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Former FBI Director James Comey sits down with George Stephanopolous
The interview, which lasted an hour, delved into the strained professional relationship between the decades long public servant and newly elected President Donald Trump.
Comey first appeared in recent national headlines after 2016 “October Surprise” when the FBI director and his team of federal agents found evidence that then-Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton and her aides were, in Comey’s own words: “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
While no charges were ever brought forward against Clinton, critics speculated that the FBI’s investigation may have hindered her chances of winning the election.
Comey stayed on as Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director after Trump was inaugurated in January, but was fired a few months later, on May 7, 2017. The Trump Administration justified Comey’s termination by stating that he had mishandled the Hillary Clinton email probe during the presidential elections.
Comey himself, however, attributes the firing to a lack of prescribed loyalty to Trump himself and his persistence in pursuing an investigation into Trump’s alleged Russian meddling.
The core of the interview could be surmised within Comey’s upcoming autobiography, titled: “A Higher Loyalty,” which touches on his own personal leadership experiences and delves into the details regarding his encounters with the 45 President of the United States.
During the ABC interview, Comey touched on two significant meetings with Trump that would forever change his professional relationship with the President. One of those meetings arose after Comey was invited by Trump to dine with him at the White House on the evening of Jan. 27, 2017.
The purpose of the private dinner meeting, Comey claimed, was for him to pledge loyalty to the President. “And the purpose of the meeting,” Comey said, “was for him to extract from me a promise of loyalty. My insight was right, it was to make me a friend of (his).”
“I expect loyalty, I need loyalty,” Comey said Trump told him. “You will always get honesty from me,” Comey replied.
The second fateful meeting occurred on Feb. 14, 2017 in the Oval Office, when Comey was briefing the President and members of his staff on terrorist threats in the United States. After the meeting concluded, Trump requested Comey stay behind. “(Trump) then ended the meeting by thanking everybody.” Comey said. “and pointing at me saying, “I just want to talk to Jim.” And excused everyone, including the vice president.”
When Comey was alone with the President, he stated that Trump asked him to drop the criminal investigation on Michael Flynn (who at that time was charged with lying to the FBI). “He’s asking me to drop the criminal investigation.” Comey said. “of his, now former, national security advisor”.
One of the most provocative statements Mr. Comey made during the ABC interview was comparing the President to a “mob boss.”
“What I’m talking about is that leadership culture comes back to me when I think about my experience with the Trump administration. The loyalty oaths, the boss as the dominant center of everything, it’s all about how do you serve the boss, what’s in the boss’ interests. It’s the family, the family, the family, the family.”
Ali Munshi, a senior political science major, drew parallels from the interview to the uneasy political atmosphere most Americans find themselves in today.
“It’s a scandalous time, in different ways,” Munshi said. “If Comey steps forward and says something about the administration, I’m not sure why others wouldn’t. How valid is everything? How much of this is Comey just trying to protect himself? We’re all just trying to get to the bottom of this.”
Munshi also stated that the new interview wouldn’t shed light on any new developments.
“I don’t think the interview will give us a lot,” Munshi said. “We’re still dealing with internal politics that unfortunately our leaders will not rise above, and I don’t believe James Comey is any better. I’m not sure all the the questions we’re going to have are going to be answered tonight.”
As tensions continue to rise across the political landscape, the Comey interview only seems to raise more questions than answer them.
Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to the Department of Justice on May 17, 2017; just eight days after Comey was fired. He was tasked with investigating any Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including exploring any links or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government.
“If Trump fires Mueller, it would set off alarm bells that this is the most serious attack yet on the rule of law,” Comey said. “This is about the values of this country and the rule of law. And it would be to the everlasting shame of partisans if they were unable to see that higher level and to protect it.”