No matter how history judges James B. Comey’s three-and-a-half years as FBI director, he comes out an instant winner on a psychic level for the way his dismissal played out.
After President Donald Trump fumed and fired him, Comey made his parting points in full sentences without whining, pointing fingers or making wild accusations.
“I have long believed that a President can fire an FBI Director for any reason, or for no reason at all,” Comey said in a farewell letter to agency personnel.
“I’m not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed. I hope you won’t either,” he continued. “It is done, and I will be fine, although I will miss you and the mission deeply.”
Comey, a Republican, can boast on his resume that his actions alienated the top figures of both major parties during the same election — and still had to be taken seriously.
And he didn’t blatantly indulge in martyrdom, even if he did testify earlier that playing a high-profile role in the 2016 election made him mildly nauseous.
The White House vilification intensified as the week of Comey’s dismissal went on. Trump called Comey a showboat and a grandstander (which noticeably doesn’t disqualify anyone from electoral politics).
By Friday the reality-show veteran was tweeting about tapes that may or may not exist and leaks that may or may not yet occur.
If the snits keep up, Trump could end up accusing Comey of being the Zodiac killer.
Remember that William Bratton was canned as New York City police commissioner by Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who by all accounts saw him as a showboat and grandstander. Bratton went on to lead the Los Angeles Police Department and later returned to head the NYPD before retiring last year at 69.
Don’t expect Comey, 56, to disappear soon.
While Trump reacts in fits and starts to the blowback, Comey ends a string of public service roles in the Justice Department, including a stint as U.S. attorney in New York.
Comey in his letter made it about something bigger than himself.
“My hope is that you will continue to live our values and the mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution. If you do that, you too will be sad when you leave, and the American people will be safer,” he told ex-colleagues.
Before the Senate, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe disputed White House claims that FBI staff lost faith in Comey.
“I hold Director Comey in the absolute highest regard. I have the highest respect for his considerable abilities and his integrity,” McCabe told the Senate intelligence committee.
Comey lost the job. But in the forum of reputation, it was hard not to believe that he had won the day.