GOP campaign seeks to brand ex-FBI director Comey a liar as he touts book critical of Trump

President Trump (left) and former FBI director James Comey.
President Trump (left) and former FBI director James Comey. Evan Vucci /AP/file | Susan Walsh/AP/file

WASHINGTON - In advance of a publicity tour by James Comey to promote his new book, the Republican National Committee is preparing a widespread campaign to undercut his credibility, including a new website that dubs the former FBI director as ‘‘Lyin’ Comey.’’

The website prominently features quotes from Democrats highly critical of Comey before his firing by President Donald Trump nearly a year ago as the president grew agitated by the Russia probe.

RNC officials say their effort will also include digital ads, a ‘‘war room’’ to monitor Comey’s television appearances, a rapid response team to rebut his claims in real time and coordination of Trump surrogates to fan out across other TV programs.


The broadside against Comey - a registered Republican for most of his adult life - comes as he set to begin a media tour to tout his memoir, ‘‘A Higher Loyalty,’’ which is expected to be brutally critical of Trump.

In advance of the book’s release next Tuesday, Comey is scheduled to appear in an interview airing Sunday night with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos. A teaser for the interview says Comey compares Trump to a ‘‘mob boss.’’

In the book, Comey writes that when he was fired by Trump in May 2017, then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called him in an ‘‘emotional’’ state and said he was ‘‘sick’’ over the ouster. Kelly told Comey that he ‘‘intended to quit’’ because he ‘‘didn’t want to work for dishonorable people,’’ according to Comey’s account.

Comey recalls urging Kelly to stay in his job, which he did, arguing that ‘‘this president’’ especially needed principled public servants in his administration.

The Kelly scene was first reported Thursday by The Daily Beast and confirmed to The Washington Post by someone who has read Comey’s book.

Comey’s memoir could damage the reputations of Trump and some of his top aides, and the president’s allies are scrambling to undercut Comey’s account.


In a statement, RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said, ‘‘James Comey’s publicity tour is a self-serving attempt to make money and rehabilitate his own image. If Comey wants the spotlight back on him, we’ll make sure the American people understand why he has no one but himself to blame for his complete lack of credibility.’’

The RNC effort underscores the incredibly high stakes for Trump and his party as Comey details his interactions with the president, including his claim that Trump asked for a loyalty test. Many Democrats, meanwhile, are hopeful that new revelations will further bolster a case for the president’s impeachment.

Comey’s firing set off a chain of events that have endangered Trump’s presidency. The Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to probe Russian interference in the 2016 election - and possible collusion with the Trump campaign - in the aftermath of Comey’s ouster.

With the Mueller probe escalating - including the FBI raid this week of Trump’s personal lawyer’s home and office in Manhattan - Comey’s media appearances could pose a major public relations challenge for the White House.

‘‘I’ve been around politics a long time, and I know fear when I see it,’’ said Jim Manley, a lobbyist and former senior aide to former Senate minority leader Harry Reid. ‘‘This White House reeks of fear. ... This shows me that they are prepared to use a scorched-earth strategy to undermine the FBI’s credibility. The party of law and order has become the party of trying to protect Trump at all costs.’’


Doug Heye, a former RNC communications director, said the Republican effort shows Comey’s publicity tour is ‘‘going to dominate news coverage. He’s going to seemingly everywhere.’’

But Heye said the RNC is doing its job. ‘‘It would be political malpractice not to do this,’’ he said.

Heye said the biggest challenge for Republicans could be combatting claims from Comey that have not previously made headlines.

In recent weeks, Trump has continued to attack Comey on Twitter, and Comey has suggested he will have his say through his book.

‘‘Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not,’’ Comey said in a tweet last month.

Earlier this week, Comey tweeted a picture of the room in his home where he was interviewed by Stephanopoulos, which had been transformed into a small television studio.

‘‘Not how my house normally looks,’’ Comey wrote. ‘‘One chair for George, one for me.’’

As part of its effort, the RNC is also distributing talking points to Trump surrogates to further its case against Comey. Among them: ‘‘Comey is a consummate Washington insider who knows how to work the media to protect his flanks’’ and ‘‘Americans will remember that his attempts to smear the Trump administration are nothing more than retaliation by a disgraced former official.’’


Though Comey was a registered Republican for most of his adult life, he has said he no longer is. He was appointed U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and deputy attorney general by President George W. Bush; he was appointed FBI director by President Barack Obama.

Following Sunday’s interview, Comey has numerous other bookings, including news programs as well as appearances with CBS late-night host Stephen Colbert and the hosts of ‘‘The View.’’

A large reception is also planned on Tuesday, the day of the book release, at the Newseum in Washington.

Among those quoted on the RNC website is the 2016 Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, who argued her campaign was seriously undercut by the FBI’s investigation, overseen by Comey, into her use of a private email server while secretary of state. ‘‘Badly overstepped his bounds,’’ Clinton is quoted as saying of Comey.

Other Democrats whose past quotes are included on the website include Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., (“I do not have confidence in [Comey] any longer”), Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., (“The FBI director has no credibility.”) and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., (“It would not be a bad thing for the American people if [Comey] did step down.”).

The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker contributed to this report.