President Donald Trump’s allies are preparing an extensive campaign to fight back against James Comey’s publicity tour, trying to undermine the credibility of the former FBI director by reviving the blistering Democratic criticism of him before he was fired nearly a year ago.
The battle plan against Comey, obtained by CNN, calls for branding the nation’s former top law enforcement official as “Lyin’ Comey” through a website, digital advertising and talking points to be sent to Republicans across the country before his memoir is released next week. The White House signed off on the plan, which is being overseen by the Republican National Committee.
“Comey is a liar and a leaker and his misconduct led both Republicans and Democrats to call for his firing,” Republican chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement to CNN. “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.”
While it’s an open question how successful Republicans will be in making their case against Comey, given that Trump unceremoniously dismissed him last May 9, there is no doubt that many Democrats remain furious at how the former FBI director treated Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Republicans hope to remind Democrats why they disliked Comey by assailing his credibility, shining a new light on his conduct and pointing out his contradictions – or the three Cs.
An old quotation from Clinton is prominently displayed on the “Lyin’Comey” website, with Trump’s former Democratic rival saying that Comey “badly overstepped his bounds.”
Comey’s media blitz
The Comey memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” is set to be released next Tuesday. His media blitz begins Sunday evening in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, who says Comey compared Trump to a “mob boss.”
The President’s firing of Comey set into motion a cascading series of events that continue to complicate and cloud the Trump presidency. The Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel in the Russia probe after it was revealed that Trump had asked Comey to drop the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The White House is bracing for Comey to share his story, with aides fearful of how the President will react and how it could influence the escalating Mueller investigation. The well-orchestrated RNC strategy could, of course, be upended by the President himself through a tweet or off-the-cuff comments about Comey.
The exhaustive plan to attack Comey illustrates how seriously Trump’s allies are taking the memoir and a round of television interviews Comey is set to give, including on CNN starting next week followed by a town hall April 25.
The Republican plan against Comey is built around several aggressive arguments, according to the plan obtained by CNN, including these:
1) “Comey has a long history of misstatements and misconduct,” including damage caused to the FBI because of “bizarre decisions, contradictory statements and acting against Department of Justice and FBI protocol.”
2) “Attempts to smear the Trump administration are nothing more than retaliation by a disgraced former official.”
3) “Comey isn’t credible – just ask Democrats.” The digital ads will show several Democrats calling for Comey’s resignation after he injected himself into the 2016 presidential race, including House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who is shown saying: “All I can tell you is the FBI Director has no credibility.”
The political contradictions surrounding Comey are underscored by how such a central part of the Republican plan is built around reminding Americans of how Democrats had disdain for him, particularly those from the Clinton campaign. Republicans will argue that Comey “repeatedly usurped” the authority of then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and violated protocol by “publicly acknowledging the existence of ongoing FBI investigations.”
The Republican plan also takes a closer look at Comey’s appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee last June, when he testified that the President had asked him to stop investigating Flynn. That contradicted a remark he made earlier when testifying that the President did not ask him to stop an investigation for political reasons.
For Comey, who once enjoyed wide bipartisan support in Washington, the book tour comes with high stakes. A former deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, he was appointed by President Barack Obama to lead the FBI in 2013.
Since Trump dismissed Comey during the fourth year of a 10-year term he has remained largely silent, with the exception of testifying last summer on Capitol Hill and a handful of searing tweets aimed at the President. The memoir’s release is the first major opportunity for Comey to speak aloud – and be subjected to questions – about his interaction with Trump before being fired.
“Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon,” Comey wrote last month on Twitter. “And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.”
The RNC plan, which was approved by the White House, attempts to portray Comey as a man simply out for himself.
“James Comey’s publicity tour is a self-serving attempt to make money and rehabilitate his own image,” said McDaniel, the RNC chairwoman.