James Comey Is No Hero – Adam Serwer | The Atlantic

James Comey Is No Hero

The former FBI director has a low opinion of the president who fired him, but his disregard for Department of Justice rules helped put Trump in the White House to begin with.

Adam Serwer | The Atlantic

James Comey’s highly anticipated book, A Higher Loyalty, reportedly makes no secret of the disdain in which the former FBI director holds the president who fired him. Comey compares President Trump to a mob boss, calling him a liar living in a “cocoon of alternative reality” and a man who is “unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values.”    

The most damning revelations in the published accounts of the memoir, however, are not Comey’s condemnations of Trump, but his disclosures of his own thinking when he made the decisions that helped put the current president in office.

In July 2016, Comey held a press conference excoriating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information, but announcing his decision to decline to prosecute her, said her actions were careless but inadvertent.

On October 28, 2016, days before the presidential election, Comey wrote a letter to Congress announcing publicly that the case was being reopened, a decision that experts have argued likely cost Clinton the election.

At the same time that Comey was publicly discussing a federal investigation of Clinton, the FBI was investigating whether Trump’s campaign was aiding a Russian influence operation aimed at putting the real-estate mogul in office.

Comey kept the latter secret: The investigation into Clinton found nothing new — the inquiry into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia is ongoing and has already led to guilty pleas from several former Trump campaign officials.

Why did Comey make that decision? His book, A Higher Loyalty, will be released on Tuesday. But accounts of its contents and excerpts published by outlets that have obtained copies of the book make clear that he concedes that he believed Clinton was going to win.

“It is entirely possible that, because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president,” Comey wrote, “my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls. But I don’t know.”

This is an astonishing admission. Justice Department guidelines bar officials from making important disclosures related to investigations close to elections to avoid influencing them. Comey took it upon himself to decide that, based on his concern that keeping the news confidential could call the legitimacy of a Clinton presidency into question, he had to announce that the investigation was being restarted.

But that was not his decision to make; the role of the FBI is to investigate crimes, it is not to use its authority to protect or harm the legitimacy of a given politician.

A hypothetical Clinton administration’s legitimacy should not have been a factor in Comey’s decision whatsoever; Comey should only have been concerned with following the guidelines of the Department of Justice, which exist to protect the integrity of the democratic process, and which Comey followed in the case of the Republican candidate.

Perhaps, Comey defenders might argue, the sensitivity of the Russia inquiry as a counter-intelligence investigation prevented him from disclosing anything about it. But the point isn’t that the Russia investigation should have been disclosed, but that the Clinton inquiry should not have been.

The fact that the Trump inquiry was kept under wraps while the Clinton inquiry was NOT simply accentuates the importance of the Justice Department rules against making such announcements close to an election — rules that Comey broke for one candidate but not for the other.

Comey’s admission that he believed Clinton would win is also dramatically at odds with Comey’s own sworn testimony before the Senate in May of 2017. “There was a great debate. I have a fabulous staff at all levels and one of my junior lawyers said, ‘Should you consider that what you’re about to do may help elect Donald Trump president?’” Comey said. “And I said, ‘Thank you for raising that, not for a moment because down that path lies the death of the FBI as an independent institution in America. I can’t consider for a second whose political fortunes will be affected in what way.’”

Now, Comey admits Clinton’s political fortunes were a factor in his decision, which means that by his own assessment, he personally put the FBI’s political independence at risk.

Comey’s explanation in a Higher Loyalty also makes little sense. If a potential Clinton administration’s legitimacy might be thrown into question by concealing the restarted investigation, why did Comey not have even greater concerns about a Trump administration, given the fact that the FBI believed that Trump’s campaign may have been drawing aid from a hostile foreign power, an allegation far more serious than mishandling of classified information?

The answer may lie in the political asymmetry I’ve been writing about for two years:
The FBI is petrified of criticism from its conservative detractors; and is relatively indifferent to its liberal critics.

Comey may have known that the Republican outrage over not disclosing the reopened Clinton investigation would dwarf whatever frustration Democrats might express at the opposite course of action, had he kept it under wraps as Justice Department guidelines obligated him to do.

This is painfully illustrated in the parade of Democrats Comey trots out to reaffirm his decisions. According to Comey, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tearfully told the former FBI director, “You were in an impossible position”; former President Barack Obama told Comey “nothing — nothing — has happened in the last year to change my view” of Comey’s integrity;  Attorney General Loretta Lynch told him to “look beat up,” after a private meeting, implying that she agreed with his decision. The list of affirmations is Trump-like in its self-aggrandizement: For all Comey’s disdain for Trump, the former FBI director has a Trumpish tendency to talk up other people’s high opinions of him.

Comey has a long record of public service, and Trump has none to speak of more than a year into his presidency. Yet there’s another way in which the virtuous and forthright Comey resembles the degenerate and deceitful Trump. Both are the main characters in their own cinematic dramas, the heroes of their own great epic stories, a mindset that blinds each of them to the consequences of their actions on other people.

Comey cares a great deal about honor; and regards the president as dishonorable.

In 2016, Comey robbed the American people of the opportunity to fairly judge each candidate in the 2016 election. That would be the case even if Clinton had prevailed; that she lost simply dramatizes the consequences of his meddling.

Comey chose honor over duty – the nation, the political process, and the independence of the FBI all continue to suffer for it.

Trump fired Comey for self-interested reasons, an act that may amount to obstruction of justice. But at that point, Comey had proven himself unfit to hold his office.

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Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On April 15, 2018 at 1:49 am

    In other Kelly news, the Daily Beast reported today that former FBI Director James Comey’s forthcoming book claims that then-DHS Secretary John Kelly told him that Trump’s decision to fire Comey was “dishonorable” and that Kelly indicated a desire to resign in protest.

    Comey, according to the Beast’s sources, says he told Kelly not to quit because “this president” more than others needed honorable people around him.

    Why Comey would leak a piece of information that could imperil Kelly’s job if he thought Kelly’s presence was crucial for the country is not exactly clear, though many people have revised their views of Kelly downward since he took office as chief of staff; perhaps Comey is among them.

  • Clyde Duncan  On April 15, 2018 at 5:34 am

    How America Became Irrelevant

    Guy T. Saperstein, Kelsey Abkin / Independent Media Institute | Alternet

    Over the past year, the United States of America has abandoned its leadership position on the global stage in many ways. The U.S.A. stopped leading the effort to combat climate change. The U.S.A. stopped leading on trade and tariffs. The U.S.A. raised destabilizing questions about our continued commitment to multilateral organizations and military alliances. The U.S.A. stopped leading on human rights and the rule of law. And these are things that Trump did with intention.

    When Trump pulled the United States of America out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the other nations involved reworked the agreement and signed it.

    When Trump backed out of the Paris Climate Agreement, it was characteristic of Trump’s isolationism.

    The U.S.A. now stands as the only country to not sign on to the Paris Climate Agreement with China charging ahead with plans to meet their 2030 commitment step-by-step.

    Trump ended American membership in UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, over the organization’s alleged anti-Israel bias and signaled that he will decline to certify the Iran nuclear agreement; He also recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in defiance of United Nations policy.

    How will a country look to Trump, who allegedly questioned why the United States of America accepts citizens from “shithole” countries and who got himself into a mess of controversy when he waded into the Twittersphere with foolish tweets in the wake of the latest terrorist attack in London? In both these instances, leaders, whose voices were heard far and wide, stood together and publicly condemned Trump.

    Thus comes into play what political scientist Joseph Nye deemed “soft power.” Soft power is defined as the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion. Trump is gutting America’s “soft power” and its credibility as a good-faith actor in international affairs.

    German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said, “The U.S.A. no longer sees the world as a global community but as a fighting arena where everyone has to seek their own advantage.”

    Trump’s actions are creating a country that relies solely on military force to influence the international stage and, when this is the case, it is not only American power that becomes irrelevant, but also American ideas. As Trump continues to frighten allies with erratic pronouncements, his voice, along with America, has become increasingly irrelevant.

  • kamtanblog  On April 15, 2018 at 5:49 am

    Honour v pride
    Patriotism v nationalism

    Our political class uses nationalism
    as their WMM (weapon of mass motivation)
    Will put you the “people” first !
    Absolute bull****

    A great film comes to mind
    Pride and prejudice !
    A must see for budding politicians.

    Interesting info/read

  • kamtanblog  On April 15, 2018 at 6:04 am

    Q
    How does one deal with a
    Schizophrenic unpredictable xenophobic imbercile dotard.?

    A
    Certify and institutionalise the individual regardless POTUS or POTATO brain.

    Lock him away !
    Please ….

  • Clyde Duncan  On April 15, 2018 at 6:09 am

    A Tale of American Hubris

    Or Five Lessons in the History of American Defeat

    Tom Engelhardt | TomDispatch

    The lessons of history? Who needs them? Certainly not Washington’s present cast of characters, a crew in flight from history, the past, or knowledge of – more or less – any sort.

    Of course, Donald Trump upon entering the Oval Office, our first billionaire president, promptly chose a cabinet of billionaires and multimillionaires ….

    While the great achievement of his initial year as president would be to free both corporate America and the said gilded class of yet more financial responsibility for the nation, thanks to his tax “reform” bill.

    Meanwhile, Trump oversaw the expansion of America’s wars in distant lands.

    To put this in perspective, revert to the last Republican President, George W. and his crew who wanted to BIG UP America:

    Their goal was to ensure that the U.S.A. would “build and maintain” the country’s “defenses” – that is to say, military power beyond challenge.

    And keep in mind that they were already talking about a country in – as their document put it – “a position of unparalleled military strength”.

    Let that roll around in your head for a while so many years later: On this planet, a single, unparalleled military power “beyond challenge.”

    That was a dream of dominance that once would have been left to Evil Empires, or madmen, or the truly, truly bad guys in Hollywood movies.

    This is the stuff that Trump supporters believe in – No Kidding!!

    So much of this has, of course, already been buried in the sands of history, but that’s no reason for it to be forgotten.

    Tom Engelhardt, the author, says by the time Donald Trump is done – you can count on him for Lessons six through ten in American Defeat.

  • Clyde Duncan  On April 15, 2018 at 6:19 am

    Kamtanblog: David Letterman beat you to it last summer … Check this out:

    David Letterman is tired of all the talk about President Trump’s incompetence. The former Late Night host wants to see some action.

    “I know there’s trouble in this country and we need a guy who can fix that trouble,” Letterman told the Associated Press in an interview published this week.

    “I wish it was Trump, but it’s not, so let’s just stop whining about what a goon he is and figure out a way to take him aside and put him in a home.”

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