Former FBI Director James Comey was stellar in his hour-long appearance at a televised town hall on CNN last week. It was broadcast from Washington, D.C. with thoughtful questions about all matters relating to Trump and the Mueller Report from students at George Washington, Georgetown, American, Howard and other schools.
Comey crushed Trump in his remarks, which were clear, measured and straightforward, making the case that an amoral person with “corrupt intent” like Trump should not be leading this country.
He totally agrees, he said, with the over 800 prosecutors who’ve signed a statement affirming that if Trump were not immune (by virtue of being president, according to the rules if not the Constitution) evidence in the Mueller Report is more than sufficient to establish that he should be tried as a common criminal for obstruction of justice.
Comey is a “former Republican” who said it’s “to the everlasting shame” of the Republicans in Congress to support Trump and block legislation aimed at using the Mueller Report to thwart Russian efforts to mess with U.S. elections in 2020 like they did in 2016.
He said he does not think the U.S. is in a full-blown “Constitutional crisis,” not yet at least, as Trump defies orders from those in Congress responsible for his oversight. “The genius of the founders will be tested,” he said. “This is a stress test for our Constitution.”
It is clear, he said, that the Russians meddled with the U.S. elections and are intent to continue, seeking fundamentally to “dirty up democracy,” while hurting Hillary Clinton, whom Putin despised, and helping Trump.
He explained the op-ed he published in the New York Times the week before where he described how “an amoral leader shapes the people around him” by, among other things, “demanding a ritual of praise around him.”
“People make little compromises” faced with “a leadership that doesn’t have a moral compass” if they do not have personal inner strength. He said the only example of such inner strength he saw in the Trump cabinet was exhibited by former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who seen in televised sessions would not join others going around a conference table heaping praise on Trump.
Comey described himself in the mold of Mattis, himself, saying that one encounter with Trump, who was expecting propitiation, convinced him that he’d not be able to work with the man.
“It is not OK to support a man who lies constantly,” he said. If accommodated, “It eats the soul in small bites.”
The media, extracting out of context as usual, took Comey’s remarks as a personal attack on former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for being an example of a person without the personal inner strength to stand up to Trump. But seeing how Rosenstein praised Trump after being fired by him, Comey was right. It was another example of a pathetic sycophant.
“The president must reflect the values of this country,” Comey said, suggesting obviously that Trump does not fit that description. “Values are the glue of the rule of law,” he added.
He said he still hopes young people will be interested in careers in the FBI and CIA, saying the work requires “character, ability and physicality.” For anyone “wanting to do good for a living at work with moral content, they will never leave.”
It is sad and unhelpful for Democrats to continue to assail Comey for the decisions he made prior to the November 2016 election that clearly harmed Hillary Clinton’s chances.
Comey gave his side of the story, claiming he was acting out of a concern for the credibility of his institution, the FBI, and not to hurt or help any candidate. He said he’s convinced his wife, who was a “huge Hillary supporter” of this.
But whether it is convincing to others, or not, the message of Jim Comey now has to do with a plain-spoken and courageous value-laden commitment to facts and the rule of law in order to expose and ride from power the corruption that has taken over the White House and most of the Republican Party.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.