Former FBI director James Comey’s memoir, A Higher Loyalty, is to be released next week. The following are excerpts from the 304-page book, which Agence France-Presse obtained ahead of its public sale on Tuesday.
U.S. President Donald Trump fired Comey as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in May 2017:
“As I found myself thrust into the Trump orbit, I once again was having flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”
Hillary Clinton emails
“I have replayed the Clinton email case hundreds of times in my mind. Other than mistakes in the way I presented myself in the July 5 public statement in front of the television cameras, I am convinced that if I could do it all again, I would do the same thing, given my role and what I knew at the time. But I also think reasonable people might well have handled it different… I have read [Hillary Clinton] has felt anger toward me personally, and I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry that I couldn’t do a better job explaining to her and her supporters why I made the decisions I made.”
“I thwarted the hug, but I got something worse in exchange. The president leaned in and put his mouth near my right ear. ‘I’m really looking forward to working with you,’ he said. Unfortunately, because of the vantage point of the TV cameras, what many in the world, including my children, thought they saw was a kiss. The whole world ‘saw’ Donald Trump kiss the man who some believed got him elected.”
“His face appeared slightly orange, with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coifed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his… As he extended his hand, I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.”
‘I expect loyalty’
“With a serious look on his face, he said, ‘I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.’ During the silence that followed, I didn’t move, speak or change my facial expression in any way. The president of the United States just demanded the FBI director’s loyalty. This was surreal…. To my mind, the demand was like Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony—with Trump, in the role of the family, asking me if I have what it takes to be a ‘made man.’… ‘You will always get honesty from me,’ I said. He paused. ‘That’s what I want, honest loyalty,’ he said. This appeared to satisfy him as some sort of ‘deal’ in which we were both winners.”
Where’s the humor?
“I don’t recall seeing him laugh, ever. Not during small talk before meetings. Not in a conversation… There is a risk I’m over-interpreting this… but I don’t know of another elected leader who doesn’t laugh with some regularity in public. I suspect his apparent inability to do so is rooted in deep insecurity, his inability to be vulnerable or to risk himself by appreciating the humor of others, which, on reflection, is really very sad in a leader, and a little scary in a president.”
The ‘golden showers thing’
“Unprompted, and in another zag in the conversation, [Trump] brought up what he called the ‘golden showers thing,’ repeating much of what he had said to me previously adding that it bothered him if there was ‘even a one percent chance’ his wife, Melania, thought it was true… He just rolled on, unprompted, explaining why it couldn’t possibly be true, ending by saying he was thinking of asking me to investigate the allegation to prove it was a lie. I said it was up to him.”
“That distracted me slightly because I immediately began wondering why his wife would think there was any chance, even a small one, that he had been with prostitutes urinating on each other in Moscow.”
“I was fired, effective immediately, by the president who had repeatedly praised me and asked me to stay… I felt sick to my stomach and slightly dazed.”
“I took an emotional call from General John Kelly, then the secretary of Homeland Security. He said he was sick about my firing and that he intended to quit in protest. He said he didn’t want to work for dishonorable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner. I urged Kelly not to do that, arguing that the country needed principled people around this president. Especially this president.”
Obstruction of justice?
“One of the pivotal questions I presume that Bob Mueller’s team is investigating is whether or not in urging me to back the FBI off our investigation of his national security adviser and in firing me, President Trump was attempting to obstruct justice, which is a federal crime. It’s certainly possible… I do know that, as of this writing, Special Counsel Mueller and his team are hard at work and the American people can have confidence that, unless their investigation is blocked in some fashion, they will get to the truth, whatever that is.”
“Donald Trump’s presidency threatens much of what is good in this nation. We all bear responsibility for the deeply flawed choices put before voters during the 2016 election, and our country is paying a high price: this president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven, and about personal loyalty. We are fortunate some ethical leaders have chosen to serve and to stay at senior levels of government, but they cannot prevent all of the damage from the forest fire that is the Trump presidency. Their task is to try to contain it.”