Apr 16, 2018, 12:34 PM ET

Comey weighs in on 5 key political players in his exclusive interview with ABC News

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The surprise firing of former FBI Director James Comey rocked the political world, and now he’s re-entering the fray with some revelations that could send shockwaves of their own.

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Comey weighed in with comments about some key political players, from ret. Gen. Petraeus to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in an exclusive interview with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos ahead of the April 17 release of his book “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.”

PHOTO: A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James ComeyFlatiron Books
A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey

Here are some of the most interesting opinions Comey shared on political figures.

1. Sounding off on ret. Gen. David Petraeus’ missteps

Comey spoke at length about the Hillary Clinton email saga, and when he was asked at one point to compare that situation to the case of Gen. David Petraeus, he said he felt the charges filed against the former general didn’t go far enough.

Petraeus resigned in 2012 after revelations that he had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, and shared classified secrets with her.

“He was the director of the CIA,” Comey said. “He was having a romantic relationship with a woman who was also an author, going to write a book about him.”

PHOTO: Former CIA Director David Petraeus prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 22, 2015. Evan Vucci/AP/File
Former CIA Director David Petraeus prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 22, 2015.

"He had taken home and stored in a backpack notebooks full of notes about some of the government's most sensitive secrets. Classified at the top level in the government, including conversations with President Obama about special access programs, some of our-- our most closely guarded secrets. And he had given these notebooks to this person who had neither a need to know, nor the appropriate clearance. And he'd actually allowed her to photograph pages containing top secret information. And then, when the F.B.I. interviewed him about it, he lied about it," Comey said.

Petraeus pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for mishandling classified information in 2015. (link to our previous reporting: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/cia-head-david-petraeus-plead-guilty/story?id=29340487)

"I thought David Petraeus should've been prosecuted not just for the mishandling of the classified information, but also for lying to the F.B.I. because lying is-- strikes at the heart of our rule of law in this country.”

2. Rosenstein viewed as ‘dishonorable’

PHOTO: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein attends a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., March 23, 2018.Michael Reynolds/EPA via Shuttestock
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein attends a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., March 23, 2018.

Comey said his view of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is colored by a memo Rosenstein wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that was cited by the White House as the reasoning for Comey’s firing in May 2017. The memo criticized Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation – specifically for his July 2016 press conference at which he announced the findings of the FBI investigation, and his Oct. 28, 2016, letter to Congress stating that the investigation had been reopened due to the discovery of additional emails.

“The way [Director Comey] handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong, “ Rosenstein wrote. “As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.”

Comey told Stephanopoulos, “The deputy attorney general, in my view, had acted dishonorably by putting out this pretext about why I was fired.”

The former FBI chief further said that Rosenstein is now too much in Trump’s orbit.

Comey told Stephanopoulos that he sees Trump and his team as acting similarly to mafia families in making people feel as if they are part of the family, and in turn, expecting these people to act according to the families’ best interests.

“He's part of the family now. I can't trust him," Comey said of Rosenstein.

Rosenstein is the one at the Department of Justice who now has authority over special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and their investigation into Russian interference in the election, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. There has been much speculation as to whether President Donald Trump will decide to fire Mueller. If he does, most legal experts believe that order would have to go through Rosenstein.

When asked by Stephanopoulos is he believes that Rosenstein would carry out such an order, Comey said that he may not in an effort to make up for Comey’s firing.

“I think, given his experience with me, that he has an opportunity in overseeing Bob Mueller to restore some of his professional reputation. And I'm highly confident that he would refuse to abide that order,” Comey said of Rosenstein.

3. Sessions seen as ‘over matched’

PHOTO: Attorney General Jeff Sessions accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, left, speaks at a news conference at the Department of Justice, July 20, 2017, in Washington D.C.Andrew Harnik/AP, FILE
Attorney General Jeff Sessions accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, left, speaks at a news conference at the Department of Justice, July 20, 2017, in Washington D.C.

Comey told Stephanopoulos that he was unsure of his views on Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“I don't know what to make of him. I mean, I only worked with him very briefly before I was fired. My sense of him, maybe it's unfair to him, was that he was over matched for the job. And that the job was much, much bigger than he was. And that he was gonna struggle in it. That's my sense,” Comey said.

4. Obama’s comments about Clinton’s emails were “inappropriate”

PHOTO: Barack Obama sits alongside James Comey during an installation ceremony at Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters in Washington, DC, Oct. 28, 2013.Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Barack Obama sits alongside James Comey during an installation ceremony at Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters in Washington, DC, Oct. 28, 2013.

Comey didn’t limit his criticisms to Republicans, saying that some of President Obama’s behavior surrounding the Clinton email scandal baffled him as well.

“We had the problem that President Obama had twice publicly basically said, ‘There's no there, there’ in an interview with-- on Fox, an interview on 60 Minutes I think, both times he said that,” Comey said.

“It really did surprise me. He's a very smart man and a lawyer. And so it surprised me. He shouldn't have done it. It was inappropriate,” Comey said.

When asked by Stephanopoulos if Obama was trying to “color the case” against Clinton, Comey said “I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

“He didn't have any insight into the case, at least as far as I know, more than anybody readin' the newspaper did, which was zero 'cause there were no leaks,” Comey said. “I think he felt a pressure in the political environment because he wanted Hillary Clinton to be elected, to give her a shot in the arm.”

5. Comey would be fine with Kelly quitting now

PHOTO: John Kelly testifies at a House Appropriations Committee Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing on The Department of Homeland Security Fiscal Year 18 Budget Request on Capitol Hill, May 24, 2017.Nicholad Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
John Kelly testifies at a House Appropriations Committee Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing on "The Department of Homeland Security Fiscal Year 18 Budget Request" on Capitol Hill, May 24, 2017.

In the immediate wake of his sudden firing by Trump, Comey received several concerned phone calls. In addition to receiving a confused call from his wife Patrice, who had heard that he was fired before hearing it from Comey directly, and then getting a call from a different friend, Comey says he also got a call from then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, who now serves as Trump’s chief of staff.

Kelly “was very upset,” Comey said. “He was very emotional and said he had seen the news and that he intended to resign because he wouldn't work for people who would treat someone like me in such a dishonorable way and that he was gonna quit.”

Comey said he urged Kelly to remain in the administration.

“Please don't do that, John,” Comey recalled telling Kelly. “And I knew him well and still… thought highly of him then, still think highly of him, and I said, ‘Please don't do that. This president needs people of character and principle around him, especially this president. Please don't do that.’ And I said, ‘We need you to stay and serve for the country.’”

“If he called you today saying he intended to quit, what would you tell him?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“I understand. I think you've sacrificed as much as you really can of yourself for the country. And no one would begrudge you leaving. You've done your absolute best. It's come at a cost to you, but that no one can blame you,” Comey said.

The White House referred ABC News to the Republican National Committee for comment from Kelly.

“What’s dishonorable is that James Comey lied about leaking information to the media, consistently contradicted himself in testimony, and made a series of bizarre decisions as FBI director. That’s why Republicans and Democrats alike have said he has no credibility,” RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens said in a statement to ABC News.

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  • Tom

    Comey showed his total lack of ability to be FBI director. The one thing I think he was right about is Sessions. Sessions still thinks and acts like a Senator and not an AG that needs to run his Department. Sessions definitely needs to listen to his boss and go after the people that need going after and see them hauled in to be booked and tried. Above all Sessions needs to clean house and get rid of the obstructionists and traitors in DOJ.

  • clydeal

    An imperfect player and a totally incompetent president.

  • j a

    Comey has more integrity and class then Trump and all of his ban of merry crooks.

  • ItsClassified

    The damage Comey has done to the FBI is immeasurable. With ABC's revelations Comey should be nominated for Sainthood. Oh wait, he doesn't meet the criteria, something about heroic virtue is lacking.

  • P.A.Brenner

    Slimeball

  • S. Yoder

    Comey became intimidated and pressured by Obama. Instead of resisting and resigning and telling his story, he became a political pawn. All goes to Comey's character. Now he has to cover up for himself and Obama. Definitely a cop gone bad!

  • Pat Dunne

    I suspect Trump now understands why people recommended he not fire Comey.

  • Marc

    Comey gets a check for $2,000,000 plus royalties, plus speaking fees, book signings, countless tv interviews etc.. You know someone is thinking about a movie, meaning millions more for Comey. He should thank trump for this gift.

  • Realpshep

    I lost respect for Comey....He's like everybody else just trying to advertise his book for a bigger payday

  • SummerFan12

    I would totally believe Comey over Trump. With that said, the strangest take-away was Comey saying that Trump is morally unfit and that there is evidence of obstruction, yet he didn't think that Trump should be impeached. Makes no sense.

  • OldestSeaDog

    The last time a news show used three reliable sources to reinforce and backup a story was the last day Walter Cronkite did a news report for CBS news. What reporters thought, felt or disliked about someone they kept to themselves, now it is a free for all to see just how many 'out there' stories can be done in a 24 hour period. Ratings have become more important than fair reporting.
    There was a time that the FBI was the most respected investigative body in the country. Now, with Comey doing his showbiz tour for a book and the behind the scenes of FBI employees aiming to help an election along no one can ever fully trust the FBI like they once did.
    The DOJ, the ones suppose to charge those the FBI deem need to be charged, has become an after thought when all is said and done in today's news cycle.
    Justice, where did you go? Where did all the honorable people go that once served in the FBI and the DOJ?
    I worry more about this country's judicial system than I do about any political office or about whomever is serving in political offices. Justice is a dying breed it appears in this great land of ours.
    Comey is trashing this nation as a whole by doing this book. No wonder this nation is in an uproar over the least little things. When you have a former director of the FBI going on national television and condemning the President of the United States because he doesn't like him, that is clear evidence that honor has taken a backseat to integrity in these United States
    Shame on ABC news for this charade of presenting something as news worthy when in actual fact it was just another two-bit piece of tearing down the man the majority of states elected as President of these United States. I take it the majority of states, and all the people that live within those states, don't matter much to ABC news. Too bad, who knows, they might elect the next President too, no matter what you, ABC News, think about that person.

  • Denese

    The FBI should not have said anything until they had proof she had done something wrong. Why broadcast allegations? What if they are false?

  • pattycake

    George Stephanopoulos didn't ask the right questions. Questions like: why didn't Comey recommend prosecution of Hillary, over the acid washed and destroyed devices that held her subpoenaed emails? If you or I obstructed justice like that, our rear ends would absolutely be in jail. Destroying evidence IS a crime!

  • DestinysNow

    Interesting interview. As much as I don't like Comey, I can better understand the reasoning behind some of his decisions. I think Comey was ultimately trying to do what he actually thought was right. I do think, however, that he was trying to protect his job too much with Trump, so he was letting Trump try to have influence over him until he was fired. Comey is a mostly good person trying to do the right thing. Comey is like the medicine that you know will help you feel better, but tastes so awful going down.

  • ldean

    I disagree with Comey's assessment of O'bama's comments stating "there is no there, there..." Comey says it was inappropriate, because O'bama didn't know "what" was in those emails. Here's a thought . . . I believe O'bama knows Secretary Clinton well enough to have confidence in her ability and integrity, and that is what he was addressing.