Jacob Heilbrunn

James Comey is a man obsessed with his own myth

James Comey is a man obsessed with his own myth
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Oh, dear. The myth that James Comey has sedulously cultivated of himself—the ascetic warrior for truth, the vigilant sentinel of liberty—is coming in for a bit of a pounding today. In his report to Congress on Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation, the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded, “While we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey’s part, we nevertheless concluded that by departing so clearly and dramatically from FBI and department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice.”

Comey’s recent memoir was titled A Higher Loyalty, but his highest loyalty seems to have been to his image of himself as a pillar of rectitude. Speaking of pillars, perhaps Comey might want to climb one if he remains obsessed with trying to maintain a saintly image. He might consider emulating Simeon Stylites who hunkered down on top of a pillar near Aleppo for almost four decades. Gibbon records, “In this last and lofty station, the Syrian Anachoret resisted the heat of thirty summers, and the cold of as many winters. Habit and exercise instructed him to maintain his dangerous situation without fear or giddiness, and successively to assume the different postures of devotion. He sometimes prayed in an erect attitude, with his outstretched arms in the figure of a cross, but his most familiar practice was that of bending his meagre skeleton from the forehead to the feet; and a curious spectator, after numbering twelve hundred and forty-four repetitions, at length desisted from the endless account. The progress of an ulcer in his thigh might shorten, but it could not disturb, this celestial life; and the patient Hermit expired, without descending from his column.”

For Trump’s part, penance is not really part of his vocabulary. Trump, who originally claimed that he fired Comey over his handling of the Clinton brouhaha, only to reverse course and admit that it was because of Russia in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, has weighed in this morning on the matter in an expansive tweet: “So, the Democrats make up a phony crime, Collusion with the Russians, pay a fortune to make the crime sound real, illegally leak (Comey) classified information so that a Special Councel will be appointed, and then Collude to make this pile of garbage take on life in Fake News!” Hmm. The most striking thing about this tweet is that Trump is adhering to his unique spelling of the word counsel. Before he issues his goofy tweets, he might want to seek some counsel.

For their part, Democrats are once more alleging that Comey’s statements about the email investigation cost Clinton the election. It’s back to the future. The 2016 election continues to be relitigated ad nauseam.

But what really has Trump aroused, if that’s the appropriate word, is the lawsuit that the New York attorney general is filing against him and his children for allegedly misusing the Trump Foundation. Trump tweeted about this as well in the morning: “The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000. I won’t settle this case!...” Of course, Trump routinely says this—and then settles. He won’t be able to pardon himself or his children out of this one since the pardon power only applies to federal, not state, crimes.

What’s more, Trump appears to be remarkably penurious when it comes to donating to his foundation. CNN reports, “A review of the Trump Foundation's tax records by CNN finds that although the charity has received more than $4 million in contributions from other organisations and individuals and in turn donated millions to various charitable causes since 2009, Trump has not made any personal contributions to the foundation in that time.” Or is this, too, Fake News, Mr. President?