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Three things James Comey compared Donald Trump to in his ‘20/20’ interview

Former FBI director James Comey (left) had a lot to say about President Trump in an ABC News interview that aired on Sunday.AFP/Getty Images/File

Former FBI director James Comey’s interview with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos aired Sunday night, touching on a number of topics related to the 2016 presidential election, the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, and President Trump’s leadership style.

The “20/20” interview was Comey’s first since Trump fired him last May. While ABC only aired an hour of the interview — which ran ahead of Monday’s release of Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty” — Comey and Stephanopoulos reportedly spoke for five hours.

The complete transcript of the conversation is full of details — specifically several poignant metaphors of how Comey views Trump.


Here are three things Comey compared Trump to during the interview.

1. A mob boss

Comey claims that at the beginning of Trump’s term, the new president told him, “I need loyalty.” Comey instead promised him “honesty,” since he said a loyalty oath between the president and FBI director crosses a line. Comey agreed the alleged actions were in line with those of a mob boss, and said he doesn’t make that claim lightly.

“I’m not trying to that, by the way, suggest that President Trump is out breaking legs and, you know, shaking down shopkeepers,” Comey said, according to the ABC transcript. “But instead, what I’m talking about is that leadership culture constantly comes back to me when I think about my experience with the Trump administration.”

Comey previously worked for the US Attorney’s Office in New York from 1987 to 1993, during which time he helped prosecute the famous Gambino crime family in New York.

“The loyalty oaths, the boss as the dominant center of everything, it’s all about, ‘How do you serve the boss, what’s in the boss’ interests?’ It’s the family, the family, the family, the family,” he said.


2. A forest fire

Trump, Comey suggested, is a danger to the country — similar to a wild blaze.

“I liken President Trump in the book to a forest fire. Going to do tremendous damage,” Comey said. “Going to damage those important norms. But a forest fire gives healthy things a chance to grow that had no chance before that fire.”

When asked how the country can “put it out,” Comey said the country’s citizens need to get involved and can’t become “numb to the fact that the truth is being assailed every day.”

3. A stain

Comey and Stephanopoulos spoke in-depth about what makes an ethical leader, and when tough leadership becomes detrimental.

“The challenge of this president is that he will stain everyone around him,” Comey said. “And the question is, how much stain is too much stain, and how much stain eventually makes you unable to accomplish your goal of protecting the country and serving the country?”

Comey didn’t have an answer to that question, instead deciding that it is an individual choice for everyone.

J.D. Capelouto can be reached at jd.capelouto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jdcapelouto.