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A Higher Loyalty is Jim Comey’s Revenge, Served Lukewarm

Despite the lofty title, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership [1] finds James Comey at his pettiest, smuggest, most sanctimonious, bitterest, and most pandering. Comey feeds the rubes exactly what they paid the carnival sideshow barker at the front of the Barnes & Noble to hear: the “pee tape,” the jokes about small hands, the comparisons of Trump to a mob boss, and enough Obama worship to fill a week’s worth of Rachel Maddow.

Where Comey could have shined—clarifying historical events from the Bush and Obama eras, shedding real light on the FBI’s interplay with the Clinton campaign, verifying or denouncing parts of the Russiagate narrative—he stops purposefully short. A Higher Loyalty is a quick grab at the money, something that in the old days would have been on pay-per-view cable or tucked away inside a second-tier men’s magazine.

Comey tells us Trump is obsessed with the pee tape, desperate for the FBI to investigate-to-exonerate. “I’m a germaphobe,” Comey quotes Trump, emphasizing that the president claimed he only used the Russian hotel room to change clothes. The then-FBI director was apparently non-committal to his boss, but in his book, safely removed from the president by a year and the publishing process, he writes, “I decided not to tell him the activity alleged did not seem to require either an overnight stay or even being in proximity to the participants. In fact, though I didn’t know for sure, I imagined the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow was large enough for a germaphobe to be at a safe distance from the activity.”

Classy, and it sets the tone for the two men’s encounters over loyalty pledges, Mike Flynn, and all things Russia. Trump says something neatly packaged and impeachment-worthy (conveniently only in a conversation he and Comey were privy to). Comey, rather than seek clarification, assumes the worst, keeps his thoughts to himself, but remembers to document every word in writing. Comey is presented so that he appears as everything that Trump isn’t. It’s My Word Against His (and You Know Who to Believe) might as well be the title of the book.

change_me

You were expecting insight? Trump never laughs, Comey writes, a clear tell that he harbors “deep insecurity, an inability to be vulnerable or to risk himself by appreciating the humor of others.” Comey describes Trump as shorter than he’d expected with a “too long” tie. The eyes, by the way, are “expressionless.” The hands, he says, were “smaller than mine.” Brother, just represent: I’m a bigger man than the president!

The Clintons are always in the background. Comey teases that there is classified but unverified info on Loretta Lynch that “casts serious doubt on the Attorney General’s independence in connection with the Clinton investigation.” Only unlike with dirt on Trump, where classification and proprietary have the value of a paper bag in the rain, Comey reveals no details about Lynch’s wrongdoing.

Elsewhere, Comey creates his own standard, well outside the law, for why the investigation into Clinton’s exposure of classified material on her personal server did not lead to prosecution. She, gosh golly, didn’t intend to do anything criminally wrong, he says, taking the term “willful” in the actual law and twisting it to mean “evil intent.” Comey says prosecution would have required a specific smoking gun message from someone telling Clinton to send classified material via unclassified channels. He has nothing to say about whether that message might have been in the 30,000 emails Clinton deleted: on that subject he only shrugs that there was nothing to justify prosecution as far as anyone looked. Why, he adds, they even asked Hillary herself.

As long as Comey’s making up the law, what of those memos he wrote about his conversations with Trump on federal property regarding national security-related official government business? He “regards” them as personal property, so their contents didn’t have to be classified and thus could not by definition be leaked. He did not, however, include them in his book and they remain hidden from the public.

Comey writes that he felt confident reopening the Clinton email probe days before the election because he assumed Clinton would win, and if the new investigation was revealed after her victory it might make her seem “illegitimate.” He says the same thing about keeping Russian meddling quiet, certain it wouldn’t matter when Hillary became his boss a few months later. Setting aside the irony of Comey setting out to legitimize the expected Clinton presidency only to hurt her, what’s most disturbing is the blatant admission that a partisan calculus was a part of his decision making in any way.

It’s a heck of a thing to admit in writing, and it shows how empty Comey’s constant claims to integrity really are. Should Trump end up being prosecuted, Comey’s credibility as a witness is tainted, and his value to the American people he claims to serve thus diluted. His testimony will be whittled down by defense lawyers who are even now cross-indexing statements in the book with the public record.

Most people linked to Washington beheadings wait until after the dust has settled to write their books. That was the case for the Watergate gang, Oliver North, and Monica Lewinsky. The problem with Comey waiting is that there’s very little new here. Whether your impeachment fantasy includes the pee tape or you believe it’s made up, Comey has nothing that will enlighten you.

Instead, this is like reading a 13-year-old’s diary about why she hates boys, or a bunch of angry tweets dragged over 304 pages. Comey doesn’t appear to have any political ambitions, and he doesn’t seem to be using the book to audition for a talk show job. His book isn’t even good “score settling”: it’s just the same stuff you’ve heard before.

And that’s a shame, because there is a better book Comey could have written. Comey was witness to the legal wrangling inside the Bush administration over the NSA’s illegal domestic spying on Americans, and was in the hospital room when Bush White House officials tried to bully an ailing attorney general John Ashcroft into reauthorizing the Stellar Wind surveillance program. He was there for the debates over torture, and the use of the Espionage Act to punish journalists and whistleblowers under Obama. None of that was morally repugnant to him at a Trump-like level, and he never resigned in protest to protect his honor. Why, Jim?

Instead of insight into all that, we get a quick overview of the early Trump presidency that adds little to the known facts. Comey’s narratives are designed only to show leaders that in each instance he acted honorably enough. But his visceral hatred of Trump prevents him from writing an honorable memoir of his decades in government, and instead drives him to present a version of events where history is only of value when it can be conscripted into making Trump look bad. It’s a thin shell for anyone who knows more about these events than Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers regularly spoon out.

There’s a reason why circus sideshows got out of town after a few days, before the rubes figured out the “Alien from Mars” was just a rabbit with some fake teeth glued on. It’s pretty clear Comey’s higher loyalty lies only in making a quick buck for himself, before anyone realizes it’s all a fraud.

Peter Van Buren, a 24-year State Department veteran, is the author of We Meant Well [2]: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People and Hooper’s War [3]: A Novel of WWII Japan. Follow him on Twitter @WeMeantWell [4].

27 Comments (Open | Close)

27 Comments To "A Higher Loyalty is Jim Comey’s Revenge, Served Lukewarm"

#1 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 19, 2018 @ 1:03 am

Laugh.

I take it you didn’t think much of the book.

#2 Comment By Michael Kenny On April 19, 2018 @ 3:26 am

Obviously, Comey is settling scores but what’s interesting is the fuss Trump is making about it. Comey doesn’t seem to have saidanything that everybody didn’t already know but has done it in such a way as to provoke Trump into proving Comey’s point that he is indeed unfitted to be president.

#3 Comment By Youknowho On April 19, 2018 @ 9:27 am

The book came too quickly to be more than what it is. Reflexion needs time, and a cool head. Maybe in a few years he will sit down and come with the kind of book you’d wish he’d written.

Maybe not…

As it is, it is a book that stokes the fire in this heated time.

#4 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 19, 2018 @ 9:52 am

I laugh at the absurdity of imagining anyone obsessed with defending themselves from scurrilous accusations, must therefore be guilty. I wondered where that meme came from.

At the highest level, “disgruntled employee” for once captures the gist of it. Most never get to cash in from it like this, after benefiting so handsomely from inside politicking Deep State-side, as you point out that lack of integrity on things that really mattered to the public the past 15 years. It’s what happens, when they play both sides against the middle, but the plan explodes in their face.

#5 Comment By LouisM On April 19, 2018 @ 10:30 am

McCable may have done wrong but his conduct says he is a professional in the intelligence service. McCabe is a man of few words and strict composure which is how most FBI agents act.

Comey is a charlatan, a fake, a manufactured persona for the public. He reeks of spin and scripted appearances. The more extroverted and polished Comey appears the more guilt I think he is hiding. Trump is correct. Comey should be in prison. I know there are a lot of gullible people out there thinking Comey’s act is sincere and genuine but no one appears before subcommittees and TV talk shows that entertaining and with such boy scout golly gee I did the best I could … in such a high position and it be real. Do you know one Cabinet Level Secretary or General of CIA Director that plays that doe eyed innocent boyscout act? Real people like that don’t rise to that position…they are chewed up by the machinery much earlier in their ascent.

The whole Obama Administration was a cesspool of collusion, corruption and self interest.

#6 Comment By mrscracker On April 19, 2018 @ 11:39 am

“Comey describes Trump as shorter than he’d expected with a “too long” tie.”
************
That’s kind of funny.
I guess it’s all relative, considering Mr. Comey’s massive height.

#7 Comment By O’Brien On April 19, 2018 @ 3:32 pm

“Despite the lofty title, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership finds James Comey at his pettiest, smuggest, most sanctimonious, bitterest, and most pandering.” So Comey is behaving just like the man he writes about?

#8 Comment By Lenny On April 19, 2018 @ 7:03 pm

Despite the lofty title, MAGA,finds Donald Trump at his pettiest, smuggest, most sanctimonious, bitterest, and most pandering. Trump feeds the rubes exactly what they paid the carnival sideshow barker at the front of the Barnes & Noble to hear: Lock her I alone can fix it, Build the wall and Mexico will pay, and enough Putin worship to fill a week’s worth of RT programming.

#9 Comment By MM On April 19, 2018 @ 7:07 pm

I was willing to give Comey the benefit of the doubt up until now, what with having to balance his professional credibility while handling presumed President-Elect Clinton’s obvious criminal conduct…

His interviews so far give me the impression of a sleazy prosecutor, the mirror image of what you’d expect from a sleazy defense lawyer:

“I don’t have any proof that the police investigators in this case are a bunch of liars and racists who planted evidence, but it’s possible.”

He’s been speculating publicly about Trump and alleged nefarious activities in exactly that fashion. No judge would allow such prejudicial commentary in his or her courtroom from any lawyer.

The other thing I noticed, and he did this in the Clinton case when he read intent into the criminal statute governing mishandling of classified information, was how he speculated about obstruction of justice:

“I presume that Bob Mueller’s team is investigating… whether or not urging me to back the FBI off our investigation of his national security adviser and in firing me, President Trump was attempting to obstruct justice, which is a federal crime… It’s certainly possible.”

I’ve read the statute governing obstruction of justice. What Mr. Comey failed to include in his speculation about Trump is, any corrupt act on the President’s part.

The statute doesn’t say asking that an investigation be ended or firing a subordinate equals obstruction of justice. Those aren’t corrupt acts, they’re legal and constitutional acts.

So, he may be a career law enforcement officer, but he hasn’t actually laid out any evidence of federal crimes, so far anyway.

He actually did lay out evidence of federal crimes in the Clinton case, making his refusal to refer that to the DOJ for prosecution all the more interesting…

#10 Comment By Rossbach On April 19, 2018 @ 8:59 pm

“The wicked run when no one pursues them, but the godly are as bold as lions.”

People often cite Proverbs 28:1 as “proof” that Donald Trump is guilty of something. The trouble with this explanation is that someone is pursuing him: all the Dems in congress, plus all the RINOs who wanted Jeb to lose to Hillary. They are still hell-bent on overturning the November 2016 election result.

When your alleged crime is political, your enemies don’t have to prove anything. Outmaneuvering the quarry is usually sufficient.

#11 Comment By Ray Woodcock On April 19, 2018 @ 9:02 pm

[5]‘s review is comparably critical, echoing some of these points, but with more specifics and less obvious partisanship.

#12 Comment By R Stubbs On April 19, 2018 @ 10:44 pm

The reason they dealt with HRC very lightly is simple. He thought she would win. In which case, he would benefit.

#13 Comment By Michelle On April 20, 2018 @ 8:06 am

Comey does come off as sanctimonious but that doesn’t mean he’s lying. Trump’s overreaction to the book is telling. Comey has successfully gotten under his very thin skin. A better, more confident man would shrug Comey’s book off. Instead, Trump, with his Twitter rages, is helping Comey sell more books.

Who are the rubes in this scenario? And who’s running the circus sideshow? Our reality TV facsimile of a president or the flawed Comey?

#14 Comment By Dan Green On April 20, 2018 @ 9:15 am

Got to love a boy scout.

#15 Comment By MM On April 20, 2018 @ 12:15 pm

Stubbs: “The reason they dealt with HRC very lightly is simple. He thought she would win.”

Exactly. No one in the federal bureaucracy would ever recommend prosecution of the next President of the U.S. And, of course, if you believe you’ll be the next President of the U.S., you have to double-down on lying to the public and take zero responsibility for any crimes you commit.

If Clinton had won, I strongly suspect a housecleaning would’ve happened even bigger than Trump’s has been. And no Congressional investigations of anything Clinton-related if the D’s had retaken Congress. Congressman Nadler said as much before the election.

#16 Comment By Dacia Murphy On April 20, 2018 @ 12:53 pm

I think you missed Comey’s intention with the book. He didn’t write it to be a historical account of his career in civil service, he wrote it so the public could have more affirmation that Trump is a bald face liar and farcical story teller.
Just because you don’t agree with the content, that doesn’t make it lies.

#17 Comment By Peter Van Buren On April 20, 2018 @ 1:23 pm

“Rolling Stone‘s review is comparably critical, echoing some of these points, but with more specifics and less obvious partisanship.”

Well, considering RS’ review was written by a consummate Washington insider who knows Comey personally, I guess there is some partisanship. I on the other hand don’t care what people in Washington think of me. Choose carefully.

#18 Comment By MM On April 20, 2018 @ 1:30 pm

Dacia Murphy “Just because you don’t agree with the content, that doesn’t make it lies.”

Just because you agree with the content, that doesn’t make it accurate, either.

I’m noticing a lot of relevant facts omitted from this memoir. For example: Factual verification, or not, of all of the dossier allegations.

#19 Comment By Youknowho On April 20, 2018 @ 1:43 pm

The release of the memos show consistency on his affirmations.

That makes him a witness.

There is no point in examining the psyche and personal flaws of a witness, except to establish reliability. Once reliability is established, delving into personal failings is a distraction much beloved by opposing counsels, that might or not might work.

#20 Comment By MM On April 20, 2018 @ 4:55 pm

YKW: “The release of the memos show consistency on his affirmations.”

His memos are no different than diary entries, which are considered heresay in court, unless corroborated by other evidence and/or witnesses, which there are none in this case.

If I write down a list of groceries, then testify later what groceries I bought, my original list doesn’t make my statement more truthful.

That’s the bottom line…

#21 Comment By MM On April 20, 2018 @ 9:56 pm

YKW: “That makes him a witness.”

A witness to what? A private conversation?

#22 Comment By Quenby Wilcox On April 21, 2018 @ 10:00 pm

I must admit I have not read the book, and it is not on the top of my list of books I need to read. However, in response to Van Buren’s comment — “Comey says prosecution would have required a specific smoking gun message from someone telling Clinton to send classified material via unclassified channels….” It seems to me that I once heard H. Clinton say that Former Sec. of State Colin Powell had advised her to use her own ‘server’, which would mean that ‘irregularities’ in proper handling of emails in State Dept is a long-standing, internal prob. I observed irregularities in handling of classified emails during my 7-year tenure in the Intl. Monetary Fund (IMF), and have to ask myself to what extent this is a systemic prob. w/in agencies in ‘The Swamp’. I would love to see some investigative reporting into how agencies are dealing with the fall-out of rampant techy-liberalism w/in them, and how it is jeopardizing ‘security concerns’ over classified information.

#23 Comment By NL On April 22, 2018 @ 3:50 pm

It seems to me that you haven’t read the book because Comey does write about strategic historical moments he was present for that you criticize him for remaining silent on.

#24 Comment By MM On April 22, 2018 @ 4:35 pm

Quenby: “It seems to me that I once heard H. Clinton say that Former Sec. of State Colin Powell had advised her to use her own ‘server’.”

She was lying about that. When she allegedly spoke to Powell about that, she’d already set up her private server for all email correspondence, both personal and business, classified and unclassified.

Powell said he did not remember giving her any advice other than his own experience using a personal email account (only, not server) for non-classified State Dept. business.

The FBI said that Clinton told them that she never knowingly sent or received any information she thought should be classified, including aerial photography of North Korean nuclear installations, discussions of intelligence agents in the field and foreign nationals spying for the U.S., and, my favorite, drone strike locations and targets.

Now what does that say about her, I wonder?

#25 Comment By Anon On April 24, 2018 @ 1:12 pm

MM
The FBI said that Clinton told them that she never knowingly sent or received any information she thought should be classified, including aerial photography of North Korean nuclear installations, discussions of intelligence agents in the field and foreign nationals spying for the U.S., and, my favorite, drone strike locations and targets.

Remember she pretended that she didn’t know what the “C” meant on classified documents? If she could not grasp this basic fact, then she should not have had a clearance. But we all know she is a perfect liar.

#26 Comment By Anon On April 24, 2018 @ 1:13 pm

I especially like that Hillary sent classified info to her cleaning lady for printing. I think that’s the best one!

#27 Comment By MM On April 24, 2018 @ 11:21 pm

Anon: “If she could not grasp this basic fact, then she should not have had a clearance. But we all know she is a perfect liar.”

Bingo. In one email chain I remember reading about, she actually instructed staffers to remove classified markings. Another lie, with no consequences.

She also passed the buck and blamed her staff for the marking fiasco, even though as Secretary of State she had the authority to *create* classified information, which puts the responsibility on her to make sure it was marked correctly.

But none of her excuses can possibly explain away the private server, totally unauthorized, less secure than a free commercial Gmail account. Given what was done, she wouldn’t have qualified to be employed in the State Department as a low-level clerk, let alone Secretary.

And then there’s the NDA she signed with the U.S. government in 2009, in which she stated that she understood the seriousness of classified information, and agreed to maintain necessary security, under penalty of federal criminal statutes.

And Comey said she’d have been the better President, given her position on the “rule of law”?

Give me a break…