The insufferable hypocrisy of James Comey’s Act II

Seated in front of an adoring audience in June, James Comey was right where he wanted to be. An invited dignitary of the Aspen Ideas Festival, Comey subjected himself to a softball interview by Katie Couric. After reminding him that it was the 83rd interview of his seemingly never-ending book tour, Couric allowed Comey to do what he does best — talk about James Comey.

Comey wields his practiced affability like a seasoned thespian. For those who have studied him, the disarming self-deprecation seems calculated, but it works to perfection. Finding himself unexpectedly unemployed 17 months ago, he has become everyone’s go-to sympathetic figure. After all, he once led the world’s premier law enforcement agency but was “bullied,” then unceremoniously fired, by an impertinent president. James Comey became the perfect “victim.”

{mosads}Couric wound down their chat by asking what he hoped his legacy would be. Pausing a beat and sensing no irony in his studied response, James Comey replied: “This is an odd thing”  – pause again, “but I hope to be forgotten.”

It was an absurd response. A person who rushes to publish his set-the-record-straight memoir, “A Higher Loyalty” — with more than a million copies sold, Barnes & Noble currently ranks it fifth on its 2018 top-sellers list – won’t soon be forgotten. Then there’s the mega-deal that must have been in the works in June, and reportedly is near completion, with CBS Television Studios to transform his book into a television or movie offering. Celluloid treatments of a man’s life tend to help folks to forget him, right?

No, the man who has taken to Twitter and Instagram with youthful zeal wants to be remembered. In fact, the notion of being forgotten must keep him awake at night. Flashbacks to missed opportunities when he was FBI director and could have confronted Donald Trump directly — which would have been the honorable, righteous thing to do — are now relegated to Twitter-snipes and proselytizing on behalf of the #Resistance.

Comey abdicated his responsibilities and shrank from opportunities to confront his “tormentor.” Instead, he kept copious notes on their White House meetings, turning them into the framework for his book, and then shamefully leaked sensitive FBI documents to the New York Times through a surrogate. He needed a “voice,” and being the 6-foot 8-inch director of the 36,000-employee FBI apparently didn’t afford him one.

His way of remaining inconspicuous and “forgotten” is to pop up every so often in the Times. It was there that his rebuttal column appeared mere moments after the damning 500-page inspector general’s report was released to the public in June. And, on Sunday, Comey was published again in a Times piece entitled, “The FBI Can Do This.” He responded to Friday’s news that the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed to seek a one-week “supplemental investigation” of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by the FBI. The impossibly uphill investigation would seek to corroborate or debunk 36-year-old allegations that the respected jurist sexually assaulted one woman, exposed himself to another, and served as gang leader of a roving pack of adolescent rapists according to a client of attorney-provocateur Michael Avenatti.

Comey has shed any pretense of impartiality with this partisan piece. Although he claims he was a registered Republican for most of his adult life, he did testify to Congress in a July 2016 hearing that he was no longer politically affiliated. But a cursory scroll through his Twitter feed highlights his empathy for Democrats – even providing political advice not to veer too far left by embracing socialism because “[t]his president and his Republican Party are counting on you to do exactly that.”

With his latest musings, Comey has made the giant leap from bumbling, conscientious stupidity to partisan hack. I understand this will be viewed as a harsh assessment, and it is, but look at what someone who wants to be “forgotten” has done: He begins his screed by retelling a folksy anecdote about his deputy director advising him in 2015 that the Clinton email investigation would render him “totally screwed.” He wants us to know that a Twitter user accused him of being a “political hack,” but the observer couldn’t determine for which side. Comey wants us to believe he has forever remained an apolitical actor.

In reviewing his book, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board points out that Comey’s central theme appeared to be a warning that Donald Trump’s “abuse of political norms has driven his enemies to violate norms themselves.”

How utterly rich.

Comey does what some of his fellow disgraced compatriots repeatedly do: He wraps himself in the flag and condemns the president for attacks on “the FBI.” This is a farce. Criticisms leveled at Comey and two of his fired senior executives – deputy director Andrew McCabe and counterintelligence division deputy assistant director Peter Strzok – have zero to do with the FBI as a whole. Yet, Comey ingeniously garners sympathy with this deflection away from his feckless leadership. He’d like the sorry chapter involving his FBI stewardship to be “forgotten” as well.

The Comey op-ed is worth reading; it provides keen insight into a demagogic narcissist who wants America to believe he is simply countering a dangerous narcissist in the Oval Office. He makes determinations in the Kavanaugh case that a former U.S. attorney and senior law enforcement professional such as himself should know are irresponsible and defamatory. Like some former federal prosecutors who have spoken out in sympathetic media circles, Comey seems to think presumption of innocence and due process no longer apply when a critical Supreme Court seat is set to be filled by a president they loathe.

And, in the most stunningly irresponsible bit of speculation, Comey decides Kavanaugh’s testimony could be impeached based upon his lack of recollection related to 36-year-old “words in a yearbook.” Fair point? Not so much, since he ignores the gaps and vagaries of important details regarding the accuser’s recollection of the alleged sexual assault.

According to Comey, “FBI agents know time has very little to do with memory. They know every married person remembers the weather on their wedding day, no matter how long ago. Significance drives memory.”

But only if the witness is a conservative judge.

Yes, Comey does supply the obligatory gentle scolding of Democrats’ intentions and political maneuverings during this process. Yet, when taken in context with his determinations that Judge Kavanaugh is a liar and the GOP’s decision to put time parameters on the supplemental investigation is “idiotic,” Comey’s wholesale transformation is complete.

James Comey wants us to know he seeks to be “forgotten.” So, don’t believe your lying eyes; this partisan Act 2 is just a distortion of reality by that vast right-wing conspiracy.

James A. Gagliano is a retired FBI supervisory special agent and a CNN law enforcement analyst. He is an adjunct assistant professor at St. John’s University and a leadership consultant of the Thayer Leader Development Group (TLDG) at his alma mater, the United States Military Academy at West Point. Follow him on Twitter @JamesAGagliano.  

Tags Andrew McCabe Donald Trump FBI James Comey James Comey

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