White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, already on thin ice with the president, faces a further test of Trump’s temper, as a leak from former FBI Director James Comey’s upcoming book provides a very interesting anecdote about a call made shortly after Comey was fired on May 9, 2017.
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In the highly anticipated book “A Higher Loyalty,” set for release on Tuesday, Comey says he got a phone call from Kelly, then the Secretary of Homeland Security, to say how upset he was with the firing and the way it was done while Comey was out of town (he learned he was fired from a TV news alert).
scoop: @lachlan & I got part of the James Comey book leaked to us—in which @Comey writes, per sources who’ve read it, that John Kelly called him shortly after he got fired and that Kelly called President Trump “dishonorable” for axing the ex- FBI directorhttps://t.co/tISQkl0mG9
— Asawin Suebsaeng (@swin24) April 12, 2018
What Comey says in the book is already controversial because it is different than what Kelly is telling colleagues in the West Wing about the call, which was first reported by CNN last year.
CNN reported then that a source told them, “John was angry and hurt by what he saw and the way (Comey) was treated.”
In Comey’s more detailed telling, Kelly was very emotional when he called and said he was “sick” about it, and that he intended to resign his Cabinet post in protest.
Comey writes that Kelly “said he didn’t want to work for dishonorable people,” a reference to Trump.
Comey encouraged Kelly not to resign, he writes, because “this president,” more than his predecessors, needs people of principle and integrity around him.
A Senior White House official told The Daily Beast Kelly maintains the call to Comey was brief – about one minute long – and that Kelly did not call Trump “dishonorable.”
“Comey appears to be pulling no punches in either his book or in sit-downs promoting it,” reports The Daily Beast.
Comey compares Trump to a mob boss in his first televised interview with George Stephanopoulos to air on ABC on Sunday, according to Axios.
The book is said to contain many anecdotes likely to upset the thin-skinned president who is “already seething over the persistence of the investigation into Russian election-meddling that Comey once led,” reports The Daily Beast.
“The recounting of Kelly’s phone call,” a source told The Daily Beast, “reflects a larger theme of the book and the Trump administration – how hard it is for ethical people to stay in close proximity to bullies who lack integrity and honor.”
The Republican National Committee is already planning a counter-offensive as Comey gives media interviews and goes on a national book tour to try and discredit him.
Congratulations, @Comey! You just won the publishing lottery. The best thing that can happen to authors, is for Trump-world to wage an attack on their books. If you get really lucky, Trump himself will tweet against your book, over and over. Look forward to reading the book. https://t.co/VthblHO0sy
— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) April 12, 2018
The White House has no action plan because of concern whatever anyone says Trump will tweet what he wants to throw the whole conversation off, so they will just wait and let the unpredictable, impulsive president lead with his own response first.
The book also will have Comey’s version of what happened with Secretary Hillary Clinton, who many believe he caused to lose the election with his last-minute claim a new investigation was being opened into her emails, as well as anecdotes about President George W. Bush and various cases Comey worked on including that of Martha Stewart.
However, it is clear the potential nuclear explosion will be Comey’s take on Trump and then the president’s inevitable over-the-top reaction.
For a president already under siege – even if he denies it – this will add a new layer of controversy and stress that is sure to rattle Trump even more, as it melds questions about his decision to fire Comey – which may be obstruction of justice – and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s possible collusion with Moscow.
Like so much else Trump does, he thinks he can light a match and just burn down his troubles but in the world of the First Amendment and 24/7 media coverage, it is never that easy or clean a process, and the release of Comey’s book promises to reignite the firestorm.