Former FBI Director James Comey, in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, says President Donald Trump asked him to investigate the allegations described in the controversial dossier to "prove that it didn't happen." The president added it would be "terrible" if his wife Melania Trump believed any of the allegations.
The dossier, compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, includes a graphic account of Trump's sexual encounter with prostitutes during a 2013 trip to Moscow. The dossier raises the possibility that the encounter––including moments when Trump and the women engaged in water sports––could have been caught on video.
Comey recalls Trump asking him about the dossier during a private dinner on Jan. 27, 2017. Trump brought up the dossier and said, “He may want me to investigate it to prove that it didn't happen. And then he says something that distracted me because he said, you know, ‘If there's even a 1 percent chance my wife thinks that's true, that's terrible.’”
“‘And I remember thinking, ‘How could your wife think there's a 1 percent chance you were with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow?’ I'm a flawed human being, but there is literally zero chance that my wife would think that was true. So, what kind of marriage to what kind of man does your wife think [that] there's only a 99 percent chance you didn't do that?”
“I may order you to investigate that," Trump then told Comey.
Comey's advised caution: “I said, ‘Sir, that's up to you. But you'd want to be careful about that, because it might create a narrative that we're investigating you personally, and second, it's very difficult to prove something didn't happen."
The possible existence of the notorious "pee tape" consumed Trump, Comey says. In fact, Trump appeared less concerned about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election than he did about how that information could undermine his electoral win:
President-elect Trump’s first question was to confirm that it had no impact on the election … and then the conversation, to my surprise, moved into a PR conversation about how the Trump team would position this, and what they could say about this, with us still sitting there. And the reason that was so striking to me [is] that’s just not done. That the intelligence community does intelligence, the White House does PR and spin.
Accompanying the president's response was silence on the steps the United States could take to prevent the Russians from executing similar operations in the future.
“It was all, ‘What can we say about what they did and how it affects the election that we just had,’” Comey said, adding that he requested that he and the president speak alone to discuss the allegations described in the dossier:
I'm about to meet with a person who doesn't know me, who's just been elected president of the United States, [and] by all accounts, and from my watching him during the campaign, could be volatile. And I'm about to talk to him about allegations that he was involved with prostitutes in Moscow and that the Russians taped it and have leverage over him.
The conversation he and Trump had was "really weird." Comey describes something an "almost out-of-body experience."
"I was floating above myself, looking down, saying, ‘you're sitting here, briefing the incoming president of the United States about prostitutes in Moscow,’” Comey said.
Comey says that he did not at the time reveal that the dossier was compiled through opposition research financed by his opponents, saying his only goal was merely to alert Trump that the information existed:
I started to tell him about the allegation was that he had been involved with prostitutes in a hotel in Moscow in 2013 during the visit for the Miss Universe pageant and that the Russians had filmed the episode, and he interrupted very defensively and started talking about it, you know, ‘Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?’ And I assumed he was asking that rhetorically, I didn't answer that, and I just moved on and explained, ‘Sir, I'm not saying that we credit this, I'm not saying we believe it. We just thought it very important that you know.’
I said … ‘I'm not saying that I believe the allegations, I'm not saying that I credit it. I never said, ‘I don't believe it,’ because I couldn't say one way or another.
The president's obsession with the dossier is well documented, and he has purposely misconstrued information to fuel his base supporters.
While it’s true that Hillary Clinton’s campaign commissioned the now infamous dossier, the dossier’s existence is significantly more complicated than he lets on. He has also continued to insist that the controversial dossier containing allegations of collusion with the Russian government compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele was not just “disproven” but “paid for by Democrats.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) released the unclassified transcript of the interview last August by Judiciary Committee members with Glenn Simpson, a founder of the research firm Fusion GPS, which the Clinton campaign retained to do opposition research on Trump. Simpson’s testimony indicates that Steele was so disturbed by his discoveries that he chose to alert the FBI.
Steele was initially hired to gather opposition research (something all campaigns do) about Trump for a Republican client. Steele alerted authorities when the information he received from a network of Russian sources described Trump’s business relationships with wealthy Russians and alleged ties to the Kremlin. The information came from two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter.
Steele had worked with the FBI before and was well regarded. He presented the bureau with information in July and in September 2016 suggesting collusion between Trump’s associates and Moscow in the DNC hack. He later met with an FBI official in Italy to share information alleging that a top Trump campaign official knew about the hacking as early as June 2016. A month after the election, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) gave former FBI Director James Comey a copy of Steele’s reports.
The president slammed Comey earlier this morning, calling him a "weak and untruthful slime ball" and a "proven LEAKER & LIAR" in posts to his Twitter followers.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also attacked Comey, linking to a GOP video entitled "Comey Not Credible, Just Ask Democrats."
"One of the few areas of true bipartisan consensus in Washington is Comey has no credibility," Sanders wrote.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway said, "We find Mr. Comey has a revisionist view of history and seems like a disgruntlement ex-employee."