I know titling an article with an anonymous quote is a blatant violation of journalistic standards, but in the modern traditions of the Washington Post, we’ll chalk it up to “when in Rome…” Specifically, when in Rome while it burned and Nero fiddled; that would be more apropos, perhaps, when describing Post standards. Nonetheless, I think it accurately and succinctly sums up my short interview with a friend who is a former Department of Justice appointee and current Law Professor.
I emailed him several times recently, trying in vain to put some perspective on some of the finer nuances of Mr. Comey’s wild ride into infamy. Eventually, I learned my friend was evaluating papers and was annoyed at the prospect of having to discuss the illogic and anti-intellectualism of Jame Comey while trying to maintain his legal reasoning. It was a fair point. I tried a different angle: Explain it to me like you were at dinner party with intellectual, but not politically or legally inclined guests. My attempt at creating an interesting new perspective was greeted with the blunt rejoinder, “that’s why I hate [expletive] dinner parties.”
Eventually, my friend agreed to entertain one or two questions. I’ll call him “John,” who was his favorite boss at the DOJ. Below is the content of our exchange.
Me: Put yourself in Rod Rosenstein’s shoes when the WH asked for a memo on firing Comey. How would you have handled it differently?
John: “Rod’s a good guy. I’m not taking issue with his memo. It was soundly written. Hit the main point the media refuses to cover. Comey used the Obama administration’s politically charged atmosphere to make elemental and disruptive changes to protocol. When [Loretta] Lynch took that visit from [Bill Clinton] BC on the runway, the Obama DOJ should have initiated a chain of command containment protocol ASAP. A deputy should’ve reigned in Comey and demanded an immediate debriefing on [Hillary Clinton] HC email matter. Instead they let him run with it. Jim got his wires crossed. Went into his old prosecutor mindset. That’s not FBI territory. It’s in the [expletive] mission statement for [expletive] sake. Once he gave that ridiculous press conference it was over. He was done. He should’ve been done anyway. He paralyzed the admin though. So much so when he did the Weiner announcement, I knew guys in the DOJ, I’m talking career guys here, who wanted out. They figured HC was going to rain hell on the DOJ for letting Jim call the shots publicly. And you know what? She would have. There would have been no mercy for anyone deputy and under who didn’t resign in protest of Jim’s actions.”
Me: So obviously you didn’t know anyone over there who thought Trump could even win?
John: “No. That was the last thing on the minds of the guys and gals in the halls at Justice. They were prepping to go on defense for an onslaught of HC congressional inquiries and partisan court filings. Next thing they know wham! Trump is the honcho.”
Me: I still don’t get it. If the Rosenstein memo was solid, why didn’t he stand by it?
John: “Rod is a lifer type. He’s not going to stay in bath water that goes from warm to piping ass hot. He’s just not. And it’s not his job to play Atlas while the AG pushes him out front of 42 democrat senators that just confirmed him a week before. If that’s what the WH had in mind for Rod they picked the wrong spot for him. Again, the memo was sound and defensible in fact. Comey sidestepped protocol, procedure and tradition. Investigators investigate, prosecutors prosecute. Anyone off the streets who has seen the opening of law and order episodes can tell Jim jumped a firewall or two.”
Me: Ok, last question. What if there are tapes?
John: “I’m going to assume there are no tapes. If there are tapes and WH counsel office knows about it, half of them would fake terminal illness to get out of the WH before the tapes did. It would be a disaster. Total [expletive] disaster for everyone involved. Forget about a legislative agenda, forget about market stability. This is already the worst relationship I’ve ever seen between a sitting honcho and the media. Tapes? Tapes would make the current [expletive] all mess look like paradise. And I don’t care what’s on them. Every Justice suit with a brain and a retirement plan wishes Trump would have never brought it up. Anytime you get a sanctimonious [expletive] like John Dean back on cable news shows, you are doing yourself no favors. None.”
Me: That’s really how you would explain it to me if I were a doctor or an engineer at a dinner party?
John: “If I took the time to explain it to a curious MD I’d tell them Comey was a metastatic growth of injustice allowed, if not, encouraged by President Obama. That’s the truth of the matter. He wanted it to be HC’s problem and her revenge. He had 100% cause to fire Jim after the first press conference. He didn’t. I suspect he didn’t for more than just bad PR for HC, but he probably knew Jim would look to the Lynch handling of the emails and BC meeting. This testimony and poor me routine was always going to happen. Didn’t matter if it was Obama or Trump that fired him. This is Jim Comey. This is just who he is. That’s all I got.”
I had to sit back and read then re-read my friend’s input before it struck me: maybe when dealing with a personality like James Comey, there was no other way for this to go. Obama fires him and the press says he’s trying to save Hillary’s campaign. Trump fires him on January 20th and the press is told he is interfering with an ongoing investigation. Trump fires him after yet another fruitless and error-prone testimony before Congress four months in, and we still find ourselves in a cacophonous quagmire of Comey’s own making. Lost in all the debate, is that somehow James Comey finds a way to get the AG and DOJ out of his way so he can be judge and jury. He did it deftly with Loretta Lynch, and he even had the audacity to testify he knew in advance AG Sessions would need to recuse himself “for a variety of reasons.” Wow. Once you open your eyes to who Comey is and how he operates, none of this is shocking or even surprising anymore.
James B. Comey is not a man of integrity. The damage, when all is said and done, to the Bureau’s credibility will be substantial. I can write that with a great degree of certainty without even broaching the walking horror show who goes by the name Andrew McCabe.
God Bless America. And if it’s not too much trouble, can You fix the FBI, too? Amen.