Apr 16, 2018, 5:55 AM ET

The Note: Comey and Trump raise the stakes

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The TAKE with Rick Klein

This “slime ball” gets his say, and then some.

That enrages President Donald Trump, based on his tweets. And it may mean much more than name-calling and anger before it’s through.

With the interview tour that began Sunday night on ABC, fired FBI director James Comey is forcing those in and out of power to take sides.

“He is morally unfit to be president,” Comey told George Stephanopoulos.

Trump’s early counter to Comey’s book, that Comey should be behind bars, only raises the stakes in this highest-dollar kind of game.

Comey is not merely a fired employee who thinks Trump is a flawed man. He is also a potential witness, and Comey – and surely special counsel Robert Muellerknow this well.

“If Bob Mueller is let — left in place to do his job, he will find the truth,” Comey said.

Trump brags about being a counter-puncher, so Comey stands warned. But this fight could have far deeper costs, depending on how the coming days play out.

The RUNDOWN with Emily Goodin

It will be a busy week of back and forth between Congress and President Trump.

First off - any reaction to James Comey's interview on ABC, particularly his comments on when the investigation began into Russian election interference, his Oval Office meeting with Trump on Michael Flynn, and whether the Russians have something on the president.

On Syria, a chorus of Democrats – and at least one Republican – have questioned whether the military action is on questionable legal ground because the legislation Trump relied on to use force without congressional authorization has not been updated since 2001.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump makes remarks as he speaks to the nation, announcing military action against Syria for the recent apparent gas attack on its civilians, at the White House, April 13, 2018, in Washington, D.C.Mike Theiler - Pool/Getty Images
President Donald Trump makes remarks as he speaks to the nation, announcing military action against Syria for the recent apparent gas attack on its civilians, at the White House, April 13, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

Then there’s the continued speculation about whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and, ultimately, special counsel Robert Mueller, will keep their jobs. Legislation is working its way through both chambers to protect the men.

And, finally, Mike Pompeo is expected to answer more questions from senators as lawmakers prepare to vote on his nomination to be Trump's secretary of state. GOP Sen. Rand Paul is a no vote, which means the administration will need not only all the other Republicans but at least one Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to give him a favorable recommendation for a floor vote.

The TIP with Matt Seyler

Just before the ABC interview - strong pushback to James Comey from former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

She issued a statement saying "I have never hesitated to make the hard decisions, guided by the Department of Justice’s core principles of integrity, independence and above all, always doing the right thing. The Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton email investigation under my leadership was no exception."

Lynch continued, "at the critical early stages of this case, I followed the Department’s long-standing policy of neither confirming nor denying the fact of an ongoing investigation. " It neither misleads nor misinforms, but instead both protects investigations and guarantees equal treatment of those under scrutiny, whether well-known or unknown. Any suggestion that I invoked this bedrock policy for any other reason is simply false.”

PHOTO: James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), right, and Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney general, listen during a news conference, May 27, 2015. Bloomberg via Getty Images, file photo
James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), right, and Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney general, listen during a news conference, May 27, 2015.

She concluded by noting she has known Comey for almost 30 years.

"Throughout his time as Director we spoke regularly about some of the most sensitive issues in law enforcement and national security. If he had any concerns regarding the email investigation, classified or not, he had ample opportunities to raise them with me both privately and in meetings. He never did.”

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

• The President heads to Florida this morning for a week that will include hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago.

• The President hosts the Tax Cuts For Florida Small Businesses Roundtable in Hialeah, Fla., at 12:40 p.m.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"..when I worked for Jim, if I had said to him 11 days before an election that I was going to release information that could potentially affect the election, and one of the things that influenced me was polling, he would have fired me. He would have fired me on the spot." - Former New Jersey GOP governor Chris Christie on "This Week" responding to the James Comey interview.

PHOTO: George Stephanopoulos sits down with former FBI director James Comey for an exclusive interview that will air during a primetime 20/20 special on Sunday, April 15, 2018 on the ABC Television Network. Ralph Alswang/ABC
George Stephanopoulos sits down with former FBI director James Comey for an exclusive interview that will air during a primetime "20/20" special on Sunday, April 15, 2018 on the ABC Television Network.

NEED TO READ

'Morally unfit': The moments that mattered in James Comey's explosive interview. James Comey broke his silence about a wide range of topics relating to his interactions with Donald Trump before being unceremoniously fired last year. Comey talked about the possibility of the president obstructing justice, his concerns over whether the Russians have something to hold over Trump, the way he defends his actions relating to the Hillary Clinton email saga, and much more. Get a rundown here. (Meghan Keneally) https://abcn.ws/2HGn6HD

Watch the interview: Comey's first interview since President Trump fired him. The former FBI director shared his story with ABC News ahead of the April 17 release of his book "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership." https://abcn.ws/2qBKduG

Comey says he believes the source of the Steele ‘dossier’ to be 'credible.' “It was coming from a credible source, someone with a track record, someone who was a credible and respected member of an allied intelligence service during his career,” Comey said. (Meghan Keneally) https://abcn.ws/2qzU4Ss

James Comey says Robert Mueller is 'not on anybody's side.' “The American people can have complete confidence in Robert Mueller,” Comey said. (Meghan Keneally) https://abcn.ws/2HBrOGi

Trump sent 'strong message' to Iran, Russia and Syria with missile strikes: White House spokesperson. The airstrikes conducted by the U.S., Britain and France succeeded, Sanders told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday. "They 100 percent met their objectives." (Quinn Scanlan) https://abcn.ws/2qyD8vM

Trump hits highest approval in a year, but 68 percent of women dislike him personally. The president remains poorly rated overall in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll -– 56 percent of Americans disapprove of his job performance, versus 40 percent who approve, and “strong” disapprovers outnumber strong approvers by nearly 2-1. (Gary Langer) https://abcn.ws/2H1MUAE

With Barbara Bush in failing health, political figures show support. An outpouring of support came flooding in for Barbara Bush Sunday after a statement from the office of former President George H. W. Bush announced the former first lady was in failing health. (Matt Seyler and M.L. Nestel) https://abcn.ws/2veRNB6

Trump the campaigner could help Republicans most in battle to hold Senate. Republicans will have to choose carefully where to use President Donald Trump as campaigner in chief in the party's fight to keep control of Congress in this year's midterm elections, strategists say. (Emily Goodin) https://abcn.ws/2HDdwoH

Comey made announcement on Clinton email probe days before election to give himself 'cover': Trump spokesperson. James Comey’s acknowledgement that he may have subconsciously expected Hillary Clinton to win the presidency when he disclosed before the 2016 election the reopening of a probe of her emails shows that he was driven by political motivation, a White House spokesperson said. (Allison Pecorin) https://abcn.ws/2EMuo9F

Lawmakers react to bombshell James Comey interview. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle took to Twitter on Sunday night to share reactions to James Comey’s first sit-down interview since President Donald Trump fired him last year. (Karma Allen) https://abcn.ws/2J0RFXV

Trump would 'never' sign legislation to protect Mueller: Republican senator. A Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee said she thinks President Donald Trump would never sign legislation protecting Robert Mueller, but that Congress should pass such a bill anyway to send a message to the White House. (Quinn Scanlan) https://abcn.ws/2ENeI60

Axios lists the four main issues on the table for when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Trump meet this week, ranging from tariffs to North Korea. https://bit.ly/2H3KNsf

The Washington Post reports on the disappearing promise to repeal Obamacare among Republican congressmen. https://wapo.st/2HBrvLG

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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  • MAGreenA

    Mr. Trump, I believe James Comey.

  • J P

    Continued attacks by the WH and republicans are nothing more than attacks on democracy. This government of Putin (GOP) is digusting and obstructing justice. This no longer is the America we know.

  • b rubble

    Donald tweeted "Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!),.....
    So that's how Donald makes himself smarter than everyone else, he calls everyone else not smart. Smart.

  • stephen

    With each passing day, Trump erodes the respect traditionally afforded the presidency, earns the support Putin gave him, and pleases Xi's desire for global domination.

  • wiseone

    It's quite obvious to both sides of the political spectrum that our government has become a toxic arena. Now it's up to the voting public to clean up the mess beginning with November mid-terms. Smart voting will decide whether we see a bright future.......or nuclear bombs coming to our cities..........VOTE!!!!!!!

  • Hank R

    I'm waiting for one of them to call the other a doodyhead.