James Comey has dominated the news in recent days, and his reputation has taken a beating in the process. Following the publication of his memoir, a high-profile ABC News interview, and the leak of memos from his contacts with President Donald Trump, the former FBI director has come under fire from all sides. Progressives still blame Comey — and will always blame him — for reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton that may have swung the 2016 presidential election. Republicans accuse Comey of putting politics above justice. Of course, both sides have parsed Comey’s words to see what insights they reveal about Trump. Here are some thoughts from political observers on the man America couldn’t stop talking about this week.
10. “For decades, James B. Comey cultivated an image of purity as a lawman who stood above politics and politicians. Then came the book tour. With the release of his memoir this week and a set of high-profile media interviews to publicize it, Mr. Comey — whose firing by President Trump made him a hero to the president’s critics — has veered onto risky terrain, shedding the trappings of a high-minded referee and looking instead like a combatant in the country’s partisan battles.”
— The New York Times, following the release of Comey’s memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.
9. “He’s 6-8 tall, but he’s a very little man. I think he diminished the office of the FBI.”
— A supporter of President Donald Trump, after watching Comey’s ABC interview as part of a CNN focus group.
8. “Comey “loved being alone in the Oval Office. He wanted a piece of it. This is somebody who’s not under oath in interviews and writing a book. And this is somebody who’s given a revisionist version of history. The president hardly knew the man.”
— White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, on ABC’s Good Morning America.
7. “When you cut through all the noise, what they really reveal is a senior law enforcement official struggling to figure out in real time how to handle efforts by the president to turn him into a loyalist devoted to carrying out his political will in wildly inappropriate fashion. … Simply put, the memos confirm that Trump did, in fact, try to exert a level of control over his FBI director, and over an ongoing investigation into his and his cronies’ conduct, that is wildly at odds with norms dictating that law enforcement should be free of political and/or presidential interference.”
— The Washington Post
6. “It will be a crying shame if this week’s childish, tit-for-tat exchange of insults between President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey obscures the important issues raised by Comey’s thoughtful book. … Pundits and politicians who skim the book looking for ammunition to attack Trump or Comey are missing the point. Comey’s book isn’t just a political tell-all: It’s an earnest, somewhat gloomy meditation on power and how he personally learned, by trial and error, what it takes to become a principled, effective leader.”
— Errol Louis, New York Daily News
5. “One can’t help but wonder if there’s a longer, unedited, blunter version of the manuscript sitting in a hard drive somewhere in the offices of Flatiron Books, because every now and then, Comey goes right up the precipice of declaring, “Look, America, if you don’t want the FBI investigating your presidential candidate, don’t nominate a duplicitous grifter with a graveyard’s worth of skeletons in every closet.”
— Jim Geraghty, in National Review, remarking how Comey “never quite gets around to saying anything nice about Hillary Clinton.”
4. ”Partisan or not, Comey was making decisions that proved he was holding himself above the agency he was directing, above the long-held policies that governed how it is supposed to operate — and how he was supposed to operate. His hubris, on full display as he preens and gossips and makes catty remarks about Trump’s spray tan and hand size, quite possibly put this man he considers a dangerous buffoon in office. And even now, Comey says he wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s nothing at all noble in any of that.”
— Joan McCarter in the Daily Kos
3. “Trump, of course, spent the week before the Comey interview trying to discredit the man he fired through a now-familiar method: governance by TV and Twitter. Forget complex Capitol Hill negotiations and all that outdated rule-of-law stuff. Television and social media supply Trump’s presidential podium and unofficial advisers. Where better to appeal directly to the people? Trump’s combined presidential addresses over the airwaves and Twitter categorized Comey as a ”slippery” “slimeball,” “not smart” “liar” who “will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!”
— The Los Angeles Times, recounting President Trump’s personal attacks on Comey in an effort to discredit his book and memos.
2. “Comey’s decision to write a tell-all book about an ongoing investigation on which he was the senior investigator and for which he could be a witness was abominable. It has gravely diminished him and the FBI, and it has contradicted his claim that he is concerned with protecting the image and integrity of the bureau. I doubt that Comey would have ever been appointed to such a position in the FBI had people known he was the type to air dirty laundry and share inside information on matters that demand discretion. Indeed, many current and former colleagues are recoiling with disdain.”
— Conversative pundit David Limbaugh
1. “[T]he release of the memos confirm (at least) four things: Trump tried to lean on Comey in inappropriate ways designed to interfere with the normal operation of the criminal-justice system; Trump is every bit as irrational and unhinged in private as we suspect; Trump is frightened that the salacious dossier allegations might be proved true; and Trump cares not at all about protecting American democracy.”
— Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post