Former FBI Director James Comey, in an appearance Tuesday before the Long Island Association, criticized President Donald Trump as unethical and said the administration’s “relentless attacks” on federal law-enforcement institutions are making the nation less safe.
Speaking at an LIA luncheon at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, Comey said Trump, who fired him a year ago last week, makes decisions based on only what benefits him.
“An ethical leader makes decisions by external reference points. It can be your faith, tradition, it can be history, it can be logic. It can be experience. But they’re external reference points to make the hard decisions,” Comey said.
“And this president, near as I can tell, has no external reference points. It’s all internal. ‘What does this do for me? How does it help me get what I want?’ ” Comey said.
Comey also said he’s been disappointed that Republicans haven’t stood up to attacks on the FBI and Justice Department by Trump and his allies.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for Trump, recently referred to FBI agents as “storm troopers” after their raid on Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen last month.
“I thought both parties understood we need the institutions of justice,” Comey said during a question-and-answer session of an hour and 20 minutes with LIA president Kevin Law, before 1,100 attendees. “To attack the institution is bad for our country and really shortsighted.”
Comey is author of “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” a bestseller about his career at the Department of Justice and the FBI.
Comey said the FBI relies on public trust when agents testify in court or knock on the door of “a woman who’s been a victim of an MS-13 vicious sexual assault” and offers her protection.
“Being believed at that door and that jury rail is how they keep this country safe. And if by virtue of the relentless attacks on the institutions, they are not believed at that door frame or in front of that jury, those margins pull in and that affects the safety of this entire country,” said Comey, a Republican. “I’ve been ashamed at my Republican colleagues who know better for allowing this to happen.”
Trump has attacked Comey as a “liar,” a leaker of government information and a “weak and untruthful slime ball.” He said he fired Comey for the “terrible job he did,” and he criticized the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Suffolk Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle dismissed Comey as a “desperate snake-oil salesman trying to sell books. It’s foolish for anyone to believe his revisionist version of the facts or events that took place.”
After Trump fired Comey, the Justice Department appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. Issues under examination include whether Russians colluded with the Trump campaign and whether Comey was fired in an attempt to derail the probe.
On Tuesday, Comey called Mueller “the kind of guy you want when you want to find the truth.”
Comey has drawn criticism from Republicans and Democrats over the past two years.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, he announced there would be no criminal charges brought against Clinton for her use of a private email server for official business while she was secretary of state, but described her handling of classified information as “extremely careless.”
Then, 11 days before the election, Comey told Congress he was reopening the probe after emails from Huma Abedin, a top aide to Clinton, were found by the FBI on the laptop of her husband, former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner.
That investigation was later closed, but Clinton said in her post-mortem campaign book, “What Happened,” that she felt “shivved” by Comey.
Comey said Tuesday he made the best decisions he could have, given the bad choices. He called the decisions “the worst possible courses except for all the other courses.”
Resi Cooper, Clinton’s New York State director during the 2016 Democratic primary, attended the LIA luncheon and suggested Comey downplayed his impact on the election.
“While I appreciated his strong validation that there were no laws broken and perhaps he could’ve chosen better words for his news conference, I believe his memory may have sugarcoated his role and demeanor during it . . . not to mention its impact on the election,” Cooper said in a text message.