James Comey’s Interview on ABC’s ‘20/20’: Annotated Excerpts

On Trump’s Monologues

‘It was him talking almost the entire time.’

It was him talking almost the entire time, which I’ve discovered is something he frequently does. And so it would be monologue in this direction, monologue in that direction, monologue in a different direction.

And a constant series of assertions that — about the inauguration crowd, about how great my inauguration speech was, about all the free media — earned media, I think was his term, that I got during the campaign. On and on and on and on. Everyone agrees, everyone agrees, I did this, the — I never assaulted these women, I never made fun of a reporter.

And — I’m sure you’re wondering what question did I ask that would prompt those? None, zero. I didn’t ask any questions that I recall.

One of the most interesting observations by Mr. Comey during the interview was that Mr. Trump delivers monologues that are intended to leave the impression that those listening agree completely with him.

Mr. Comey notes on several occasions that in private conversations, the president simply makes assertions — often falsely — without giving the people he’s talking to a chance to interject or object. It’s an interesting observation because it is similar to what Mr. Trump does in public.

When he is giving remarks to a small group around a table at the White House, he often rambles from one topic to the next, making assertions that often are not true but cannot be challenged at the time because they come in such rapid-fire fashion.

And Mr. Comey notes that the president often says contradictory things in the same monologue. He noted that over dinner, the president told him that Reince Priebus, the chief of staff at the time, didn’t know they were having dinner together. But later, Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey to follow up with Mr. Priebus, who knew they were having dinner together.

“One of those things is not true. One of those things is a lie,” Mr. Comey says in the interview.

On Those Who Work With the President

‘He will stain everyone around him.’

The challenge of this president is that he will stain everyone around him. And the question is, how much stain is too much stain and how much stain eventually makes you unable to accomplish your goal of protecting the country and serving the country? So I don’t know.

Mr. Comey reveals in his book that John F. Kelly, the current White House chief of staff, said he wanted to resign in protest when Mr. Comey was fired. In the interview, he says he urged Mr. Kelly to stay for the good of the country.

On informing President-Elect Trump about Russia’s Meddling in the Election

‘I don’t remember any questions about, “So what are they going to do next. How might we stop it?” ’

No one, to my recollection, asked, “So what — what’s coming next from the Russians?” You’re about to lead a country that has an adversary attacking it and I don’t remember any questions about, “So what are they going to do next. How might we stop it? What’s the future look like? Because we’ll be custodians of the security of this country.” There was none of that. It was all, “What can we say about what they did and how it affects the election that we just had.”

Much has been written about the meeting in Trump Tower on Jan. 6 when Mr. Comey and other intelligence officials briefed Mr. Trump and his top aides about Russian interference. Mr. Comey says that the president-elect and his aides were more concerned about how to “spin” it publicly. And he says that he got the feeling that Mr. Trump wanted to talk about the public relations effort with the intelligence chiefs there to send a message that they were part of the spin effort as well.

On Whether the Russians Are Blackmailing the President

‘I think it’s possible. I don’t know.’

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the Russians have something on Donald Trump?

COMEY: 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.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s stunning. You can’t say for certain that the president of the United States is not compromised by the Russians?

COMEY: It is stunning and I wish I wasn’t saying it, but it’s just — it’s the truth. I cannot say that. It always struck me and still strikes me as unlikely, and I would have been able to say with high confidence about any other president I dealt with, but I can’t. It’s possible.

Some of Mr. Comey’s assertions in the interview, and the book, are sure to be assailed by his critics. Among the most damning is that he cannot say for sure whether the president is being blackmailed by the Russians. He offers no proof that there is such blackmail.