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Where Comey disappoints

June 8, 2017

Strangely, I have yet to see anyone comment on what strikes me as a disappointing aspect of Comey’s prepared statement. In my view, it is this: Comey had several opportunities to correct Trump on his duties as FBI director, on the appropriate relationship between him and the president, and on his obligations due to position and national allegiance. And if he ever did so, it wasn’t present in that statement. Instead, where the conversation naturally would elicit that, Comey held his tongue or even found evasive way to avoid that, as with his assent to “honest loyalty.” Even if tongue-tied during their personal meetings, Comey could have made those corrections in writing afterwards.

I understand when someone young is starting in their career that they naturally have hesitation when professional obligation conflicts with what a new head of the enterprise wants and possibly with retaining their job. But Comey is a mature man with decades of experience. At some point, I would have expected him to say, “no, Mr. President, that’s not right, that’s not the way our government works.”

Now, maybe I’m reading this wrong, and the fact that he didn’t say that came not from hesitation, but from belief that he should not be the one saying that to a new president. It’s clear he saw Trump’s behavior as unethical. The way he memorialized their conversations and reported them to others speaks to that. In the end, Trump clearly knew he wasn’t going to get the kind of loyal consigliere that he wanted. I’m just surprised that Comey didn’t speak more directly to the ethical conflict at some point during those conversations.

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