I’ve read the book, cover to cover. It has received excellent reviews. Some may be disappointed that he does not provide details in the Russian investigation by Robert Mueller. In interviews, he has carefully refused to comment on the ongoing investigation.
It is not an anti-Trump book, only there was little to admire about his interactions with the FBI Director Comey. In fact, there is hardly a mention of Trump until the very few last chapters. It is rather a pro-FBI and pro-Department of Justice book. It is a memoir, from early childhood to his various assignments in public office.
In many areas, it is a book in praise of those who have shown outstanding courage, conviction and values. A defining moment came with the “Stellar Wind” episode, where Comey had to race to the hospital bed, where Attorney General John Ashcroft, re-affirmed that Comey had full authority to refuse to reauthorize a warrantless surveillance program on constitutional grounds, despite White House objections. The hero, was Attorney General John Ashcroft, very ill at the time with pancreatitis, surrounded by White House attorneys who wanted him to override James Comey, who was acting AG while Ashcroft was in the hospital:
And then John Ashcroft did something that amazed me. He pushed himself up on the bed with his elbows. His tired eyes fixed upon the president’s men and gave Card and Gonzales a rapid-fire blast. He had been misled about the scope of the surveillance program, he said. He vented that he had long been denied the legal basis for parts of the program now that he understood it. Spent, he fell back on his pillow, his breathing labored. “But that doesn’t matter now,” he said, “because I’m not the attorney general.” With a finger extended from his shaking left hand, he pointed to me. “There is the attorney general.”
There’s more to this story. Although hesitant at first, President Bush makes sufficient revisions to the Stellar Wind program, and the program is re-authorized by the Department of Justice. It is a positive example of a president, who is respectful of the independence and authority of the Department of Justice.
Most of the interviews I’ve listen to, are focused on Comey’s interactions with President Trump, which are in the last three chapters of the 14 chapters in the book. Comey writes there was a lack of humility in Trump as follows:
As I’d seen from other leaders, being confident enough to be humble – comfortable in their own skin – is at the heart of effective leadership. That humility makes a whole lot of things possible, none more important than a single, humble question” “What am I missing?”
Later, in a discussion of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, with Comey and CIA Director Clapper with the new Trump team, Comey writes,“What I found telling was what ask…. how the United States might prepare itself to meet that threat [in future elections]. “
Impatient readers will likely dive bomb into the last chapter of the book, which are strictly on the Trump presidency bypassing most of the very positive messages of the book. By March 30, 2017, Trump wanted Comey to “lift the cloud” of suspicion surrounding his involvement with Russian agents, as it was “impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country.” This was repeated on April 11, 2017. Comey’s firing came on May 9, 2017, in a very humiliating way, in his fifth month on the job. He writes, “It may sound strange, but throughout my five months working under Donald Trump, I wanted to succeed as president… We need our presidents to succeed. ”
Comey doesn’t venture beyond his go beyond his congressional testimony as a private citizen, on the reasons for his firing. He stated then,
And on May 9th, when I learned that I had been fired, for that reason, I immediately came home as a private citizen. But then the explanations, the shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me.
He goes not to say they confused him for three reasons: (1) Trump said on occasions that he was doing a great job, (2) Trump said he was fired for the Russian investigation (Lester Holt interview) and (3) The initial explanation was based on decisions Comey made during the election year at the conclusion of the email scandal. I will add to this third reason, which I considered a made to order pretext for firing Comey in an upcoming blog.
The 3 page epilogue leaves no question about how he feels about Donald Trump as president, as he writes, “Donald Trump’s presidency threatens much of what is good for this nation.” At this point, it is no longer about a particular event or policy, but of violated norms and values. It ends on a positive message, as he writes, “The next president, no matter the party, will surely emphasize values – truth, integrity, respect and tolerance – in ways an American leader hasn’t needed to for more than forty years. “