Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Trump's Criticisms May Have Helped Comey's Book Sales


James Comey has the best-selling book in America, he's been seen and heard talking about it every few hours. President Trump may have helped sales by calling his book third-rate, and Mr. Comey, shady James and slime ball. But have the revelations of the book, which has not just been about the president's hair and hands, and the release of the memos Mr. Comey wrote after the meetings with President Trump that caused him concern, altered support for Trump at a time when his lawyer is under investigation for paying hush money to cover up Trump's alleged affairs with an adult film actress and a Playboy Playmate and all the talk of Russian escorts and other public embarrassments? I'm out of breath. We're joined now by Rich Lowry, editor of National Review. Rich, thanks so much for being with us.

RICH LOWRY: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: You've often been tough on President Trump. What do you - how do you think he stands at the end of this week?

LOWRY: I don't think he stands any differently than he did at the beginning of the week. I think on Comey, most people are pretty dug in, and there are very few Trump supporters who are going to be moved by anything they've seen in this book or heard in his various interviews.

I think Comey himself, his reputation has been dented this week. I think he fell prey to the phenomenon we saw in the primaries when Marco Rubio began to try to do the insult game the way Donald Trump does. It didn't hurt Trump, and it hurt Rubio. And I think those references, which are fairly mild in his book compared to what Trump says, you know, about his hands and the color of his skin, didn't play well, and he's said he's regretted them.

SIMON: But if what President Trump said to James Comey, even if it doesn't rise to, say, the legal definition of obstruction of justice - and Mr. Comey says he just doesn't know that - isn't what we have learned or had confirmed this week - that President Trump asked the head of the FBI to go easy on his national security adviser - he asked the FBI director for his personal loyalty and apparently said, please tell my wife this sordid Russia story is wrong - isn't leaning on the head of the FBI just wrong for a president to do?

LOWRY: It's wrong and it's inappropriate. The question is whether it rises to the level of obstruction, which, I think, we don't know because it goes to the question of motive. Now if he's saying go easy on Mike Flynn because he knows Mike Flynn knows all his darkest secrets and knows that there is some criminal conspiracy with the Russians to throw the election to Trump, well, that's one thing.

But if he just feels badly for the guy and thinks he's in big trouble and, you know, wish - hopes, you know, the Trump - that Comey can go easy on him just sort of as a normal expression of human sentiment, well, that's wrong. It's inappropriate, but it's not anything more than that. And I think...

SIMON: Well, I mean - let me just interrupt for a moment.

LOWRY: Sure.

SIMON: Shouldn't the president just say, let justice be done?

LOWRY: Absolutely. Yeah. That's wrong and inappropriate, I don't think there's any argument over that. Whether it's something more and could possibly be an impeachable offense, I think that's the question.

And these memos, also, they've confirmed to me that what Trump was most bothered by is that Comey was repeatedly telling him in private that he wasn't under investigation while there is this cloud in the press and in the public that implied that he was under investigation. So he's constantly badgering Comey to say that he's not under investigation, and I think that's what really precipitated his firing is Comey refused to say that.

And Comey would've been on much stronger ground if he could just say, well, I never talk publicly about investigations, but he had let that cat out of the bag a year ago when he began talking about the Hillary investigation.

SIMON: Whatever criticisms might be made of Mr. Comey, if he believes the president is demonstrably unfit to be president, which he has said in interviews, doesn't he have an obligation to say that to the American people?

LOWRY: Free country, yeah. And if he believes that, he should say it. I think the one thing that's become clear through these memos and the book and the interviews is that, you know, this isn't the worst thing in the world, but he is a careerist. You know, when Loretta Lynch tells him to call the Clinton investigation a matter rather than the investigation, he thinks to himself, well, that's really wrong and inappropriate, but then he calls it a matter.

When he has this conversation about loyalty with the president, he doesn't say, Mr. President, this is completely wrong. I can't believe you're even saying this to me, and I want to be as clear as possible, you do not have my loyalty. He didn't do that, and it's because in any of those instances, if he had frankly defied his superiors, well, his career might've been at risk, and that was very important to him.

SIMON: Rich Lowry of National Review, thanks so much.

LOWRY: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.