On Sunday morning, President Donald Trump woke up early to again vent his frustrations on Twitter, his preferred medium. Among @realDonaldTrump’s grievances was that the fired FBI director was “very” much so a coward.
“I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible,” the president posted in one tweet. “Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!’”
It’s the president personally getting in on what one senior Trump administration official described to The Daily Beast as the “‘Comey is a pussy’ offensive.”
“It minimizes [Comey and] undermines the seriousness of his testimony and claims,” the official noted, chuckling. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity so as to speak freely.
Ever since Comey testified under oath before the Senate, perhaps the pettiest talking point to emerge out of Trump-world has been that the ex- FBI head isn’t much of a tough guy. Last week, Comey testified that Trump pressuring him to go easy on Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn was “a very disturbing thing, [and] very concerning.”
On CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday morning, Trump campaign adviser David Urban—who was reportedly shortlisted for a senior White House post—said that Comey had “scampered outside to his SUV” after a tense meeting with Trump, instead of actually pushing back effectively against the president.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s fired campaign manager who has been angling for a return to Trump’s side, said on Friday that Comey was not “man enough” simply because the former FBI director had a friend last month leak the contents of a memo, instead of leaking it to the press himself.
“He gave his notes to a Columbia law professor because he wasn’t man enough to give the notes directly to the media when he wanted them out to the media,” Lewandowski declared on NBC’s Today.
Others, such as Donald Trump Jr., were eager to point out that either Comey is conveniently pretending to be a wimp, or really is one.
“If the head of the FBI is saying... ‘Well, if I was a stronger individual’... Gimme a break! You’re the head of the FBI!” Trump’s son said on Fox News’ Justice with Judge Jeanine that aired on Saturday. “You’re not some baby... Does anyone believe this? And if he is, he’s that guy? Like, he’s not strong enough to say something that he believes is right? Then he goes and writes a memo, then he leaks it to The New York Times.”
One longtime Trump confidant told The Daily Beast that this kind of line of attack is what people have come to expect from Trump—whose bullying and taunting instincts go back decades—and what Trump has come to expect from his political and personal loyalists.
When porn actress Jessica Drake emerged late last year as one of Trump’s many sexual-harassment and assault accusers, then GOP presidential nominee Trump sarcastically bashed her during an interview, saying, “Oh, I’m sure she’s never been grabbed before.”
And when former Miss Universe and Hillary Clinton supporter Alicia Machado started attacking Trump during the election, Trump’s closest media allies were happy to falsely paint her as a lying, violent porn star.
When it came to assailing critics and political opponents’ integrity or manliness, candidate Trump was no slouch. During a televised debate in the primary, Trump mocked fellow GOP contender Jeb Bush as weak, teasing him with, “Oh, you're a tough guy, Jeb...You're real tough, Jeb," right before mocking Bush for his sagging poll numbers.
And after Sen. John McCain and Trump got into a feud shortly in the summer of 2015, Trump famously trashed the senator’s military service record. McCain was tortured and held prisoner for years during the Vietnam War; Trump never served.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said on-stage. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you.”
Now, it’s James Comey’s turn.
"One of the easier ways…to get the president's good praise and attention on TV is to go out and say that Comey is a sniveling coward and doesn't have the guts like a Donald Trump," the Republican source and Trump confidant said.
It’s spiteful and small, and, in many ways, pure Trump.
However, not all outside Trump allies are quite ready to jump on the cowardly-Comey bandwagon, at least not just yet.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump campaign adviser who has been highly critical of Comey, told The Daily Beast on Sunday that it was not entirely fair to call the ousted FBI director a “coward,” per se.
“I wouldn’t put it [as ‘cowardly’], Gingrich said. “I think it’s very complicated.”
When asked why the president would go after Comey like that, Gingrich simply said, “You’d have to ask the president that.”