* Was a communist in his youth
* Became a U.S. Attorney in 2002
* Became Deputy U.S. Attorney General in 2003
* Was appointed FBI Director by President Obama in 2013
* Chose not to file criminal charges against Hillary Clinton in 2016 for her email-server scandal
* Promoted the false Trump-Russia “collusion” scandal
* Was fired from his post as FBI Director by President Trump in 2017
* Supported Joe Biden for President in 2020
* Said in 2021 that “the Republican Party needs to be burned down or changed”
James Brien Comey Jr. was born on December 14, 1960, in Yonkers, New York. Of Irish ancestry, his father’s father was a police officer, and his father worked in the field of commercial real estate.
James Comey Jr. grew up in New Jersey and graduated in 1982 with a degree in Religion and Chemistry from the College of William and Mary. He subsequently earned a Juris Doctor degree in 1985 from the University of Chicago Law School.
Comey told New York magazine in an article published October 10, 2003, that he had been a Communist in his youth: “In college, I was left of center, and through a gradual process I found myself more comfortable with a lot of the ideas and approaches the Republicans were using.” He acknowledged that he had voted for Democrat presidential candidate Jimmy Carter in 1980, but that in 1984 “I voted for [Republican Ronald] Reagan — I’d moved from Communist to whatever I am now. I’m not even sure how to characterize myself politically. Maybe at some point, I’ll have to figure it out.”
Early in his legal career, Comey worked as a law clerk for then-United States District Judge John M. Walker Jr. in Manhattan, and then as an associate in the New York City office of the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm. In 1987 he took a job as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for then-U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani in the Southern District of New York.
Comey relocated to Virginia in 1993 and accepted a partnership at the law firm of McGuire Woods. Three years later, he returned to government when President Bill Clinton appointed him as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Comey was promoted to U.S. Attorney in 2002 and was assigned to the Southern District of New York. A notable prosecution during his tenure in that position was that of homemaking diva Martha Stewart, who was convicted in 2004 of financial misconduct.
At the end of 2003, Comey became Deputy U.S. Attorney General, occupying the second-highest post in the Department of Justice. In 2004 he also served temporarily as Attorney General in an acting capacity while U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft was hospitalized with a severe pancreatic ailment. During that period, Comey undermined the George W. Bush Administration’s efforts to secure legal authority for a domestic eavesdropping program. Comey also spearheaded the defense of the Bush Administration’s detention of terrorism suspect Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, as an enemy combatant.
Comey left the government again in 2005 to become general counsel for Lockheed Martin, at the time the largest contractor to the U.S. Department of Defense. He later took a post as general counsel at Bridgewater Associates, which was then the world’s largest hedge fund, serving from 2010 to 2013.
In June 2013, Comey was nominated by then-President Barack Obama for the post of FBI Director, taking the place Robert Mueller, who was retiring. On July 29, the U.S. Senate confirmed Comey to a 10-year term that commenced officially on September 4, 2013.
While Comey helmed the FBI, the agency investigated Hillary Clinton’s routine, improper use of a private, unsecured email server while she was U.S. Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. On July 5, 2016, as Mrs. Clinton was poised to accept the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Comey gave a dramatic press conference in which he acknowledged the massive body of evidence that was accumulating against Clinton and described it at some length. He also asserted that the former Secretary of State had probably broken the law by using the private server to conduct official government business.
But after airing this dirty laundry, Comey inexplicably gave Mrs. Clinton a pass and said that no criminal charges would be filed against her. “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” he said. Guided by politics, not the law, Comey pontificated that although Mrs. Clinton and her aides had been “extremely careless” in their handling of classified documents via the unsecured server, there was no evidence of criminal intent on their part. He made this statement even though the relevant national security statute does not actually require intent: Mishandling intelligence, even inadvertently, is enough to land people with less political pull than Mrs. Clinton had, in serious legal trouble. As former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy wrote at the time, “the FBI rewrote the statute, inserting an intent element that Congress did not require.”
Notably, Comey – in an effort to spin the facts of the Clinton case in a manner that would permit him to avoid bringing criminal charges against the former Secretary – had also rewritten the original version of the aforementioned prepared remarks that he ultimately delivered on July 5, 2016. Consider the following facts:
Moreover, it was eventually learned – through FBI documents released on October 16, 2017 — that Comey made the decision to exonerate Hillary Clinton long before he had even interviewed her or a number of additional key witnesses.
The failure to press charges against Mrs. Clinton subjected Comey to withering criticism from Republicans, including then-presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
Then, less than two weeks before the November 8, 2016 presidential election, Comey re-opened the investigation into Mrs. Clinton when he sent a letter to congressional overseers letting them know that the FBI was reviewing a trove of Clinton emails that had been newly discovered on a laptop computer belonging to Anthony Weiner, the Democrat husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Two days before Election Day, Comey announced that no criminal activity had been detected in those emails. But in the days during which the email story had been in the news, Mrs. Clinton’s standing in voter polls had taken a significant dive. She lost the election of November 8 and blamed Comey, among other individuals, for her loss.
The Left was enraged by Comey’s decision to go public with news of the Clinton emails on Weiner’s computer. Left-wing journalist Kurt Eichenwald, for example, wrote in Newsweek the day before the November 8, 2016 presidential election, that Comey’s shenanigans were so grievous, that he should no longer be allowed to work in government: “James Comey should not simply be fired as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation … [but] must be barred forever from any form of public service” because over the previous ten days he had “whipsawed the election for president of the United States … for no reason.”
When Donald Trump became U.S. President in January 2017, he asked Comey to stay on as FBI chief. Two months later, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of having spied on him by wiretapping his telephones during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on March 20, 2017, Comey confirmed that since July of 2016 the Justice Department had been investigating suspected collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian government operatives seeking to influence the outcome of the 2016 election — something he had never previously conceded. Said Comey:
“As you know, our practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations, especially those investigations that involve classified matters, but, in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so, as Justice Department policies recognize. This is one of those circumstances. I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.
“As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed. Because it is an open, ongoing investigation, and is classified, I cannot say more about what we are doing and whose conduct we are examining. At the request of Congressional leaders, we have taken the extraordinary step, in coordination with the Department of Justice, of briefing this Congress’ leaders, including the leaders of this committee, in a classified setting, in detail, about the investigation, but I can’t go into those details here.”
Also in his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, Comey said there was no evidence that the telephones of either Donald Trump or Trump Tower had ever been wiretapped as part of the FBI investigation.
At a congressional hearing in May 2017, Comey defended the manner in which he had handled the Clinton email-server probe but confessed that he felt “mildly nauseous” over the possibility that his agency’s actions had influenced the election in Trump’s favor.
On May 9, 2017, President Trump fired Comey from his post as FBI Director, citing the recommendation of Justice Department officials. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, for one, said that the reputation and credibility of the FBI had “suffered substantial damage” under Comey, noting that the latter’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was a “textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.” Rosenstein claimed, among other things, that Comey had usurped then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s authority by taking it upon himself to unilaterally clear Hillary Clinton of criminal charges. “I do not understand [Comey’s] refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken,” said Rosenstein. “Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”
In light of that assessment, Rosenstein wrote a memorandum trying to persuade both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Trump that Comey should be fired. Sessions promptly endorsed the memo, and Trump proceeded to relieve Comey of his duties.
“The FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage [that] has affected the entire Department of Justice,” said Rosenstein. “That is deeply troubling to many Department employees and veterans, legislators and citizens.”
Then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Judiciary Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) sent a letter in 2017 to Chris Wray, Comey’s successor as FBI Director, criticizing how Comey had conducted himself during his tenure as head of the Bureau. “Conclusion first, fact-gathering second—that’s no way to run an investigation,” read the Grassley-Graham correspondence. “The FBI should be held to a higher standard than that, especially in a matter of such great public interest and controversy.”
Also after Trump fired Comey, Fox News host Tucker Carlson delivered a scathing assessment of the former FBI chief, asserting that lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle were intimidated by Comey – and for good reason: “Just how powerful was James Comey? Let’s put it this way: He was feared in a way that no appointed bureaucrat should ever be feared in a free society. Time and again elected lawmakers on both sides came on this show and expressed worry and concern about his behavior, but they did so only during commercial breaks with the cameras off. Why? Because they were terrified at the prospect of criticizing him in public. They certainly don’t have that fear of the sitting president of the United States, and that tells you everything you need to know about Jim Comey.”
Meanwhile, leading Democrats and leftists nationwide accused President Trump of having fired Comey in order to prevent him from getting too close to uncovering Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. Representative Joaquin Castro, for one, told CNN that if Comey had indeed been fired in an effort to “affect the investigation into any of [Trump’s] associates’ coordination with the Russians who interfered with the 2016 election, then … that is an impeachable offense” committed by the President. MSNBC host Chris Matthews, for his part, detected “a little whiff of fascism” in Trump’s decision to terminate Comey.
But in fact, there was nothing at all untoward about the firing of Comey. As broadcaster and bestselling author Mark Levin noted: “[A] president is free to fire any subordinate. He is in the Constitution. The subordinates are not. He is free to fire any subordinate for any reason. It’s not possible to be obstruction of justice when you are complying with your constitutional responsibilities. Moreover, as I’ve said a thousand times — one second before Trump fired Comey, the Democrats were howling like a bunch of hyenas demanding that Comey be fired [because of the perception that his probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails had cost Mrs. Clinton the presidential election]. If Hillary Clinton had been elected president of the United States and [then] fired Jim Comey, they’d give her a ticker-tape parade.”
It should be noted, moreover, that Trump’s firing of Comey did not in any way derail the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s possible ties to Russia; it merely removed Comey from the process.
The day before Comey’s firing occurred, former President Barack Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, had repeated, under oath, what he had previously said on NBC News’ Meet the Press on March 5 — that he was unaware of any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
In May 2017 as well, Comey told U.S. senators that he had never been an anonymous source for any news reports about the Trump-Russia probe. That claim, however, would later be proven untrue.
On June 8, 2017, Comey testified before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding: (a) his firing by President Trump, and (b) the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Among Comey’s prepared remarks, which included reports of three separate occasions when he had assured Trump that he (Trump) was not personally under investigation by the FBI, were his recollections of how he had informed the new President about the infamous, so-called “Steele dossier,” a 35-page report containing: (a) allegations of gross personal misconduct by Trump, and (b) secret collusion by which Trump’s presidential campaign and the government of Russia had sought to rig the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. Written from June to December 2016 by former British intelligence specialist Christopher Steele, the dossier was based on information gathered from anonymous sources known to its author. Steele penned the report for the private investigative firm Fusion GPS, a political opposition-research outfit funded mainly by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Said Comey to the Senate Select Committee:
“I first met then-President-Elect Trump on Friday, January 6  in a conference room at Trump Tower in New York. I was there with other Intelligence Community (IC) leaders to brief him and his new national security team on the findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election. At the conclusion of that briefing, I remained alone with the President Elect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled [in the Steele dossier] during the assessment. The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified.”
Also in the June 8, 2017 Senate hearing, Comey elaborated on his January 6 meeting with President-Elect Trump:
“The Director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portion of the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the material implicated the FBI’s counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I would do it alone to minimize potential embarrassment to the President-Elect. Although we agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBI’s leadership and I were concerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new President came into office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence investigation of his personal conduct. […] When the FBI develops reason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will ‘open an investigation’ on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more about the nature of any relationship with the foreign power so it can be disrupted.
“In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI’s leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.
“I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past.”
Comey further stated during the June 8th Senate hearing:
“The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night […] My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch.
“[At one point] the President said, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.’ I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on […]
“Near the end of our dinner, the President […] said, ‘I need loyalty.’ I replied, ‘You will always get honesty from me.’ He paused and then said, ‘That’s what I want, honest loyalty.’ I paused, and then said, ‘You will get that from me.’ As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase ‘honest loyalty’ differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.
“During the dinner, the President returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them. He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen. I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it.
“As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.
“On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counterterrorism briefing of the President. […] The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. […] When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, ‘I want to talk about [National Security Adviser] Mike Flynn.’ Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he [Flynn] had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.
“[After the meeting] I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.
“The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. [… ] After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed. The investigation moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team members – or the Department of Justice lawyers supporting them – aware of the President’s request.
“Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. […]
“On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as ‘a cloud’ that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud.’ I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.
“Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week – at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the Deputy Attorney General until we briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, ‘We need to get that fact out.’ […] The President went on to say that if there were some ‘satellite’ associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him. […]
“On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I ‘get out’ that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that ‘the cloud’ was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. […]”
Under subsequent questioning from Republican Senators in that same June 8, 2017 hearing, Comey acknowledged that, contrary to the claims that many Democrats were making, there was no evidence that President Trump had tried to obstruct justice by ordering Comey to drop the investigation of General Flynn.
For example, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) asked Comey directly: “Did [the president] at any time ask you to stop the FBI investigation into Russian involvement?” And Comey replied, “Not to my understanding, no.”
Similarly, Republican Senator James Risch had the following exchange with Comey:
Risch: I want to drill right down, as my time is limited, to the most recent dust-up regarding, allegations that the President of the United States obstructed justice. And, boy, you nailed this down on page five, paragraph three, you put this in quotes. Words matter, you wrote down the words so we can all have the words in front of us now. There’s 28 words that are in quotes, and it says, quote: “I hope” — this is the president speaking — “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Now, those are his exact words; is that correct?
Risch: And you wrote them here and you put them in quotes.
Risch: Thank you for that. He did not direct you to let it go.
Comey: Not in his words, no.
Risch: He did not order you to let it go.
Comey: Again, those words are not in order.
Risch: No. He said, “I hope.” Now, like me, you probably did hundreds of cases, maybe thousands of cases, charging people with criminal offenses. And of course you have knowledge of the thousands of cases out there where people have been charged. Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice or for that matter any other criminal offense where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?
Comey: I don’t know well enough to answer. And the reason I keep saying his words is, I took it as a direction.
Comey: I mean, it’s the President of the United States with me alone, saying, “I hope this.” I took it as this is what he wants me to do. I didn’t obey that, but that’s the way I took it.
Risch: You may have taken it as a direction, but that’s not what he said.
Risch: He said, “I hope.”
Comey: Those are exact words, correct.
Risch: You don’t know of anyone that’s been charged for hoping something?
Comey: I don’t, as I sit here.
Risch: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Also during his testimony on June 8, 2017, Comey admitted that after he had been fired as FBI Director, he secretly made a copy of the “memo” he had written about the meeting in which he and President Trump had discussed the Mike Flynn situation, and sent it to “a friend.” “I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter,” Comey explained. “I didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons, but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel” to investigate the allegations of Trump-Russia collusion. (Note: The friend to whom Comey referred was Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia University.)
In a statement issued a few hours after Comey had finished his testimony on June 8, Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz said:
“[I]t is overwhelmingly clear that there have been and continue to be those in government who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications. Mr. Comey has now admitted that he is one of these leakers. Today, Mr. Comey admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the President. […] Mr. Comey admitted that he leaked to friends of his, purported memos of those privileged conversations, one of which he testified, was classified. Mr. Comey also testified that immediately after he was terminated he authorized his friends to leak the contents of those memos to the press in order to, in Mr. Comey’s words, ‘prompt the appointment of a special counsel.’”
And indeed, Comey’s friend Daniel Richman dutifully complied with Comey’s request that he leak the memo’s contents to the press. The New York Times reported the leaked claims on May 11, 2017. Just six days later, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to lead the Russia probe – precisely as Comey had admittedly hoped.
By mid-June of 2017, Mueller had begun the process of interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of his investigation into President Trump’s possible contacts and financial dealings with Russian operatives.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post issued a report that cited anonymous sources who claimed that Mueller was also interviewing senior intelligence officials in an effort to determine whether Trump had tried to obstruct justice by blocking or influencing the investigation into Mike Flynn’s possible ties to Russia.
On September 18, 2017, Breitbart.com reported that “[t]he FBI had wiretapped President Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort before and after the  election, contrary to what former FBI Director James Comey suggested earlier this year” (on March 20). As CNN explained:
“US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe. The government snooping continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump.
“Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, according to three sources familiar with the investigation. Two of these sources, however, cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is leading the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election, has been provided details of these communications.”
In early 2018, House Republicans released a memo alleging that Comey had deliberately and maliciously abused the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Application) system in his quest to open a secret investigation on then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and his allies in 2016, and that Comey had continued to repeat those same abuses over a protracted period of time. As journalist Aaron Klein wrote on February 2, 2018:
“A four-page House Intelligence Committee memo alleging abuse of surveillance authority raises immediate questions about former FBI Director James Comey’s role in utilizing the infamous, largely discredited 35-page anti-Trump dossier to obtain a FISA court warrant to monitor an individual associated with Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. One glaring possible inconsistency centers on Comey’s June 8, 2017 prepared remarks for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, where he referred to the anti-Trump dossier as containing ‘salacious and unverified’ material.
“[A]ccording to the [February 2018] memo crafted by House Republicans, Comey personally signed three FISA court applications utilizing that same dossier that he labeled ‘salacious and unverified’ eight months later, to obtain FISA court warrants to conduct surveillance on [then-Trump foreign-policy adviser] Carter Page, who [had]briefly served as a volunteer foreign policy adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign. The memo documents that on October 21, 2016, the FBI and Justice Department sought and received the FISA order against Page, and that the agencies sought the renewal of the order every 90 days in accordance with court requirements. Renewals require separate finding of probable cause each time, the memo relates.”
Comey signed the FISA applications even though his own FBI had concluded that the Steele dossier was “only minimally corroborated.” Moreover, he did not inform the FISA court that the creation of the document had been funded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), or that Steele had been hired by the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS.
In April 2018, the Flatiron Books publishing company released Comey’s new 293-page memoir, titled A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership. In that book, Comey describes President Trump as an “unethical” man “untethered to truth and institutional values.”
In advance of the release of his book, Comey promoted a coast-to-coast speaking tour that would “explore what good, ethical leadership looks like and how it drives sound decisions.” His tour included scheduled stops in places like Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Miami, and Kansas City, as well as appearances on television programs like ABC’s 20/20 and The View.
At one point in his book, Comey recalls having sat with then-President Obama in late November 2016, a time when Democrats from coast to coast were excoriating the FBI Director for his handling of Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. Comey writes that he was brought to the verge of tears when Obama, at that time, tried to comfort him by saying: “I picked you to be FBI director because of your integrity and your ability. I want you to know that nothing has happened in the last year to change my view.”
Comey’s assessment of Trump in the book, by contrast, drips with contempt and sarcasm. For instance, the author recalls how he perceived Trump’s appearance when the two men first met: “His face appeared slightly orange with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coifed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his…. As he extended his hand, I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so…. I stared at the soft white pouches under his expressionless blue eyes. I remember thinking in that moment that the president doesn’t understand the FBI’s role in American life.”
In an April 15, 2018 interview, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos cited Comey’s recent assertion that it was now, under President Trump’s leadership, a “dangerous” time in America. Comey replied: “I think it is [dangerous]. And I chose those words carefully. I was worried when I chose the word ‘dangerous’ first. I thought, is that an overstatement? And I don’t think it is.” He elaborated: “I worry that the norms at the center of this country — we can fight as Americans about guns, or taxes or immigration, and we always have, but what we have in common is a set of norms — most importantly, the truth. And if we lose that, if we lose tethering of our leaders to that truth, what are we?”
In the same interview, Stephanopoulos asked Comey if he considered President Trump “unfit” for the office of president. “Yes,” Comey replied. “But not in the way I often hear people talk about it. I don’t buy this stuff about him being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia. He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence who’s tracking conversations and knows what’s going on. I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president. A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it — that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds. Our president must embody respect, and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country. The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.”
Asking Comey to think back to Election Day 2016, Stephanopoulos said: “[W]hat part of you [was] thinking, I helped elect Donald Trump?” Comey replied, “A whole lot of me was thinking, ‘Oh, my God. Did we have some role in this? Did we have some impact on the election?’” The very thought of that, said Comey, was “an incredibly painful juxtaposition.” He also told Stephanopoulos that when Trump had won the 2016 election, he (Comey) told Barack Obama: “I dread the next four years. But in many ways, I feel great pressure to stay to try and protect the institution I lead.”
When Stephanopoulos asked Comey to speak about any negative traits that he himself might possess, Comey conceded that “my rap on myself is that – is that ego focus. That I – since I was a kid, I’ve had a sense of confidence. That I know I’m good at certain things. And there’s a danger that that will bleed over into pride, into not being open minded to the fact that I could be wrong and other people could have a better view of it.” “[O]ne of the things I’ve struggled with my whole life is my ego,” Comey added, “and – and a sense that I – I have to be careful not to fall in love with my own view of things.”
When Stephanopoulos raised the matter of the Steele dossier, Comey gave little importance to the fact that the infamous document had been produced by Fusion GPS, a political opposition research outfit funded mainly by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the DNC. Below is a transcript of that portion of the interview:
Stephanopoulos: Did you tell him that the Steele Dossier had been financed by his political opponents?
Comey: No. I didn’t – I didn’t think I used the term “Steele Dossier,” I just talked about additional material.
Stephanopoulos : Did he – but did he have a right to know that?
Comey: That it’d been financed by his political opponents? I don’t know the answer to that. I – it wasn’t necessary for my goal, which was to alert him that we had this information. Again, I was clear on whether it’s true or not, it’s important that you know, both because of the counterintelligence reason and so you know that this maybe going to hit the media.
Comey also told Stephanopoulos that his wife and daughters had been passionately pro-Clinton and anti-Trump in the election of 2016: “My wife and girls marched in the Women’s March, the day after President Trump’s inauguration. At least my four daughters — probably all five of my kids, wanted Hillary Clinton to be the first woman president. I know my amazing spouse did.”
On April 20, 2018, journalist Aaron Klein wrote that Comey, on four separate occasions early in Trump’s presidency, had assured Mr. Trump that then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was a man of impeccable character, describing him variously as “a true professional,” a man of great “ability and professionalism,” and “an honorable person.” Comey did not mention that McCabe held Trump in the deepest contempt, and that he was determined to do anything in his power to sabotage Trump’s presidency.
In April 2018, Comey announced that after many years as a Republican, he had decided to no longer remain a registered member of that party because Republicans had “lost their way” after the election of President Trump. “The Republican Party has left me and many others,” Comey said. “I can’t be associated with it.”
In a May 24, 2018 appearance on the TBS program Conan, hosted by Conan O’Brien, Comey stated that President Trump’s recent tweet stating that a spy had been inserted into his 2016 presidential campaign was categorically false. “I — as best I can tell, it’s made up,” said Comey. “I don’t know where he’s getting that from, honestly. And, a number of things he’s announced were the biggest scandal since Watergate. My guess is, two weeks from now, there will be something different than this. But I don’t know anything about those facts.” O’Brien then asked, “[D]o you find that to be at all possible or probable … that there was a spy inserted into his campaign by an intelligence agency?” Comey answered, “I don’t find it possible, and I know it not to be true.”
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz investigated how the FBI had conducted the Hillary Clinton email probe and concluded, in a June 2018 report, that Comey had been “insubordinate,” and that his numerous departures from FBI protocols had hurt the organization’s reputation for fairness. But the IG could not come up with evidence that Comey’s conduct had been motivated by politics. It also failed to fault the FBI for not charging Clinton.
Notably, the IG report stated that one of Comey’s transgressions was that he, like Mrs. Clinton, had improperly used his personal Gmail account to conduct official Bureau business — though not nearly as often as Climton.
In a subsequent interview with Justice Department investigators, Comey acknowledged that he had indeed used both a personal email account and a personal device for some official business, explaining that he had limited such use only to occasions that involved unclassified information. “I did not have an unclass[ified] FBI connection at home that worked,” Comey told watchdog investigators. “And I didn’t bother to fix it, whole ‘nother story, but I would either use my BlackBerry, must have been or Samsung … my phone, I had two phones — a personal phone and a government phone. And so I would use, for unclassified work, I would use my personal laptop for word processing and then send it into the FBI.”
When asked if he had concerns about the security of conducting official business by way of personal email services or devices, Comey replied: “Because it was incidental and I was always making sure that the work got forwarded to the government account to either my own account or Rybicki, so I wasn’t worried from a record-keeping perspective and it was, because there will always be a copy of it in the FBI system and I wasn’t doing classified work there, so I wasn’t concerned about that.”
In April 2019, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz determined that Comey had contravened official government policy by creating memos describing his conversations with President Trump, but said that Comey would not face criminal charges for those transgressions. “After reviewing the matter, the DOJ declined prosecution,” Horowitz’s office said.
At a Hewlett Foundation conference on April 11, 2019, Comey claimed that he had “no idea” what Attorney General William Barr was referring to when he had stated the previous day to a Senate Appropriations subcommittee: “I think spying [on the Trump 2016 campaign] did occur.”
On April 18, 2019, special counsel Robert Mueller released his long-awaited report on alleged Trump-Russia collusion. Among other things, the report stated that there was “substantial evidence” that the President had terminated Comey due to his “unwillingness to publicly state that the president was not personally under investigation,” rather than as an effort to cover up an election-rigging conspiracy between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.
In a May 28, 2019 op-ed in the Washington Post, Comey denied the notion that the FBI had ever spied on President Trump’s campaign in 2016. Wrote Comey: “But go ahead, investigate the investigators, if you must. When those investigations are over, they will find the work was done appropriately and focused only on discerning the truth of very serious allegations. There was no corruption. There was no treason. There was no attempted coup. Those are lies, and dumb lies at that. There were just good people trying to figure out what was true, under unprecedented circumstances.”
Calling Trump a “liar” who was doing great harm to America’s “vital institutions,” Comey added: “We must call out his lies that the FBI was corrupt and committed treason, that we spied on the Trump campaign, and tried to defeat Donald Trump. We must constantly return to the stubborn facts.”
In a July 22, 2019 article at RealClearInvestigations.com, Paul Sperry wrote extensively about a forthcoming Inspector General report detailing how Comey had repeatedly lied to, and misled, President Trump vis-à-vis what the FBI was doing to surveil his 2016 presidential campaign. Wrote Sperry:
“Sources tell RealClearInvestigations that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz will soon file a report with evidence indicating that Comey was misleading the president. Even as he repeatedly assured Trump that he was not a target, the former director was secretly trying to build a conspiracy case against the president, while at times acting as an investigative agent.
“Two U.S. officials briefed on the inspector general’s investigation of possible FBI misconduct said Comey was essentially ‘running a covert operation against’ the president, starting with a private ‘defensive briefing’ he gave Trump just weeks before his inauguration. They said Horowitz has examined high-level FBI text messages and other communications indicating Comey was actually conducting a ‘counterintelligence assessment’ of Trump during that January 2017 meeting in New York.
“In addition to adding notes of his meetings and phone calls with Trump to the official FBI case file, Comey had an agent inside the White House who reported back to FBI headquarters about Trump and his aides, according to other officials familiar with the matter. […]
“In his recently published memoir, ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ Comey denied having ‘a counterintelligence case file open on [Trump],’ though he qualified the denial by adding this was true only in the ‘literal’ sense. He also twice denied investigating Trump, under oath, in congressional testimony.
“Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, who has written extensively on the Trump-Russia probe as a columnist for National Review, said that just because the president’s name was not put on a file or a surveillance warrant does not mean the Comey FBI was not investigating him. ‘They were hoping to surveil him incidentally, and they were trying to make a case on him,’ McCarthy said. ‘The real reason Comey did not want to repeat publicly the assurances he made to Trump privately is that these assurances were misleading. The FBI strung Trump along, telling him he was not a suspect while structuring the investigation in accordance with the reality that Trump was the main subject.’
“But, former FBI counterintelligence agent and lawyer Mark Wauck said, the FBI lacked legal grounds to treat Trump as a suspect. ‘They had no probable cause against Trump himself for collusion or espionage,’ he said. ‘They were scrambling to come up with anything to hang a hat on, but had found nothing.’”
On August 29, 2019, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz published a report stating that Comey had violated FBI policy by leaking several memos containing classified information. “We conclude that Comey’s retention, handling, and dissemination of certain Memos violated Department and FBI policies, and his FBI Employment Agreement,” said the report in a reference to the aforementioned memo Comey had given to his friend Daniel Richman with instructions that he share its contents with a reporter. The IG also noted that Comey had failed to notify the FBI that he was keeping some of the memos at his home after being fired by President Trump.
Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, issued the following statement about the Inspector General’s report assessing Comey’s actions: “Today’s report is a disappointing reminder that the former FBI Director put partisanship and personal ambition over patriotism and his legal obligations to the American people. By leaking his confidential communications with the President in an attempt to save face in the wake of his firing, Mr. Comey believed he was above the rules of the DOJ. His actions were disgraceful and part of a wider effort within the Obama Justice Department to undermine President Trump.”
On October 26, 2019, Comey appeared at a Politicon 2019 convention where, in an exchange with MSNBC news anchor Nicole Wallace, he said that President Trump’s popularity with a certain segment of the American population was due to the fact that “there has always been a radioactive stew of racism” in the United States. The key exchange went as follows:
Wallace: You’ve been [in Nashville] for a couple of days. You visited the lynching museum. Obviously, this president’s rhetoric on race, for a parent of a very young child, is one of the most searing aspects of this presidency. Going after the Squad, playing the race card anytime he can, even when it’s not in the news to gin it up to his misogynist supporters. What sort of lasting harm do you think has been done to the race conversation in this country and what role do Fox News and conservative media have in that?
Comey: I think the damage that’s been done will probably take years to undo. I watch the HBO series Chernobyl and there has always been a radioactive stew of racism in the United States. It is one of the most disturbing things about our history and you don’t need to visit the amazing memorial in Montgomery, which I did the day before yesterday, but it is part of who we are as Americans. The central challenge of our existence has been how to we contain that and we’ve done in two different ways. Have built a containment building over that radioactive stew of law. We’ve made it against the law to lynch someone, we’ve made against the law to physically assault someone by virtue of their race, their gender, their national origin. We have prohibited employment discrimination.
Those are all important, but the most important thing we have done is pushed control rods down into that radioactive stew and those control rods are cultural. Over the last 50 years, what has happened in the United States is the control rods have gone in and it is not okay to talk in a racist way if you a public figure. Now, you may secretly harbor racist views but your career is ruined if you speak that way. That is a cultural control rod we’ve pushed in. It is just not okay. What has happened to us since this president became president, and actually what happened before? The control rods are being withdrawn.
In December 2019, a report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded that there had been “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the FBI’s applications to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page – e.g., FBI agents had “failed to meet the basic obligation” to ensure that their FISA applications contained accurate information and were not misleading. “We do not speculate whether the correction of any particular misstatement or omissions, or some combination thereof, would have resulted in a different outcome,” said the report. “Nevertheless, the department’s decision-makers and the court should have been given complete and accurate information so that they could meaningfully evaluate probable cause before authorizing the surveillance of a US person associated with a presidential campaign.”
On December 9, House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan stated that this IG report proved that the FBI had spied on at least four people as part of its surveillance of the 2016 Trump campaign. “We thought they spied on two Americans, we now know it was four,” said Jordan. “The Inspector General’s report confirms what many of us feared: James Comey’s FBI ignored guidelines and rules in spying on President Trump’s campaign in 2016. We now know that within one week of the investigation opening, the FBI was surveilling the campaign and four specific individuals associated with it.”
In a December 15, 2019 appearance on Fox News Sunday, Comey conceded that the IG report did indeed reveal deep problems in how the FBI had used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to launch its Trump-Russia “collusion” probe. Said Comey of Horowitz: “He’s right. I was wrong. I was overconfident as director in our procedures of the FBI and Justice have built over 20 years. I thought they were robust enough. It’s incredibly hard to get a FISA. I was overconfident in those because he’s right, there was real sloppiness — 17 things that should have been in the application or at least discussed and characterized differently. It was not acceptable, so he’s right. I was wrong.”
On December 2, 2020, The Hill reported that Comey was slated to begin teaching in January 2021 at Columbia Law School, where he would be a senior research scholar and part of the Reuben Mark Initiative for Organizational Character and Leadership beginning in January. He would also lead a seminar called “Lawyers and Leaders.”
Comey blamed Donald Trump for the riot and security breach that occurred at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 — an event that disrupted the official congressional counting of the electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election for a few hours. “I was sickened, as I hope all Americans were, watching an attack on the center of our democracy,” Comey told National Public Radio a few days after the disturbance. “And I was also angry as someone who spent a lot of a career in law enforcement; I was angry that it was being allowed to happen and that the Capitol was not being adequately defended. It just mystified me and angered me.” Comey also said that he thought Trump should be impeached for his alleged role in the disturbance.
As part of the impeachment process that Comey said Trump deserved, Comey stated that “ideally” the Senate should bar Trump from ever again seeking public office. “I also think that the local prosecutors in New York should continue their work to hold him accountable for his life of being a garden-variety criminal before he became president,” added Comey. “I’m just talking about not giving him the platform of a daily drama outside the federal courthouse in Washington, while Joe Biden is trying to change this country in a good way.”
In an interview published by the Guardian on January 19, 2021, Comey said: “The Republican Party needs to be burned down or changed,” voicing hope that there would be “a break between the Trumpists and those people who want to try and build a responsible conservative party.” “Who would want to be part of an organization that at its core is built on lies and racism and know-nothingism?” he added. “It’s just not a healthy political organization…. What Donald Trump has done for the last five years is attack the building from the outside to weaken its foundation. He’s withdrawn the control rods, and that’s a recipe for a nuclear disaster, a radioactive release. That’s what you saw on Capitol Hill [on January 6], our own Chernobyl, when the ugly radioactive violence and racism of America explodes in public view.”
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to try to heal a country both spiritually and literally,” Comey said in a January 2021 interview with NPR, “because so many of our fellow citizens are sick and dying [of COVID-19]. And I just think Donald Trump’s craving for attention is something we don’t want to accommodate now. We don’t want him [at the] center of our lives. I’d rather him in his bathrobe yelling at cars on the lawn at Mar-a-Lago with the camera lights off. I think that’s the best thing for the country now.”
In January 2021 as well, Comey released a new book titled Saving Justice: Truth, Transparency, and Trust, published by Flatiron Books. The publisher’s blurb for the book stated: “James Comey, former FBI Director and New York Times bestselling author of A Higher Loyalty, uses his long career in federal law enforcement to explore issues of justice and fairness in the US justice system. […] He knows better than most just what a force for good the US justice system can be, and how far afield it has strayed during the Trump Presidency. […] Comey shows just how essential it is to pursue the primacy of truth for federal law enforcement.”
During a June 4, 2023 appearance on MSNBC’s Inside with Jen Psaki, Comey said that he definitely would not vote for the Republican presidential nominee in 2024, even if it was someone other than Donald Trump. Below is a transcript of his exchange with host Jen Psaki:
Psaki: “You said that Trump poses a near existential threat to the rule of law…. Tell me a little bit about the specifics of what he could try to do, what do you mean by that?”
Comey: “Well, think about what four years of a retribution presidency might look like. He could order the investigation and prosecution of individuals who he sees as enemies. I’m sure I’m on the enemies list. Because the president constitutionally does oversee the Executive Branch entirely, which includes the Department of Justice, prosecutors and investigators. And so he could commission, direct that individuals be pursued…. Our Constitution really does give a rogue president, which is what this would be, tremendous power to destroy. And so that’s why I’m trying to warn people.” […]
Psaki: “You are a Republican most of your life, and you may still consider yourself one, but voted for Biden in 2020. Do you intend to vote for him again, or is there anyone on the Republican side you might consider, if it’s not Trump?”
Comey: “It has to be Joe Biden. And I’m glad he’s willing to serve. It has to be somebody committed to the rule of law, committed to the values of this country. And I’m not talking about policy. People can disagree about policy. There are things above those disagreements that all of us should think about the same way. The president must be someone who abides the law and our Constitution. And there’s no one else but Joe Biden.”