The Highest Loyalty

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On April 19, 2018; former FBI Director James Comey released his book a “ Higher Loyalty”. The book details how Comey felt when he got fired as FBI director last May, his relationship with President Donald Trump, and the memos that detailed those very interactions. Comey opened up his memos to the public to trigger a special council because he did not trust anyone else in the government to do so, taking matters into his own hands.

As of now the name James Comey is a household name; if people don’t know his full story they know he is involved with the scandal constantly surrounding Trump. Many already have their own views on Comey prior to him publishing his book, questioning that his ego and desire for power was greater than his duty to the country. So in the introduction of his book he acknowledges that, “All people have flaws, and I have many. Some of mine, as you’ll discover in this book, are that I can be stubborn, prideful, overconfident and driven by ego. I’ve struggled with those my whole life.” He does have an ego, but that ego has gotten him to where he is today.

As a leader one can not show one’s followers weakness and to hide that weakness people usually put protective walls around themselves. But these walls can lead to tunnel vision, only seeing one point of view because of the power of one’s position, this is something Comey admits to and is avidly trying to change. The risk of that ego coming out was when he brought the development on the Hillary Clinton email investigation out publicly, according to his interview with the podcast The Daily, he was guilty of “Seacreasting”. As in Ryan Seacrest when he says, “And the winner is……… going to be announced after this commercial break”, we have all been there yelling loudly in front of our TVs in annoyance at Seacrest for leaving us on a cliffhanger. Many criticized Comey for doing just this with his announcement on June 5th about Hillary Clinton emails, he mentioned his opinion before he talked about his action in the last few minutes of his speech. This was a moment that exposed his ego because he thought he knew best.

The first sensational memo that triggered the special council was written on January 6, 2017 after an intelligence meeting with Trump. At the end of the meeting when it was just Trump and Comey, Comey briefed the president of some materials of sexual nature that came from Russia, a portion of the Steele Dossier. The goal was to alert the president because some of the materials were going public and if the materials were true it was their job to come up with a defense. These memos were the first written by Comey after multiple encounters with a president; creating them because of the dishonest atmosphere of the White House and the fear that his word would not be taken as truth if it were not transcribed. Truth and integrity have not been prevalent values of the president, so the memos were a protective measure not just for Comey but for the FBI as a whole. The fear that the President would lie, as he has been known to do, was prevalent especially when it was only the two of them in the room.

The second memo was the dinner of February 27, 2016, when the president asked Comey specifically for loyalty. This memo was written as soon as Comey got home, according to his interview with George Papadopoulos on CNN. Typing up and printing two copies, one for his personal safe and the other to be stored at the FBI headquarters. At the time all of the memos had unclassified information, so it was the norm for agents of the government to store documents at their home; classified information could only be stored at government facilities. During this occasion Comey tried to explain to the president why there should be distance between the office of the president  and the justice system. A similar experience happened on February 8 when talking to the presidential chief of staff Reince Priebus about proper communication with the FBI. As if the president and his cabinet were not informed of the proper behavior of the executive system in communication with other branches of the government.

 The third memo and probably the most important of all was on February 14, 2017 when Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation against Michael Flynn.  At this point, Comey had a sense when he should write a memo, even those of his staff knew what he meant when he said he had to write a memo. In Comey’s book he stated he had “no choice” but to stay with the president in the Oval Office, it was not literal but as FBI director being ordered by the president to stay in the oval office you follow, for the respect for the office or fear the his job would be lost. The day after, Comey talked the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the office above him and explained his discomfort when talking to the president alone. He needed someone to corroborate his statement written in the memos and he could not do that with one on one conversations. He did not tell him about the Michael Flynn matter, though, knowing he was recuse  from any matter regarding the Russia investigation.

There are somewhere between five and ten memos that have been written and turned over to the FBI. Comey was fired on a Tuesday May 9, 2017 and a day or two after there were articles about the loyalty dinners where it seemed like Comey was talking to the media. And on the Friday after Comey was fired Trump tweeted “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”  Comey realized that if there are tapes there is corroboration, and he will be heard in these tapes saying what is recorded in the memos, the FBI could finally see his point of view and he trusted they they would. He didn’t trust the department of justice to reasonably pursue the matter though. Something has got to be done to force them to get these tapes from the oval, a special prosecutor could find out the truth.

Many say Comey memos did trigger the special counsel but in actuality we don’t know, as private citizens all the information and the formation of the council is up to the FBI. Even if the timing is coincidental. Comey’s main reason for releasing the memos was to get the tapes and follow up on Trump’s tweet, not even for public good.
Comey knew that that the Attorney General was recused but, by the way the deputy attorney general, Rob Rosenstein handled his firing and Comey did not have confidence in their department when handling his memos. But this moment and situation was not plagued with the adjectives Comey used to describe himself in the introduction of his book. It was logical and practical because it was for the good of the public and the justice system. But we have seen Comey take situation upon himself before for not having confidence in the justice system. Not having confidence in Loretta Lynch to properly investigate the Hillary Clinton emails thus making a unprecedented speech about it in front of the whole country.  But Comey doesn’t think these two situations are correlated at all. They are two different occurrences, the first was concerned with how the government was perceived by the public and the latter is how the government serves the public. The email investigation was debated amongst top officials and handled inside the FBI while the memos were a personal decision by Comey alone. Perceiving the problem and acting on it, even if it is unusual, was to prevent chaos as would have ensued if it went through the normal process. Comey knew by speaking out and releasing the memos his reputation would take a hit but at the end of the day it was not about him it was about the country.

Comey wanted to stay to protect his institution, unlike most, who as soon they were alarmed by their superior would leave. Through all Comey has done in writing his book he is forcing the conversation of trust in our government and our elected officials. He has gone on all these interviews to make people understand not only what his book is about but what the truth is aside from the arguments on the news and on Twitter. We hate so quickly because of political divisions especially in this digital age.

James Comey can teach us that if you believe in something that is right act on it, use your gut feeling, use your voice to speak the truth. Whatever the circumstance and whatever the outcome, believe in the foundation this country was built upon and fight for the truth.”

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