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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Months after ouster, Comey crucial to U.S. political drama

Former FBI director James Comey speaks on Capitol

Former FBI director James Comey speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 8, 2017. Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik, File

The point at which former FBI Director James Comey ceases to be the nemesis of Donald Trump’s presidency remains nowhere in sight.

Steve Bannon, the departed Trump strategist, has called his ex-boss’s firing of Comey four months ago the biggest mistake in “modern political history.”

“We would not have the [special counsel Robert] Mueller investigation and the breadth that clearly Mr. Mueller is going for,” Bannon said in a “60 Minutes” interview posted Sunday.

That’s quite a statement, even for an investment banker turned populist guru who admits to being bombastic.

At the White House, press secretary Sarah Sanders responded Monday: “It has been shown in the days that followed that the president was right to fire Director Comey.”

On Tuesday, Sanders fanned the flames. She said the Justice Department “should certainly look at” prosecuting Comey for allegedly leaking information and false testimony to Congress.

Comey firmly insists he testified truthfully about Trump trying to get him to back off investigating his former national security director Mike Flynn. And the Comey camp further holds that he released nothing classified.

Other events in recent days showed how Comey’s law-enforcement actions rattled the top rungs of both major political parties in historic ways.

On NBC’s “Today” show, Hillary Clinton targeted Comey’s seismic Oct. 28 letter about taking a new look at her controversial private email account.

“Absent that, I believe the evidence shows I would have won,” Clinton said.

She said it made her sick to hear Comey tell Congress he became “mildly nauseous” to know the letter might have influenced the election.

“He should have been disciplined for the way he behaved on the email investigation,” Clinton said. “He was fired for the wrong reason.”

But it isn’t just bitter retrospect from both sides that could give Comey’s tenure as FBI director the historical gravitas of J. Edgar Hoover.

On Wednesday, CNN reported that the Justice Department is preventing Senate investigators from interviewing two top FBI officials who could testify about Comey’s firing.

Which suggests, of course, that Mueller could be examining the circumstances of Comey’s dismissal.

Whatever the legal outcomes, the feat of being denounced by both sides in last year’s presidential contest secures Comey a unique spot in modern political history.

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