Disappointing… Former FBI Director James Comey appeared on ABC News on April 15, 2018, to discuss the release of his book, “A Higher Loyalty.” He later appeared on other network shows for similar interviews. No doubt the book will be a best seller as people are interested in reading about Comey’s account of his firing by President Trump and his role in the Clinton and Trump investigations. Ever since firing James Comey, President Trump has assailed Comey’s character, live and in numerous Tweets, referring to him as a “nut job,” “slimeball,” and other classic Trumpian derogations. Comey made mistakes, should answer for them, but did not deserve the ongoing character assassination from the administration and its allies. The book, and interviews promoting the book, were an excellent opportunity for him to address his own actions and decisions, yet he chose not to do so. He was simply disappointing…
Based on his actions and decisions during the 2016 Election, specifically concerning his handling of the Clinton email investigation and Trump campaign investigation, Comey was certainly not the “Boy Scout” he was previously reputed to be. He may well have been acting on principle rather than intentionally impacting the election. It appears he acted in principle when he quietly denied President Trump’s attempts to end investigations into Michael Flynn and Russia which led to his termination. However, it begs the question why he chose not to address these issues in his book.
In July 2016, Director Comey castigated Hillary Clinton in a live, televised, lengthy statement despite the decision not to go forward with any charges. To be fair, Clinton and her aides deserved criticism for sloppy email practices and the private server. However, the timing and extent of Comey’s harsh condemnation in the heat of the campaign suggested questionable judgment. More importantly, in late October on the eve of the election, Comey informed Congress and stated publicly that the FBI had re-opened the Clinton email investigation (because of email found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop in a separate, unrelated investigation). He claimed he was in a difficult position with the election so close, but he believed he had a duty to notify Congress. However, in a mere couple of days investigators concluded there was nothing of evidentiary value and again closed the investigation. Clearly Comey could have waited that short time before taking any action, which action would have been obviated by the quick determination. Comey’s actions in October again raised questions about his judgment as well as the strong possibility he ignored agency protocol restricting any public statements or comments about investigations that involve ongoing campaigns.
At the time of his statements in July and October, the American public supported Comey, respecting the difficult position he was in and accepting that he believed he had acted as was necessary at the time. After the election, the nation learned that the Trump campaign had also been under investigation during the campaign. Unlike the Clinton email investigation, the Trump investigation was directly related to the campaign. Unlike with the Clinton emails, Comey chose to keep the Trump investigation concealed, not even confirming there was an investigation let alone making public statements about its substance. This revelation cast a dark shadow on Comey’s prior explanation about transparency and trying to do the right thing. The inexplicably disparate treatment between the two investigations not only further challenged Comey’s judgment, but also raised issues of bias.
Comey’s decisions to speak publicly about the Clinton email investigation twice, including on the eve of the election, while completely concealing the Trump Campaign investigation supported the belief that his actions had an impact on the election. President Trump won the election by winning Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, which he won by a combined total of approximately 77,000 votes. This margin is easily attributable to Comey’s decision to publicly re-open the Clinton investigation in late October while concealing the existence of the Trump investigation. There were certainly multiple factors that influenced the vote, to include the Clinton campaign’s internal challenges, Russian interference on social media, and the Clinton email issues. In any assessment, it would be impossible to dismiss the highly probable impact Comey’s actions had resulting in at least 77,000 voters in those three states vote for Trump rather than Clinton and whether they would have still done so with knowledge of the Trump investigation.
When President Trump fired James Comey, Comey remained a sympathetic, credible, respected figure. His record of character, honesty, and performance withstood the brutal character assassination from the President and those acting at his behest. Comey ostensibly testified convincingly in front of Congress and the Special Counsel. Arguably little of that has changed with respect to his termination. He made incorrect, impactful decisions that likely contributed to the Trump victory. Many voters eagerly anticipated the release of Comey’s book, hoping to finally hear Comey address his decisions and the impact they had on the election as well as his interactions with President Trump that led to his termination. The result – more disappointment.
James Comey went into sales and promotion mode for his book. For reasons known to Comey and his publisher, Comey chose to include commentary about President Trump’s small hands, orange complexion, and other gratuitous slights. The President brought that on himself and nobody can blame Comey for being angry with Trump or wanting to set the record straight, but there was no reason to further risk the credibility he had earned. His service as FBI Director, involvement in the Clinton and Trump investigations, the Russia Trump Dossier, his interactions with President Trump concerning the Flynn, Russia, and other investigations would all make for compelling reading. He had the perfect opportunity to finally explain to the American people his controversial decisions that impacted the election. Why he did or didn’t swing the election for Trump. He chose not to do so in the book or in the interviews surrounding its release. Very disappointing…