The mud has settled. Most People who haven’t been dwelling below a rock have shaped an opinion a technique or one other about former FBI Director, James Comey. These opinions might consequence from President Trump’s vacillating accounts about what compelled him to fireplace Comey. Or, Comey’s congressional testimony. Or, maybe his many highly-publicized TV interviews.
Unusually, although, most residents on each side of the aisle – those that admire or despise Comey – possible consider Comey’s model of the info. That means, even when they conclude that Trump was absolutely justified in firing Comey, in addition they nonetheless consider Comey’s account of his conversations with Trump. Why? Let’s keep in mind simply a few of Trump’s frankly odd statements – Trump fired Comey as a result of he didn’t deal with Hillary Clinton pretty and thus broken the FBI’s credibility; Trump’s tweet that Comey “higher hope there are not any ‘tapes’ of our conversations earlier than he begins leaking to the press!”; and – solely after Congress demanded these tapes – the incomprehensible observe up tweet: “I don’t know whether or not there are ‘tapes’ or recordings … however I didn’t make, and don’t have, any such recordings.”
It appears, even when individuals discover Comey a choirboy or even perhaps sanctimonious, many additionally consider of their hearts that Trump demanded a pledge of loyalty and, with that pledge in play, for Comey to spherical file the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn and the Russian “collusion” investigation, shortly and quietly.
So, if I’m proper that folks (extra essential right here, choice makers) will consider in Comey’s credibility irrespective of if in addition they consider he sorely wounded Hillary’s probabilities of defeating Trump, or as an alternative that he’s the bete noire of the president, undercutting him at each flip, why on this planet would a prosecutor who would wish to depend on Comey to assist set up an “obstruction of justice” cost in opposition to the president be concerned by Comey’s ebook that solely underscores his facet of the story? If a witness, particularly Comey, is mostly believed to be the credible one in a swearing contest between two protagonists – as I believe is the case – who cares that he wrote a ebook when it offers no apparent inconsistencies together with his many memos, testimony, or statements of the info? That means, the credibility of his statements stay intact,
significantly given what a gifted civil servant he proved himself to be.
The reality is that jurors (and even legislators) who could also be known as upon to evaluate the veracity of witnesses measure that veracity in opposition to many components. And the truth is that whether or not factfinders “like” the witness usually comes into play in deciding circumstances (although prosecutors steadily rely efficiently on the testimony of turnaround “dangerous guys” with horrible backgrounds).
So, the decision-makers might properly have a look at numerous traits of the witness. Does the witness come throughout as vindictive? Is he partisan? Superior? Self-absorbed? Does he attempt to current himself because the hero in each story? Is he motivated by avarice, or fame? Does he exit of his strategy to not solely disclose the info, but in addition to “put down” the opposite man? And so, if he writes a ebook that discusses the opposite protagonist, the writer/witness will possible additionally disclose traits about himself that will not come to gentle if the decision-makers had solely his “memos to file” to think about. As Spinoza famous greater than 400 years in the past: “What Paul says about Peter tells us extra about Paul than about Peter.”
So let’s have a look at Comey’s ebook, significantly because it pertains to the president. To make sure, the ebook is extraordinarily properly written, usually outright inspiring. Comey is on the vortex of important moments in latest historical past – as United States Legal professional prosecuting Martha Stewart; as Deputy Legal professional Common coping with a post-9/11 world; on the bedside of Legal professional Common Ashcroft when the Administration tried to ram a renewal of a coverage of government-authorized torture previous a bedridden Ashcroft; on the helm of the FBI when the Justice Division, principally enabled him to resolve whether or not to criminally cost Hillary Clinton. And he tells these tales calmly and with resolve.
However just about not one of the greater than 600,000 (and rising) individuals who purchased Comey’s #1 best-seller did so for these tales. They purchased it to see what he would say about an embattled president who had the gall, or was it energy, to fireplace the FBI Director i.e., the writer. That call was possible the one which led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as Particular Counsel – principally to resolve and act if “there’s a there there.”
What would Comey say about that? Would he be a laconic Joe Friday (“simply the info, ma’am”), or would he search to take down the president in a best-selling assassination – needing to perform it in print, particularly if the president had been to outlive Mueller’s investigation? Would he, in his ebook, pony up the “venereal materials”, as an insightful prison lawyer pal of mine would name it – and disclose the soiled, embarrassing, secrets and techniques in regards to the president that will make him “pay” for having unceremoniously fired the Director who wouldn’t kowtow to the president’s need that he silently ditch the FBI’s investigation.
Comey’s telling just isn’t “simply the info”. Whether or not you consider his asides to be compelling, or merely gratuitous, they’re fodder for any litigating lawyer who is likely to be known as upon to problem his account of occasions or, extra importantly, his world view of whether or not Trump deserves to stay as president. He steadily appears to make Trump look unworthy of his workplace, and definitely when in comparison with Presidents Bush and Obama, each of whom Comey served. Is there cause – apart from maybe the sale of books – for him to have opined on the dimensions of the president’s fingers, the orange tinge of his pores and skin or that the president’s “impressively coiffed” hair seems to be “all his” (“I keep in mind questioning how lengthy it should take him within the morning to get that completed.”) In his telling, Comey infers that the president, whereas admiring a handwritten White Home menu, doesn’t truly know what a calligrapher is. Does reporting that Trump hung
“gold” curtains instead of their predecessors within the Oval someway assist us perceive the which means of “a better loyalty,” or extra possible assist promote books (although presumably on the urging of Comey’s editor)?
All through, Comey addresses loyalty, and Trump’s obvious failure to know what it truly entails and to whom it’s owed. Certainly, Comey additionally appears to need to make the purpose that the president and his workforce are structured just like the Mafia hierarchy Comey as soon as prosecuted. Mightn’t some – maybe many — see the Cosa Nostra references as pointless?
Comey additionally reviews each time the president introduced up (and denied) the Steele File’s assertion that he watched hookers urinate on each other throughout an evening he spent at a Russian resort room. He seizes on the president’s “obvious play for sympathy” in telling Comey that the episode has been very painful to Mrs. Trump, and derides the president’s assertion that it bothered him if there was even a “one p.c likelihood” Melania thought it was true, writing: “In what sort of marriage, to what sort of man, does a partner conclude there’s solely a 99 p.c likelihood her husband didn’t try this?”
If one had been to view “A Larger Loyalty” merely as a ebook or a biography, it’s a good, possibly an amazing, one. Comey’s model is compelling, fast-paced and he skillfully weaves the info together with his impressions and ideas. However – and I say this as somebody who is not any fan of the president – an in a position trial lawyer may make important elements of the ebook appear gratuitous, petty even. And as a juror or legislator, these seemingly pointless swipes at Trump’s character and method might make Comey much less interesting the place his appeal-ability could also be what actually counts.
It’s a no brainer that no prosecutor would need his star witness, earlier than he testifies, to have written a ebook or been interviewed addressing the exact topic of the witness’s doubtlessly essential testimony. And, there’s no query that Comey, having served as United States Legal professional and Deputy Legal professional Common, properly knew that, however nonetheless selected to publish his ebook when he did — though his supporters would possible argue that he felt the pressing must get his story out promptly given his sincerely held perception that America was being undermined by his protagonist.
Sure, I presume the FBI vetted this ebook to ensure that he wasn’t disclosing categorized data or state secrets and techniques. However the choice to publish his ebook whereas Mueller’s investigation proceeds at a important section was a call made by Comey alone.
Why would Comey have made that call? And does anybody actually assume Bob Mueller, maybe as tremendous and honorable prosecutor as America has ever seen, would have wished him to?
Joel Cohen is a former state and federal prosecutor, and practices prison protection legislation at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP in New York. He’s an adjunct professor at Fordham Legislation Faculty, repeatedly lectures and writes on legislation, ethics and social coverage for the New York Legislation Journal and different publications, and is the writer of Damaged Scales: Reflections on Injustice (ABA Publ. 2017). Dale J. Degenshein, particular counsel at Stroock, assisted in getting ready this text.
[Image via Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images]
That is an opinion piece. The views expressed on this article are these of simply the writer.