With another Trump-branded election interference scandal upon us, James Comey says that he cannot fight a nagging conviction about it all. He says that he can help and he must help.
“I feel stuck,” Comey recently told the New York Times. “Like I can’t do something else. And I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I went and did something easy.”
What Comey is doing he says isn’t even clear to him yet. But he has pledged to spend the next 13 months working to help drive Donald Trump out of power.
Comey loves order and he says that he sees little of it in a norm-smashing president, who is spiraling toward impeachment, riffing on “sick and deranged.”
Comey shares that he has to live with the knowledge that Donald Trump sits in the White House partially because of him.
“Thanks for giving us Donald Trump,” an older woman heckled at him recently, adding an expletive as she passed him as he strolled through a Yale Law School building.
“Thank you for the feedback,” he told her.
“It’s hard for people who’ve had a lot of power to come to terms with the fact that there’s actually very little you can do when you’re not a candidate,” said Jennifer Palmieri, a former top aide to Hillary.Clinton. “Or the F.B.I. director.”
While he no longer has formal authority, Comey is not lacking platforms. He shares that he has signed a contract to write opinion pieces for The Washington Post. He is also the subject of an upcoming mini-series, starring Jeff Daniels as Comey, based on his best-selling memoir.
Comey travels across the country and gives speeches on ethical leadership. He also makes pro bono appearances at college campuses with paid bookings that pay six-digit fees. “It’s a lot!” Mr. Comey enthused while declining to name his precise rate. “Seriously, it’s crazy.”
He says he is “not that important in the great sweep of American history” but he does believe that his firsthand view into the president’s psyche can offer uncommon value to the anti-Trump movement
Comey also uses his Twitter account to issue grave warnings and measured hope “This country is so much better than this president”
“I have a fantasy about on January 21, 2021, deleting my Twitter and moving on to something else,” he said. “But until then, I can’t.”
Comey has conceded that he may have allowed himself to be influenced subconsciously by the political consensus that Hillary Clinton would win. But he adds that he has betrayed no major regrets, defending his chosen course as the best among bad options.
“I wish like hell we hadn’t been involved,” he said. He has predicted that history would judge him kindly for prizing disclosure over concealment.
When asked if he cared about how he would be remembered, Comey, 58, said, “I was going to say I don’t care. I’m sure I care a little,” adding, “It frustrates me in general that millions of people have a false impression of me. I wish they knew I was funnier.”
Comey was then asked if helping to defeat Trump in 2020 would provide a measure of relief given his role in 2016. He paused for a moment “Hmm,” he said. “I don’t think so. At least in my own conscious mind, I don’t connect those things.”
“I’ve probably now had dozens — and maybe dozens isn’t enough — of encounters with the uniformed military, intelligence community people and F.B.I. people in grocery stores, in airports, in hardware stores,” Comey said. “They’ll just come up and touch my arm and say, ‘Please keep speaking. Please keep speaking.’”