US President Donald Trump is a pathological liar who lacks management skill and fails to grasp the importance of an apolitical federal bureaucracy, James Comey writes in his new memoir.
In A Higher Loyalty, the former FBI director lays out his side of his high-profile clash with Trump. The president has responded with characteristic vitriol, labeling Comey “slimy” and “slippery.”
“Donald Trump’s presidency threatens much of what is good in this nation,” Comey asserts.
Strong words indeed, especially when coming from a Republican whose last-minute bombshell about Hillary Clinton might have helped sweep Trump into the White House.
Over the past two years, Comey has been pilloried by partisans on both sides of the political aisle. Comey enraged Democrats by disclosing that the FBI was scrutinizing Clinton days before the 2016 election.
Comey makes the case that he wasn’t seeking attention for himself when he announced a reopened investigation of Clinton’s email practices. Instead, he argues, he made the difficult decision out of a desire to be transparent.
Comey’s memoir is an unusual exercise in transparency for a man who has spent his career in the typically tight-lipped worlds of the FBI and the Justice Department. He relives the armed robbery of his home as a teen that inspired his career in law enforcement, and he offers detailed descriptions of his interactions with Bush and Obama.
While his personal politics would seem to more closely match Bush’s ideology, Comey makes clear that he found Obama a more thoughtful and scrupled leader than Bush. In Comey’s view, Bush seemed a bit too reluctant to seek out subordinates who would challenge his opinions. But both are paragons of integrity compared to Trump, Comey argues.
In ways both significant and insignificant, Trump proved unwilling or unable to tell the truth, writes Comey. Trump exhibited this character flaw soon after his inauguration, when he insisted his inauguration crowd outnumbered Obama’s. On this matter, Comey writes, there was no room for honest differences of opinion or interpretation; Trump simply was lying.
Comey was so distrustful of the new president that after their meetings, he would write memos describing what the two discussed. Comey never felt the need to carefully document his discussions with Bush or Obama, both of whom he found far more trustworthy.
“I needed to protect the FBI and myself because I couldn’t trust this person to tell the truth,” Comey writes.
In Comey’s estimation, Trump also exhibits questionable leadership skills. Obama possessed deep wells of humility, Comey argues, along with the self-confidence to seek out those who disagreed with him. Obama would solicit opinions and listen intently. Trump, on the other hand, displayed nothing remotely approaching humility. During Comey’s conversations with Trump, the president spoke nearly nonstop, precluding any chance of a sincere give-and-take of ideas.
In the one instance when Comey challenged Trump, the president responded by abruptly ending their meeting, Comey argues. Unlike Obama and Bush, who attempted to put visitors to the Oval Office at ease by sitting in an armchair, Trump insisted on sitting behind his large desk.
Meanwhile, Comey says he repeatedly but unsuccessfully tried to convey to Trump the importance of an apolitical, impartial FBI and Justice Department. During a private dinner at the White House, Comey writes, Trump told Comey, “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.”
The calls for loyalty continued in the coming weeks, along with Trump’s request that the FBI and the Justice Department end their investigations into Trump possibly colluding with Russia.
“The FBI and its director are not on anyone’s political team,” Comey writes.
To read more about A Higher Loyalty and other takes on the Trump presidency, visit getAbstract.com.