US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has taken a pre-emptive strike against James Comey, losing his cool on Twitter ahead of revelations to come in the ex-FBI director's upcoming book.
In a volley of angry, over-the-top tweets, Mr Trump called Mr Comey "slippery," suggested he should be in jail and labelled him "the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!".
It came ahead of Mr Comey's first interview on the book, which offers his version of the events surrounding his firing as FBI director by Mr Trump and the investigations into Russian election meddling and Hillary Clinton's email practices.
The book reportedly paints an unflattering portrait of Mr Trump, who fired Mr Comey last year.
Mr Comey's book, A Higher Loyalty - Truth, Lies and Leadership which comes out on Tuesday, compares Mr Trump to a mafia don and calls his leadership of the country "ego driven and about personal loyalty".
According to excerpts of the book obtained by US media, Mr Comey writes that interactions with Mr Trump gave him "flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob". "The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The US-versus-them worldview," he wrote.
In an excerpt shown on Saturday, Mr Comey said his belief that Mrs Clinton would beat Mr Trump in the 2016 presidential election was a factor in his decision to disclose the investigation into her emails.
Mr Trump seized on that, saying Mr Comey "was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!"
Mr Comey's disclosure shortly before the election that the FBI had reopened its investigation into her email use enraged Democrats. After Mrs Clinton's loss, many Democrats blamed Mr Comey, and Mrs Clinton herself has said it hurt her election prospects.
I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty. I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies. His “memos” are self serving and FAKE!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2018
"I HARDLY EVEN KNEW THIS GUY"
On Sunday, Mr Trump pushed back again against Mr Comey's claims that Mr Trump sought his loyalty, saying: "I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies."
Mr Comey fires back that his book draws on stories from his life and from lessons he has learned from others. "3 presidents are in my book: 2 help illustrate the values at the heart of ethical leadership; 1 serves as a counterpoint," he wrote. "I hope folks read the whole thing and find it useful."
An agitated Mr Trump questioned Mr Comey's intelligence and place in history, writing, "Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!"
He also suggested Mr Comey should be imprisoned, saying, "how come he gave up Classified Information (jail), why did he lie to Congress (jail)." There is no indication Mr Comey is under investigation for doing either.
Asked if the President wanted the Justice Department to investigate Mr Comey, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on ABC's This Week on Sunday that she was not aware of a specific request.
But, she said: "If they feel there was any wrongdoing, they should certainly look into that just as they do on a number of other topics."
My book is about ethical leadership & draws on stories from my life & lessons I learned from others. 3 presidents are in my book: 2 help illustrate the values at the heart of ethical leadership; 1 serves as a counterpoint. I hope folks read the whole thing and find it useful.— James Comey (@Comey) April 15, 2018
Former Attorney-General Loretta Lynch pushed back against Mr Comey's criticism in the book that, early in the Clinton email inquiry, she had instructed him to refer to it as a "matter" rather than an "investigation."
In a statement to The Associated Press on Sunday, Ms Lynch said she was simply following longstanding Justice Department protocol against confirming or denying the existence of an investigation.
She also said that Mr Comey never raised any concerns with her regarding the email investigation.
Mr Trump fired Mr Comey in May 2017, setting off a scramble at the Justice Department that led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation. Mr Mueller's probe has expanded to include whether Mr Trump obstructed justice by firing Mr Comey.
Mr Trump has said he fired Mr Comey because of his handling of the FBI's investigation into Mrs Clinton's email practices.
Mr Trump used the investigation as a cudgel in the campaign and repeatedly said Mrs Clinton should be jailed for using a personal email system while serving as Secretary of State.
Democrats, on the other hand, have accused Mr Comey of politicising the investigation.
In the interview excerpt released on Saturday, Mr Comey said he did not remember "consciously thinking" about the election results as he decided to disclose that the FBI had reopened its investigation into presidential candidate Mrs Clinton's email use.
But, he acknowledged, "I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump, and so I'm sure that it was a factor."
He added: "I don't remember spelling it out, but it had to have been that she's going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she'll be illegitimate the moment she's elected, the moment this comes out."
The Republican National Committee has helped with the pushback effort against Mr Comey for his book by launching a website and supplying surrogates with talking points that question his credibility.