Wednesday, August 8, 2018


I think this is an important book, although people who are determined to find it a self-serving justification will find it so. Well ... it *is* partly an explanation by Comey of why he did what he did and when with respect to both the Hillary email case and the Trump/Russian case. But it also asks bigger questions about public discourse and policy, provides larger legal and personal contexts, and reflects upon Comey's own doubts and possible missteps. So I think it's better than just a justification. I'd say it is also a reflection upon what it means to investigate a "state of mind," to situate a current case with respect to previous ones, and to sustain separation among the divisions of government. 

It's easy to follow his dates and his logic, and frankly, while I went in to the book a bit skeptical, I was gratified to find an account that had both balance and a clear timeline. He doesn't worship either Obama or the Clintons, and in fact points out their missteps and shortcomings and errors in judgment. I was also gratified to have background on Comey himself, before he became FBI director. We don't even get to the Hillary email issue until chapter 10. Until then, he writes about his childhood, owns up to some of his moments of fear and shirking, describes the pain of losing a child when that loss could have been prevented, and explores the challenge of helping to take down the Mafia. I found some of the latter a bit heavy-handed--it felt fairly obvious to me that it was a set-up so that later he could later compare some of Trump's demands for unquestioning loyalty (as opposed to honesty) to that of the Mafia bosses. I also had to smile at his discussion of his wife's admonition: "It's not about you, dear." He spends a few paragraphs talking about why that is such a hard lesson for people, especially those in leadership; I sort of felt like this is something that shouldn't have to be explained, but perhaps it does. He also has some interesting things to say about listening, and how in Washington "listening" is often merely keeping quiet until it's your turn to talk. 

Overall, this feels like a thoughtful and detailed account of the troubling growth of tribalism in America as well as one man's attempt to hold his ground and stay ethical. His most difficult problem toward the end seems to be having to convince Trump that the FBI and CIA MUST be kept separate from the President--that it is an ethical imperative to keep an arm's length. Trump keeps inviting Comey to private dinners and private meetings and you can feel Comey's discomfort and his eyes begging someone else to stay in the room. I do have to say that I felt infuriated by his examples of Trump's petty nastiness. 

Still in a fury at McCabe, Trump then asked him, "Your wife lost her election in Virginia, didn't she?"
"Yes, she did," Andy replied.
The president ... then said to the acting director of the FBI, "Ask her how it feels to be a loser" and hung up the phone.


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