'He's a big boy': James Comey's dad slams Trump's attacks on ex-FBI chief

James Comey's father tells CBC News a Republican National Committee strategy to discredit his son is 'terrible' and said he expects his son to exonerate himself in an upcoming TV interview, Matt Kwong writes.

'If there's a showboat, it's Trump,' J. Brien Comey says

Excerpts from former FBI director James Comey's upcoming memoir have clearly rattled U.S. President Donald Trump. (Alex Brandon, Oliveri Douliery/Getty Images)

J. Brien Comey, Sr., is a lifelong Republican who occasionally tunes in to Fox News host Sean Hannity's program from his suburban New Jersey home.

But it was probably for the best that the 87-year-old didn't catch Wednesday's show, when Hannity went after Comey's first-born son, James, the former director of the FBI.

In an 11-minute monologue, Hannity delivered a connect-the-dots theory — replete with a conspiratorial graphic about the "Comey Crime Family" — detailing how James Comey and the "Deep State" plotted against U.S. President Donald Trump.

In a recent episode of his Fox News program, presenter Sean Hannity showed a graphic board titled the 'Comey Crime Family.' (YouTube)

The senior Comey also didn't see the president's tweet on Friday morning ripping his son as an "untruthful slime ball." Nor did he know that the Republican National Committee had launched a new website branding his 57-year-old namesake "Lyin' Comey."

"You're kidding — that's wild," Comey's father told CBC in a phone interview. "It's terrible, because Jim is the opposite. He's a very truthful young man. It's their problem if they can't understand his integrity."

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The RNC is rolling out a battle plan — reportedly with a sign-off from the Trump administration — to discredit Comey's son's credibility in anticipation of his first major TV interview, on ABC on Sunday, to promote his new tell-all memoir, A Higher Loyalty.

"The president, you gotta keep an eye on. He's a little crazy, you know. So you've got to consider the source," said the senior Comey, a retired Jersey councilman.

"Not one of my favourite people," he said, chuckling at Trump's "slime ball" taunt. He said he likely won't bring himself to vote for Trump in 2020.

'I don't understand it'

Previews of the ABC interview show Comey comparing Trump to a "mob boss" and saying the president was fixated on disproving an allegation in the Steele Dossier that Trump was "with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013." This probably explains the timing of the RNC's Lyin' Comey site, Comey's father said.

Although he made it a rule in the past not to discuss his son's sensitive line of work, he now finds himself defending his character against a party leadership he supported most of his life.

"I don't understand it," he said from the former FBI director's childhood home in Allendale, N.J., where the ABC interview was taped.

Politically, he said, "Jim leans right," but "the right doesn't lean to him."

The much-anticipated memoir comes out April 17, almost exactly a year after Trump dismissed the career law-enforcement official while he was leading the criminal investigation into whether Trump colluded with Russian officials in the 2016 presidential election. Comey testified last June that Trump fired him after pressuring him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Comey's memoir, A Higher Loyalty, will be published on April 17. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press, Flatiron Books)

His dismissal led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the Trump-Russia probe.

"Jim was doing a very good job. But Trump demands total loyalty for anybody who works for him, and Jim said he is totally loyal to the truth," the elder Comey said. "That was the end of him."

J. Brien Comey doesn't hide his displeasure for the president, whose sanity he has questioned. President Trump has assailed James Comey as a "showboat."

"If there's a showboat, it's Trump himself," his father shot back. "But if somebody asks Jim a question, he'll give 'em an answer — limelight or not."

From what he heard during the taping with ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos, Comey's father said the embattled former FBI director doesn't need help defending himself.

"Sure, let 'em go," he said of his son's critics. "He's a big boy, a smart boy."

Memoir having 'adverse impact'

Comey's father hasn't yet read the book, but he's counting on the American public to believe his son.

Many apparently already do. A recent ABC News poll shows more Americans were likely to believe Comey (48 per cent) than Trump (32 per cent).

Meanwhile, A Higher Loyalty rose to No. 1 on the Amazon bestseller list.

In excerpts, Comey writes that Trump is "unethical and untethered to the truth," that Trump demanded loyalty like a mafia boss and that he recalled the president's hands were "smaller than mine."

Another excerpt, obtained from the New York Post, quotes a passage in which Comey claims Trump requested he investigate a salacious allegation — "the golden showers thing" — that was included in the unsubstantiated Steele Dossier.

Comey's dismissal led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the Trump-Russia probe. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Those kinds of details likely won't convince loyal Trump supporters, said Republican strategist Mac Stipanovich. But the RNC wouldn't go through this kind of trouble, he said, "unless you think you've really got a problem."

The Lyin' Comey website seeks to undermine Comey's credibility by using disparaging quotes from prominent Democrats. It also disputes that his firing was improper, suggests Comey is a "politically motivated Washington insider" who feigned non-partisanship and pushes the argument that he lied under oath about "never" leaking information to the press.

Trump is now in absolute control of the national party apparatus.- Mac Stipanovich , Republican strategist

The website dismisses the book tour as a "grandstanding" push to advance the idea that Trump obstructed the probe into Russian meddling in the election.

"They're going to say Comey's a scumbag, a liar, he's conflicted, he ought to be in jail," Stipanovich said. "I would interpret that as showing they're extremely sensitive to the adverse impact this book and tour is going to have on the president, specifically."

Stipanovich said that Trump "is now in absolute control of the national party apparatus."

Comey's father disputes the claim his son is a "leaker," noting that Comey testified that a memo he shared with a friend was "an unclassified memo" regarding his conversation about Flynn.

He's preparing to watch his son's upcoming TV interview with friends and family in Allendale. According to his father, Comey himself will likely be watching in his own home in Virginia.

In the meantime, the elder Comey is bracing for more attacks on his son's character after the interview airs.

"He can defend himself better than I can," he said.


Matt Kwong


Matt Kwong was the Washington-based correspondent for CBC News. He previously reported for CBC News as an online journalist in New York and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at: @matt_kwong


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