battle of wills will lead, other than to a sustained escalation of insults between two men who have each admitted to having outsize egos. But it is certain to be a test of powerful forces in the modern media landscape: the presidential megaphone, amplified by 50 million Twitter followers, and the global reach of an adversary on a seemingly endless, 24-hour, cable-news-driven book tour.

Parts of the interview that have already been aired suggest that Mr. Comey talks in detail about the interactions he had with Mr. Trump, including meetings and phone calls about which he says he meticulously wrote down notes afterward for posterity. (In another tweet on Sunday morning, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Comey’s “‘memos’ are self serving and FAKE!”)

Some of the most startling assertions by Mr. Comey about Mr. Trump in the interview revolve around his first meeting with the president-elect at Trump Tower just days before the inauguration. That day, intelligence officials, including Mr. Comey, briefed the incoming president on Russia’s attempt to meddle with the election.

Mr. Comey says in the interview that Mr. Trump and his aides seemed interested only in what the former F.B.I. director called the “P.R. and spin” about the issue.

“The conversation, to my surprise, moved into a P.R. conversation about how the Trump team would position this and what they could say about this,” Mr. Comey said in a preview of the interview that aired on Sunday morning. “No one, to my recollection, asked: ‘So what’s coming next from the Russians? How might we stop it? What’s the future look like?’”

“It was all, ‘What can we say about what they did and how it affects the election that we just had?’” Mr. Comey said.

It was at the end of the meeting that Mr. Comey says in his book that he asked to speak to Mr. Trump alone to brief him on the salacious “Steele dossier,” which contains unverified allegations about Mr. Trump, including a claim that the Russian government has video recordings of him watching prostitutes urinate on each other in a Moscow hotel room in 2013.

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In his book, “A Higher Loyalty,” Mr. Comey drops any pretense of comity with the president he briefly served.

Mr. Comey says in the ABC News interview that Mr. Trump denied the allegations that day, saying, “Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?” Weeks later, in a telephone call from the president after the dossier was published by BuzzFeed, Mr. Trump again denied the account in graphic terms, Mr. Comey said.

“There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me,” Mr. Trump said, according to Mr. Comey’s account in his book. Mr. Comey said the president also raised the idea that the F.B.I. should investigate the claim as a way of proving that it never happened. Mr. Comey said he warned Mr. Trump that doing so would add to “the narrative” that the president was under investigation.

Mr. Comey said in the interview that it was an “out of body” experience to be talking with the incoming president about whether the incident had taken place, or whether the Russians had material they could use to blackmail Mr. Trump.

“I was floating above myself looking down saying you’re sitting here briefing the incoming president of the United States about prostitutes in Moscow,” Mr. Comey says in the interview. Asked whether he believed Mr. Trump’s denials, Mr. Comey said he was not sure.

“I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” he said. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.”

The president took a break from his attacks on Mr. Comey as he left the White House on a rainy Sunday afternoon to spend time at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va. But it seems likely that he and his allies will not back down in the face of Mr. Comey’s barrage of public accusations, which are expected to continue for weeks.

On ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press secretary, unloaded on Mr. Comey, calling him a “self-admitted leaker” and a liar.

For his part, Mr. Comey appears unrelenting as well.

In the book, he compares Mr. Trump’s demands for his loyalty to the induction ceremonies favored by Sammy the Bull, the boss of the Cosa Nostra. Holding little back, Mr. Comey argues that Americans in both parties should be wary of the damage Mr. Trump is doing to the country.

“What is happening now is not normal,” he writes. “It is not fake news. It is not O.K.”

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Former Playboy Model Karen McDougal Sues to Break Silence on Trump


“The lawsuit filed today aims to restore her right to her own voice,” he said, adding, “We intend to invalidate the so-called contract that American Media Inc. imposed on Karen so she can move forward with the private life she deserves.”

Ms. McDougal filed her suit just days before Ms. Clifford was to appear on “60 Minutes” to discuss her relationship with Mr. Trump and the efforts Mr. Cohen undertook on his client’s behalf to pay for her silence.

Mr. Trump joined a legal effort last week seeking some $20 million in penalties tied to Ms. Clifford’s agreement.

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The lawsuit claims that Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, was secretly involved in Ms. McDougal’s talks with the company.

The court dispute has drawn public attention to an issue that was previously sidelined. And both women’s suits could provide more fodder for federal complaints from the watchdog group Common Cause that the payoffs were, effectively, illegal campaign contributions.

Ms. Clifford and Ms. McDougal tell strikingly similar stories about their experiences with Mr. Trump, which included alleged trysts at the same Lake Tahoe golf tournament in 2006, dates at the same Beverly Hills hotel and promises of apartments as gifts. Their stories first surfaced in the The Wall Street Journal four days before the election, but got little traction in the swirl of news that followed Mr. Trump’s victory. The women even shared the same Los Angeles lawyer, Keith Davidson, who has long worked for clients who sell their stories to the tabloids.

Ms. McDougal negotiated with the country’s leading tabloid news provider, A.M.I., which is known to buy and bury stories that might damage friends and allies of its chief executive, David J. Pecker — a practice known as “catch and kill.”

Ms. McDougal’s legal complaint alleges that she did not know about the practice, or about Mr. Pecker’s friendship with Mr. Trump, when she began talking to company representatives in spring 2016, shortly after Mr. Trump locked up the Republican nomination.

A.M.I. has previously acknowledged that Mr. Trump had been friends with Mr. Pecker, but said that he had never tried to influence coverage at the company’s publications.

Ms. McDougal has said that she was ambivalent about selling her story on the tabloid news market, but felt that her hand was forced after a hint of the alleged affair appeared in May 2016 on social media. Convinced something more would come out, she was determined to tell her story on her terms, her suit says.

A mutual friend connected her to Mr. Davidson, who, she said, told her the story could be worth millions. He arranged an interview with Dylan Howard, A.M.I.’s chief content officer, in Los Angeles. Mr. Davidson told her before the interview that A.M.I. would put $500,000 in an escrow account for her, and that “a seven-figure publishing contract awaited her,” the complaint reads.

Mr. Howard spent several hours pressing Ms. McDougal on the details of her story. But several days later, the media company declined to buy it, the complaint reads, and “Mr. Davidson revealed that, in fact, there was no money in escrow.”

A spokesman for Mr. Davidson said on Tuesday that the lawyer “fulfilled his obligations and zealously advocated for Ms. McDougal to accomplish her stated goals at that time,” but that commenting further would “violate attorney-client privilege.”

A.M.I. told The Times last month that it decided not to print Ms. McDougal’s story because it could not verify important details, though it acknowledged discussing her allegations with Mr. Cohen, the president’s lawyer, saying it did so as part of its reporting process.

The tabloid company showed renewed interest in the story in summer 2016, when Ms. McDougal began talks with ABC News. This time, A.M.I. offered a different deal.

Mr. Davidson informed her that A.M.I. would buy her story but not publish it because of Mr. Pecker’s relationship with Mr. Trump, the suit says. The payment would be $150,000, with Mr. Davidson and others involved on her behalf taking 45 percent. More alluring to Ms. McDougal, who is now a fitness specialist, was that the media company would feature her on its covers and in regular health and fitness columns, the complaint says.

As A.M.I. and Mr. Davidson pushed her to sign the deal on Aug. 5, Ms. McDougal expressed misgivings. But, her suit says, Mr. Davidson and Mr. Howard argued in an urgent Skype call that the deal to promote her would “kick start and revitalize” her career, given that she was “old now.” She was 45.

In all, they said, the contract would obligate A.M.I. to run more than 100 columns or articles and at least two covers featuring her. When she asked Mr. Davidson what she should do if her story leaked, he responded in an email, “IF YOU DENY YOU ARE SAFE,” and urged her to sign as soon as possible, according to the court documents.

The Times reported last month that Mr. Davidson sent Mr. Cohen an email on Aug. 5, 2016, asking him to call. Mr. Davidson then told Mr. Cohen over the phone that the deal had been completed, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

The timeline provided in the lawsuit shows that Mr. Davidson’s email came as he and A.M.I. were still hashing out the terms of the deal, which Ms. McDougal did not sign until the following day, Aug. 6. Mr. Cohen told The Times last month that he did not recall the communications.

After signing the contract, Ms. McDougal grew frustrated when she did not hear about columns or cover shoots for several weeks. She later figured out why. Though the agreement explicitly mentioned “a monthly column” on aging and fitness for OK! and Star, and “four posts each month” on Radar Online, it only gave A.M.I. “the right” to print them. It was not an obligation.

“She was tricked into signing it while being misled as to its contents (including by her own lawyer, on whose advice she was entitled to rely),” the lawsuit reads. So far, A.M.I. has run one cover and roughly two dozen columns or posts featuring her. The company later amended her contract to let her respond to “legitimate press inquiries” about Mr. Trump.

Mr. Stris contends that his client was misled and that the contract was executed under fraudulent circumstances, giving her the right to sue in court rather than proceed in arbitration.

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