We’ll admit it: For a long time, we really wanted to give former FBI Director James Comey the benefit of the doubt.
The man’s career was above repute. Washington insiders talked about him like he was the last living Boy Scout, a figure of honor and integrity that would have been played in the movie by Jimmy Stewart fifty years ago. He was a Republican, but he wasn’t the type to let politics get in the way of the truth. When he saw wrongdoing, he called it out. For instance, when he raced to the bedside of Attorney General John Ashcroft in the Bush years to prevent White House officials from illegally re-authorizing a domestic surveillance program. Wow, what a guy! This is truly a man who puts the needs of the citizens – and the LAW – ahead of any political allegiances he may bring to the table. Hell, he puts them ahead of his own career ambitions.
When Comey took to the podium last summer to deliver a scathing rebuke of Hillary Clinton’s email escapades, we were of two minds. In one respect, we were pleased to see him explain in great detail to the American people that what Clinton had done was reckless and irresponsible. On the other hand, we were baffled to see him reach the conclusion that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges against the former Secretary of State. Was Comey compromised? Was he “just following orders?” Or did he really believe that, after describing Clinton’s crimes, that Clinton had committed no crimes? It was a hard nut to crack.
We have to imagine that Donald Trump watched Comey’s career with the same dual-minded observations. That’s why he endeavored to keep him on for the first few months of his presidency. Was this Comey a man who would retain law and order…as long as he didn’t have the likes of Barack Obama and Loretta Lynch breathing down his neck? Or was he hopelessly lost in the weeds, having either instructed his FBI to go on a full-bore Trump witch hunt or having lost all control of a once-noble federal law enforcement agency? Trump ultimately decided that Comey was not the boy scout he’d been made out to be.
And now we’ve been forced to come to the same conclusion.
This was obvious before now, of course, but the memo released on Friday put it beyond all doubt. Comey was the man in charge of the FBI, and he either actively participated in the fraud that was the FISA court application or stood by while it happened on his watch. Either way, he’s had plenty of time to repent and he’s chosen not to, so it comes to the same. He left the FBI’s reputation in tatters and sowed the seeds of distrust in the hearts of the public. It may take a generation for the Bureau – and the DOJ at large – to win that trust back.
James Comey’s name will live in infamy. Maybe, in a way, that’s what he always wanted.