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A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership

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Former FBI Director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.

Mr. Comey served as Director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017, appointed to the post by President Barack Obama. He previously served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the U.S. deputy attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush. From prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart to helping change the Bush administration's policies on torture and electronic surveillance, overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation as well as ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Comey has been involved in some of the most consequential cases and policies of recent history.

290 pages, Hardcover

First published April 17, 2018

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About the author

James Comey

14 books419 followers
James Brien Comey Jr. (born December 14, 1960) is an American lawyer who served as the seventh Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from September 4, 2013 until his dismissal on May 9, 2017. Comey was a registered Republican for most of his life, but has recently described himself as unaffiliated.

Comey was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from January 2002 to December 2003, and subsequently the United States Deputy Attorney General from December 2003 to August 2005 in the administration of President George W. Bush. Comey appointed Patrick Fitzgerald to be the Special Counsel to head the grand jury investigation into the Plame affair after Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself.

In August 2005, Comey left the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and became general counsel and senior vice president of Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland. In 2010, he became general counsel at Bridgewater Associates, based in Westport, Connecticut. In early 2013, he left Bridgewater to become a Senior Research Scholar and Hertog Fellow on National Security Law at Columbia Law School. He served on the board of directors of HSBC Holdings until July 2013.

In September 2013, Comey was appointed Director of the FBI by President Barack Obama. In that capacity, he was responsible for overseeing the FBI's investigation of the Hillary Clinton email controversy. His role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, particularly with regard to his public communications, was highly controversial. His decisions are viewed by some analysts as having possibly cost Clinton the election. Comey also received heavy criticism from Republicans, in part after it was revealed that he had begun drafting an exoneration letter for Clinton before the investigation was complete.

Comey was dismissed by President Donald Trump on May 9, 2017. Statements from Trump and the White House suggested that he had been dismissed to ease the "pressure" Trump was under due to the Russia investigation. On May 16 Comey released his internal FBI memo he had written after a February 14 private meeting with the president. It said Trump had asked him to end the FBI's investigation into Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor. The dismissal, the memo, and Comey's subsequent Congressional testimony were interpreted by some commentators as evidence of obstruction of justice and became part of a widening investigation by Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel appointed to probe Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

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Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,295 reviews120k followers
June 9, 2022
All bullies are largely the same. They threaten the weak to feed some insecurity that rages inside them. I know. I’ve seen it up close.
James Comey is a lawyer, and in A Higher Loyalty he has presented a case to the jury of American public opinion. He lays out the steps of his interactions with Swamp Thing, from introduction to long-distance buh-bye. This is what happened, here, here, and there, on this, this, and that dates. This is what was said. This is what I understood those words to mean. And really, who are you going to believe, a public servant with a decades-long reputation for, among other things, honesty, or a feckless serial and possibly pathological liar?

James Comey - image from the NY Times

One can argue that it was not Swamp Thing’s clear collusion with Russia that constituted Ground Zero for what would become, in effect, a large-scale impeachment inquiry. Given the spinelessness of GOP legislators and the toadying nature of most of Trump’s appointees, given the clear intention of the Trump administration to install such creatures in as many positions of power as possible, it is a distinct possibility that there might have been no Special Counsel investigation but for a single action, taken by Swamp Thing, and his childish inability to keep his lies straight. We would still have the Quisling sorts like Devin Nunes, who could be counted on to cover their boss’s and their own butt cheeks instead of doing their constitutionally defined job of overseeing the executive branch. The hyper-partisanship and cowardice of most Republicans in the federal government have made a laughing stock of our democracy across the planet. That would have been there in any case. But on May 9, 2017, after having failed to gain a personal loyalty pledge, Swamp Thing fired James Comey as the head of the FBI, with the laughable excuse that Comey had mishandled his job of investigating Hillary Clinton, which is not to say that Comey managed it well, of which more later, but that Swamp Thing had previously praised Comey’s actions as courageous. ( Those who support his dismissal by Swamp Thing will likely succumb to right-wing talking points, preposterous though they are, that Comey was a secret Hillary supporter, whose actions strove to bolster her candidacy. If you believe that, please stop reading now. Your brain has ceased functioning and nothing written here will make any sense to you. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.) When he subsequently admitted on a nationally televised interview that his reason for doing so was “the Russia thing,” he opened the door to a world of hurt. In the absence of the Comey firing there may never have been a Special Counsel investigation into “the Russia thing,” but by so blatantly obstructing justice by firing Comey, Swamp Thing placed the target, in flashing neon, on his own back.

That is the true starting point of Comey’s book. But, like most well written legal documents, there is considerable backstory, and in a very well written case, there is a central thrust. The tale told here is not just about his few months of interactions with the president. He offers pieces of his life story to let us know the kind of person he is, or at least the kind of person he wants us to see him as, the experiences that molded his character, the personal motivations that informed his adult decisions, and what he portrays as ethical choices made in challenging situations in his career. He wants us to understand that he believes he acted properly, both in doing what he did during the 2016 presidential campaign, and in refusing to do what the tainted president demanded of him. And, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the decision will be yours.

Image from SusieMadrak.com

Here are the charges

-----Did Director Comey tell the truth when he testified that the president had pressured him to drop the case against Michael Flynn?

-----Is Director Comey an egotistical prima donna who put his personal needs and perspective above the needs of the nation and his bosses?

-----Did FBI Director Comey, with forethought and malice, and by choosing to break with FBI protocol, deliberately affect the 2016 presidential election in such a way as to damage the campaign of Hilary Clinton?


-----Does Swamp Thing really run his White House as if he were a mafia don?

-----Does a guy who’s 6’8” really think he can fade into the woodwork by getting up close and personal with White House drapery that sort of matches his suit?

-----Has Comey behaved in a non-partisan manner in the jobs he has held, in the decisions he made in those jobs?

Image from @dumptrump33 – Of course we may be raising our expectations a tad high for RM

As for that central thrust thing, it is alluded to in the opening quote. Comey bloody hates bullies. He had to contend with them as a not-nearly-oversized teen. He was thrilled, when pursuing his legal career, to have an opportunity to go after some of the uber-bullies of our society, members of organized crime. He was also on the scene when one of our major political bullies, Dick Cheney, tried to wrest a signature from a man in a hospital ward, just so he could continue an expiring domestic surveillance program of questionable legality. In a way, all his life had led up to his dealings with Swamp Thing, a person who is the very personification of the coward as bully. Comey knew what he was facing when Swamp Thing was elected. He hoped to be able to avoid conflicts with him, and see out his ten-year term as FBI head. He knew the odds of that happening were small.

We are offered a look into Comey’s upbringing in Yonkers, and then New Jersey.
Being an outsider, being picked on, was very painful, but in hindsight it made me a better judge of people. In my life, I would spend a lot of time assessing threats, judging tone of voice, and figuring out the shifting dynamic in a hallway or locker room crowd. Surviving a bully requires constant learning and adaptation. Which is why bullies are so powerful, because it’s so much easier to be a follower, to go with the crowd, to just blend in.
He walks us through some of his career steps and big moments. These include the successful prosecution of a large chunk of the New York area mafia, prosecuting Martha Stewart, prosecuting Scooter Libby, and the event that made his reputation. He was the acting Attorney General at a time when the Stellar Wind program, an illegal domestic spying undertaking, according to DoJ analysis, was up for renewal. The administration needed a sign-off by the AG, and acting AG Comey refused. Getting wind that Presidential counsel Alberto Gonzalez and Chief of Staff Andy Card were on their way to the hospital to wrest a signature from the barely conscious John Ashcroft, being treated for a life-threatening condition, he dashed to the hospital himself, sirens howling and lights flashing, calling Robert Mueller, then the head of the FBI, to join him in preventing this blatant malfeasance. It is the stuff of legend. And secured him a place in the pantheon of political heroes for his courage under such withering political fire. The passage could have been written by any of today’s best-selling writers of political thrillers, leaving one breathless, even though we know the outcome. Though the broad strokes are at least somewhat familiar to folks who pay attention to the news, there are details I bet you do not know and will be very surprised to learn. The book is worth it just for that section alone.

Attorney General John Ashcroft - image from US News

Throughout, Comey talks about trying to do the right, the moral, the ethical thing when confronted with difficult decisions. He is certainly persuasive when he writes about the lessons he has learned over his life from people he has known and respected, and from important people and writers whose work has informed his growth as an ethical person. He cites as a particular influence the writings of religious philosopher Reinhold Nieburh, someone many in government, from both parties, have looked to for inspiration. You may be surprised at some of the other people he notes as influencers.

Also a bit of a surprise is his take on various people he has been connected to, most of whom will be familiar. Rudy Giuliani, who had held the US Attorney position for the Southern District of New York when Comey was a prosecutor there, comes in for a look.
Though Giuliani’s confidence was exciting, it fed an imperial style that severely narrowed the circle of people with whom he interacted, something I didn’t realize was dangerous until much later: a leader needs the truth, but an emperor does not consistently hear it from his underlings. Rudy’s demeanor left a trail of resentment among the dozens of federal judges in Manhattan, many of whom had worked in that U.S. Attorney’s office. They thought he made the office about one person, himself, and used publicity about his cases as a way to foster his political ambitions rather than doing justice. It was a resentment that was still palpable when I became the chief federal prosecutor in Manhattan—and sat in Giuliani’s chair—a dozen years later.
Hizzoner’s fondness for the limelight has not faded a single watt. Comey also talks about his dealing with former AGs and others in government. His meetings with President Obama make for fascinating and surprising reading.

As with anyone who is presenting himself as ethical, and better than the pack in that regard, he offers up some specifics of errors he has made, including one fairly meaningless lie that he told as a young man, which made him feel particularly guilty. He points out an error of insensitivity he had made when addressing the Michael Brown case, but it is presented in such a way as to show how receptive he is to learning something new. It’s a bit like a job interview when the applicant tries to skirt the “What’s your worst quality?” question with how he works too hard for his own good. Eye roll please. Comey offers fleeting mea culpas on having an outsized ego and an eye for the dramatic, then notes several examples of what a wonderful, thoughtful boss he is. It is clear that he wants us to like, and respect him, and take his “aw, shucks,” demeanor at face value. But it is also quite clear that he is a well-armed, and well armored political in-fighter, familiar with his home turf, sharp-edged, and deft in the art of manipulation.

It is a clear thread throughout Comey’s book that his literary RPG is locked, loaded, and aimed at one Donald J. Trump. The things that disgusted him throughout his life, from childhood and in his public career are epitomized by the man who fired him for doing his job. A secondary, related, core is centered on defending his actions in 2016 and 2017, making the case that he should not have been sacked.

So what about the charges and questions?

I’m almost there. But before that, you should know that James Comey, whatever you think of him as a public official or as a political person, is a wonderful writer. He is able to paint a picture and bring you along with him with seeming effortlessness. No doubt this talent has been honed by his many years of preparing and presenting cases. This book is his case to all of us.

Ok, down to the end

-----Does Swamp Thing really run his White House as if he were a mafia don?
Really? Have you heard anything to offer a more accurate description? I haven’t. Spot on, JC, particularly given his familiarity with less powerful dons as a prosecutor in the SDNY.

-----Does a guy who’s 6’8” really think he can fade into the woodwork by getting up close and personal with White House drapery that matches his suit?
Yeah, he kinda thought he could. The drapery is taller than he is and the color matched his suit somewhat.

Darth on Twitter had a bit of fun with this

As you can see from this image from War News Blogspot, Comey was sure to be spotted

-----Has Comey behaved in a non-partisan manner in the jobs he has held, in the decisions he made in those jobs?
As for being non-partisan, I call BS on that. Comey is a Republican, and, while there have been notable instances in which he has risen above purely partisan perspectives, that bias has, I believe, interfered with his ability to remain consistently above the political fray. He writes, for example,
I wanted to find a way to help Bush. This man, whom I liked and wanted to see succeed, appeared not to realize the storm that was coming. The entire Justice Department leadership was going to quit, and just as he was running for reelection.
A politically disinterested official would have given such a concern zero consideration.
We all bear responsibility for the deeply flawed choices put before voters during the 2016 election…
Rather a false equivalence, no? It is pretty obvious how flawed the Republican candidate was, but the Democratic nominee was one of the most qualified presidential candidates in modern history. The deep flaws some insist on seeing were primarily made up of lies that had been broadcast about her for decades by a well-financed and relentless political attack machine. Like one of those augmented reality games that let you superimpose imaginary characters onto a real-world scene. (Pokémon GOP?) So BS on that, too. Opting to go public with a re-opening of the investigation of Hillary so late in the election season, against protocol, and without the prior knowledge of his AG, knowing it would likely impact the election, while simultaneously keeping under wraps the ongoing investigation of Trump for collusion with Russia was really the kicker. I believe this revealed his partisan stripes, however well he may have tried to disguise them in the tall grass of self-justification. Many will find his explanation persuasive. I am not among them. Bias revealed.

-----Did Director Comey tell the truth when he testified that the president had pressured him to drop the case against Michael Flynn?

Here is piece of how he describes that interaction
He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
At the time, I had understood the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December.
The preponderance of news coverage, confirmed by Comey’s reporting here, makes it abundantly clear that Swamp Thing did indeed ask for special treatment for his guy, a glaringly illegal no-no. Comey was right to continue with business as usual after getting this appalling directive, which is exactly what it was.

-----Is Director Comey an egotistical prima donna who put his personal needs and perspective above the needs of the nation and his bosses?

IMHO, Yes, but with significant asterisks.
Even Comey’s close friends acknowledge that his great strength is also his great weakness: a belief in his own integrity. “He believes this in a way that creates big blind spots, because he substitutes his judgment for the rules,” says Matt Miller, a former director of public affairs for the D.O.J. - from the Vanity Fair Article
See more on this below.

-----Did FBI Director Comey, with forethought and malice, and by choosing to break with FBI protocol, deliberately affect the 2016 presidential election in such a way as to damage the campaign of Hillary Clinton?

Yes and No. It seems to me that Comey’s identification with the departments to which he has belonged or which he has headed, whether temporarily or long-term, is extremely strong. Not a bad thing, per se. But I believe there have been times when he has proven himself unable to separate where James Comey ended and the FBI or the Department of Justice began, leading to situations where Le département est moi. I believe that in some of his actions, Comey, knowingly or unknowingly, became, in his head, one with the department. Therefore, it is impossible to differentiate where actions intended to protect the reputation of the FBI or the Department of Justice leave off and become actions to defend the ego and reputation of James Comey. And there is a considerable ego involved. I would not be surprised if Comey, at some not necessarily conscious level, saw himself as a sacrificial figure, a Prometheus who gave the nation the fire of just cause to investigate Trump’s Russia dealings, or even a Christ-figure, sacrificed, if perhaps not as intentionally as the original, for the greater good.

==========In the summer of 2019 GR reduced the allowable review size by 25%, from 20,000 to 15,000 characters. In order to accommodate the text beyond that I moved it to the comments section directly below. Then in 2021 GR further reduced our capacity for including external links in comments making it a challenge to update reviews posted before then.

So for the rest of the review, updated June 2, 2022, and EXTRA STUFF, please head over to my site, Coot’s Reviews.

Review first posted – May 11, 2018

Publication date – April 17, 2018
Profile Image for Malia.
Author 6 books550 followers
June 23, 2021
As anticipated, this is a difficult book to review. In fact, I was in two minds about even reading it, though I am not unhappy that I did. On the one hand, I do feel I know Comey better and that he is, in many ways, a good, stand-up sort of guy (which he reiterates in every conceivable way throughout the book, mind you). He has had his struggles and personal tragedies, and he gives himself a far more human face, when before I knew so little about him beyond his questionable actions. An aspect I enjoyed, was learning about his family and past and noting the obvious love and admiration he feels for his wife and his family.
On the other hand, I finished it feeling frustrated. Despite having a better understanding regarding the difficult decisions he faced, and hearing his uncertainty about how to handle the Clinton investigation, he never seems quite willing to take responsibility for the fallout, even after he makes it very clear how little respect he has for Trump. I struggled with this aspect of the book and his character, as I am sure many other readers will. Comey makes an effort to show he is not partisan, and yet he cannot help offering small barbs against George Bush and complimenting Barack Obama (can't blame him on that front, it's OBAMA!). Yet his insistence that the FBI remained wholly separate from the politics of the president as well as partisanship rang false to me. If you, as the acting Director of the FBI make monumental decisions during a fraught election cycle, you are meddling with politics. He claims, like so many of us, he felt certain Clinton would win either way and was as stunned as anyone when she lost, so I believe him when he says he didn't intend for this outcome. All the same, this is the outcome we got and I feel my liking for this book and my sympathy for Comey waned considerably once I realized he would not be taking any blame. Additionally, and more puzzling in my opinion, he states he would act precisely as he did if he could do it all again. This seems insane, since he also makes it evident that he thinks Trump is a very dangerous and incompetent person (an UNstable genius...;) ?! I am left feeling baffled and not very satisfied having read this book, but that seems to be my perpetual state these days. In the end, I am glad I read it, but am disappointed as well by the cowardice of so many of the people in positions of power, whose ego and ambition rule their actions, instead of their principles or a sense of morality. Comey can say what he wishes, but it takes courage to admit a mistake, and I think that courage is lacking in him, at least for now.

Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.5k followers
September 3, 2019

There are two things every reader should know about James Comey and his book. First, whatever your politics, whatever you may think of his decisions, Comey is a fine writer who has written an excellent book about leaders and leadership, a superb story teller with a knack for bringing his object lessons to life. Second, however much MSNBC you watch, however much of The Times and The Post you have read in the last year, you will still find stories here—good stories—that you have not heard before.

Here, as a teaser, I offer four snippets—one per decade--culled from Comey’s stories.

1. 1985. The great man, showboat Federal prosecutor Rudy Guliani, drops by for a rare chat with young government attorney Comey:
I had been assigned to an investigation that touched a prominent New York figure who dressed in shiny tracksuits and sported a Nobel-sized medallion around his neck. The state of New York was investigating Al Sharpton for alleged embezzlement from his charity, and I was assigned to see if there was a federal angle to the case…. My heart thumped with excitement as [Guliani] gave me a pep talk standing in the doorway. He was counting on me. He turned to leave, then stopped. “Oh, and I want the fucking medal.”
2. 1995. Jim’s wife Patrice copes with the death of her infant son—from streptococcus infection transmitted through the mother—by lobbying for a change in the law.
Patrice wrote publicly about our son and traveled the country supporting efforts to change the standard of care. She poured effort into speaking to the Virginia legislature, and succeeded in getting statutory language passed enbracing universal testing and treatment for Group B strep. She didn’t do anything alone, but her voice, along with the voices of many other good people, changed our country. All mothers are tested now, and their babies live. Something good followed the unimaginable bad. Other mothers will never know what might have been, which is as it should be.
3. 2004. Comey, as acting attorney general, has offered his opinion that “Stellar Wind”—a government program of warrantless wiretapping—is illegal, but Vice President Dick Cheney won’t be deterred by claims of illegality:
After the analysts rolled up their charts and left the room, the vice president took over…. [He] looked at me gravely and said that, as I could plainly see, the program was very important. In fact, he said, “Thousands of people are going to die because of what you are doing.”….The purpose of the meeting was to squeeze me, although nobody said that. To have the vice president of the United States accuse me of recklessly producing another 9/11—even seeming to suggest that I was doing it intentionally—was stunning.
4. 2017. Donald Trump, during his tete-a-tete dinner with Comey, speaks of the White House menu cards:
On my plate, I had found a large cream-colored card describing the entire four course menu in cursive script. Salad, shirmp scampi, chicken parmesan with pasta, and vanilla ice cream. The president began by admiring his own menu card, which he held up.

“They write these things out one at a time, by hand,” he marveled, referring to the White House staff.

“A calligrapher," I replied, nodding.

He looked quizzical. “They write them by hand,” he repeated.
There are plenty more stories where these four came from: some are amusing, some inspiring, some infuriating, but they all tell us something about leadership. And the last hundred pages give an absorbing account—inevitably biased, but not intentionally so—of some of the crucial decisions surrounding the last election.

What is my impression of this man as a leader? Although of high moral integrity, he is also a man of lofty self-regard, someone who believed he could best protect America by safeguarding his own reputation and the reputation of the government institution he represented. In normal times, this might have made for a profile in courage, but, awash in our extraordinarily politicized climate, enmeshed in the black swan event of the Trump/Clinton election, our hero made one flawed calculation—namely, that Clinton would win. This mistake colored and contaminated the crucial decisions and non-decisions—about Hillary and her emails, Trump and his Russians—that his subtle (perhaps too subtle) intellect made in the summer and fall of 2016.

Funny, but reading over the previous paragraph, I find that this is exactly what I think of President Obama too.
Profile Image for Furrawn.
575 reviews46 followers
April 19, 2018
Inspiring. Can I just say that with all the many expectations I brought to the reading of this book, being inspired was not one of them. Yet, here I am. Inspired.

I vehemently disliked James Comey over the Hillary Clinton email debacle. Now I realize that I was unfair. I didn’t know the truth. I didn’t know all the facts. I try so hard to always look at things from other viewpoints. I failed. I thought myself righteous in my outrage. Truly, James Comey chose the only honorable path. It was a terrible path, but it was the least worst option.

We, the American public, we are the culpable ones. We are the ones who chose the people who were running for President. We are responsible for not putting Hillary in office. We are the ones who chose not to re-elect Jimmy Carter because he was too good of a man and too kind of a man. Well, not me personally. I was a child then. Carter was judged as weak when really what he was was ethical.

Ethical. Good. Kind. What has happened to us that we’re at each other’s throats. People clamor for what is best for them with no thought of what’s best for America. We are America. All of us. Kindness and goodness are not weakness.

I digress. The book will take you through a teenager trying to avoid being murdered, a mafia boss in court, pasta made by a serial killer, the truth about Hillary’s emails, and what happened with Trump.

There’s no smoke and mirrors. Just the truth. My God, it’s refreshing to just read a book that’s honest. How do I know the book is honest? I can feel the truth ringing from sentence to sentence. This is how the Liberty Bell sounds in my head.

This man. James Comey. This man I so unfairly blamed for Hillary losing the election. This man is good and kind and ethical and smart AND he laughs. This man. James Comey. This man would make a good POTUS. I know everyone is going to say that his character has been so besmirched in the media that there’s no coming back from that. I bet someone with a mind like Hamilton Jordan could get him elected. We need someone who doesn’t want the job. An ethical person who will help us make better laws rather than caring if he/she is re-elected. If Elizabeth Warren won’t run, then perhaps James Comey should.

By the way, if James Comey happens to be reading this... the problem with privacy and Apple, Google, etc... You’re missing a piece. You saw the lines arcing away from each other leading to increased murder rates in cities. Well, the privacy problem is also lines arcing away from each other. Whatever one’s opinion of Snowden, he did let the American people know they were unfairly and unconstitutionally being spied on by our own government. It’s wrong to pull data from innocent people’s emails. If someone is suspicious, get a court order like the FBI. There is no freedom of speech if everyone’s emails or texts are being scanned by a branch of the government that is supposed to protect us. The desire for privacy isn’t a sign of wrongdoing despite how some twist it into that as an argument. I’m not doing anything wrong when I go to the bathroom, but I still want a door! Imagine if Hitler had been able to scan the texts and emails of his citizens. Absolute power corrupts.

Apple, Google, etc have responded by making our data inviolable because of the outcry of the American people. Our freedom of speech is compromised if as an innocent citizen every word we write is scanned as a matter of course. 1984 is not a democracy. As consumers, our spending allows us to have a voice. We demanded the right to privacy from Apple, Google, etc, because we found that we were not getting it from our government.

Take us back to the land of the free. Equality. Ethical goodness. Kindness. Gain our trust. If the government can be trusted to only get data with a court order AND that was actually the TRUTH, then people wouldn’t clamor for privacy from companies.

Just my two cents, of course. I love this country. I think we have the best country in the whole damn universe. We’ve got some work to do on balancing safety with civil rights and constitutional freedoms. We also have some work to do in learning how to care about each other.

I was a kid when the hostages were taken in Iran during Carter’s presidency. Know what I remember?? Yellow ribbons on trees. Everywhere. Remember that? The song? “Tie a yellow ribbon round the ole oak tree.” I saw yellow ribbons tied around trees everywhere. I had a hard childhood- was molested for a decade. Those yellow ribbons. They brought tears to my eyes. Each time I saw one, I could feel how the people in America were a community filled with a lot of love and light. I could feel the goodness in people and sustain the belief that, despite my own experience, most people are inherently good. I still believe that.

We need love and light back. Maybe we should start tying yellow ribbons on trees again to remind each other that America is still one community where we love, share, and support each other.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.6k followers
Want to read
April 16, 2018
I have written to the publisher to ask whether they would like to send me a review copy of this book. If they do, I'll read it, but I'm not keen on giving money to the guy who probably made Trump president by reigniting the Hillary email server issue just before the 2016 election.

Trump first said he'd fired Comey because of his actions here. From a certain point of view this was quite reasonable, except that it is of course strange to fire someone for fixing an election in your favour. But then he turned round and gave a second version of the story, where he said that really he'd fired Comey because he wouldn't be cooperative about the Russia investigation. The direct result was that Mueller was appointed to find out what was going on, which could end up getting Trump impeached. It's certainly created a great deal of trouble for him already, and everything suggests there's more to come.

This is the clearest example I've seen so far to support the claim that Trump isn't following some kind of deep strategy, he's just insane.
Profile Image for William2.
745 reviews2,959 followers
May 2, 2018
Superb. One may not agree with all of Comey’s decisions, but this book shows the rigor of his thinking and it’s hard to assail. The astonishing thing is that much of his life, in addition to the law, has involved the study of what constitutes optimal leadership. He’s thought long and hard about it. Throughout the book he recounts examples of leadership that impressed him from a very young age and throughout life. From this long consideration he determines that T hasn’t the slightest clue about what it means to be an ethical leader. Comey’s writing is exemplary, his arguments persuasive. Please read it. In addition to a few really good belly laughs, it contains astonishing descriptions of presidential bone-headedness and narcissism that will set your hair on fire. Naturally, no comparison can be made between Comey’s concise arguments and the moronic tweets of his tormentor.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,736 reviews14.1k followers
April 21, 2018
I knew little about James Comey, the ex-FBI director, before he was brought to my attention and I'm sure many of yours, after being fired by Trump. Not so much fired as ambushed, since Trump didn't even have the decency to let him know he had been fired . Comey saw it on the TV while giving a speech to s group of people he was trying to recruit for his service. He found out the same time we the public did. Unconsciousable!

This book describes Comeys life, his many years in the public eye, service to his country. An impressive background, an ehical man who constantly fought to be fair, remain unbiased. Something he admits to struggling with. His time in the Bush White House, as director appointed by Obama, and then in just the last part of the book, Trump.

He lays out clearly what the role of the FBI must be, a service that to put the public first must remain unbiased. Untied to the Oval office, Obama understood this, Trump clearly didn't. He explains the Clinton emails, how his team thought and the hard decision he had to make. Why he made the decision and proceeded the way he did.

That he finds Trump to not have the necessary character traits to serve as the head of this country, is something many of us feel. From his first strange meeting with Trump, to a wildly inappropriate dinner, he was put in a terrible bind, one he didn't know how to handle. He did make a few catty remarks in describing Trump's physical characteristics, but other then that he was eloquent and stuck to the facts as he saw them.

I quickly gobbled up this book, read it in a day, which I rarely do with books. I found Comey to be credible, fair, and his treatment at the hands of Trump, despicable. His view for our country in the long term is a hopeful one and one in which I wish I could share.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,006 reviews36k followers
October 4, 2021

Update… For the last couple of nights - Paul and I have been watching the Netflix series — “ The Comey Rule”
It’s very well done —- gripping!!!!
And as painful as can be to re- visit - walk down this recent historical path —-

Neither Paul and I can’t recommend the series enough!!!

Audiobook... read by James Comey

Because I listened to James Comey talk about this book on network TV, - mostly the political aspects- the night before it’s release date- I thought I had a good idea of what to expect. Plus... I had already respected this man - and believed what he said that night.

Yet, this book surpassed my expectations- and then some. I had no idea it would also be so personal.
Paul and I were completely floored- frightened- mouths dropped opened- ( as unbelievable) when Comey shared the details from when the Ramsey Rapist broke into his house when he was a teenager. Parents were gone. Only his younger brother Pete and he were home. The choices the brothers made in the face of a devastating nightmare experience, were killing me. Clearly it was easy to see how one night was a life-altering event.

The longer I listened to Comey speak - both about his personal and professional life, his values and ethical stand - the more I came to appreciate him.... and ‘really’ ‘like’ him. He acknowledged his parents and teachers beautifully. I wanted to acknowledge ‘him’. This book is a ‘gift’ on many levels - and not an ounce of ‘slamming’ anyone!

Comey is not just a humble man but very down to earth. I have no doubt he’d be a model neighbor.

I got a kick about ‘his confession’....
He shared about lying to people when asked if he played basketball in college. For a man 6’8” tall... I would assume he definitely played basketball in college.
The lie, even though a small one, began to eat at him, to the point where he called his friends and confessed the truth.
Comey’s a ‘truth’ man... any size lie doesn’t work for him..... which doesn’t easily fit in the political world. A shame it doesn’t!!!

This book was fabulous- hard to believe there was a time when Comey was bullied at school...
He thought, perhaps, because he was in the choir, smart, and still had some baby fat.

To this day - I get so mad hearing about kids being bullied in schools - ( will it ever stop?)....hopefully things are improving...
This grown successful man wrote quite a bit about his ‘bully’ memories - so it only goes to show those memories never completely go away. They leave scars. Thankfully, Comey, used those experiences to contribute to the ‘greater good’ in life.

His mother, had written him a note and stuffed it in her drawer where it stayed for almost 50 years that said
“James, you will be a great man one day”!!!

Mama was right!!!
Profile Image for Matt.
3,724 reviews12.8k followers
April 26, 2018
I assert my right to call this a #realreview

With three interrelated books about the current POTUS sitting on my TBR shelf, I chose to read and review them back to back, looking for insight into the man and some of his more recent activities. Admittedly, they do not constitute a formal biographical image of Donald Trump, but do they ever paint an interesting picture to allow me to create my own biographical narrative! Calling these non-fiction pieces the ‘Trump Trifecta’, they have served me well in my non-fiction binge. Some may dispute the ‘non-fiction’ nature of these books, but that is for the reviewer (myself included) to decide in analysis while weighing the information presented. After reading about some of the controversial means by which the 2016 Presidential Election may have been influenced by outside sources and the wonky goings-on during the first year in the Trump White House in the first two books of the trifecta (check reviews should you want to know more), this final piece seeks to take a step back from (and a giant one into) some of the events that may have led to a less than level playing field when it came to the 2016 Presidential Election. James Comey has written this quasi-memoir not only to set the record straight from the perspective of the FBI, but also to explore his own life through a lens that he describes in the opening pages of his book. Comey explores how he has sought to live his life in such a way that truth and justice prevail, free from political and personal bias, which he comes to call a ‘higher loyalty’. Comey asserts that he has been required to make life choices that may, on the surface, baffle many, but which are grounded in this loyalty principle, thereby exemplifying the purest form of decision making. Comey expounds on an early life in Yonkers, New York, where he was raised to respect those around him, an essential part of his Irish heritage. A move midway through his adolescence pushed him into a life of being bullied, though Comey tried always to turn away from the scandal, even when it appeared easier to raise a fist and solve his problems. A passion for what was right saw him earn a legal degree and see his career catapult into a successful firm before being chosen to work in the US Attorney’s Office in New York, under the auspices of a man whose political career in the Republican Party would soon push him to a degree of notoriety. Comey worked hard and used his principles to defend the law, but always asked himself and those around him if the laws were just for all involved. Hand-picked by George W. Bush’s Justice Department to be the Deputy Attorney General, Comey received his first significant dose of partisan politics, something that he tried to negate in his work. A few key stories come to light, particularly surrounding some anti-terror laws arising out of September 11, 2001. These laws contained areas that Comey could not stomach and, while serving as Acting Attorney-General, faced off against the heavy hitters in Bush’s Cabinet. Comey explores his greatest surprise when President Obama sought him out to serve as Director of the FBI, a position that was both an honour and would prove to be an anchor around his neck. However, Comey was happy to take on the challenge, armed with his loyalty mantra. Comey delves into the professional, yet highly respect-driven relationship he had with Obama, which would be tested when the FBI was tasked to investigate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server case. Comey tells the reader that he knew there was pressure for the investigation to end with a specific narrative (albeit vague and coming from the current AG’s office, not the Oval Office), but that would not sit right with the Director. Comey demanded neutrality, even when his decisions would seem to tip the scales in one way or the other. The reader will be interested to see some of the narrative depicting the email case during the 2016 campaign and how Comey handled the situation with apparent aplomb. He addresses the extreme vilification he received (even from inside his own household) and how some feel his decisions derailed the last-minute surge that Clinton needed to defeat Trump. From there, with the most unlikely president-elect before him, Comey sought to continue as FBI Director, but was faced with a man (and a team) that wanted to remove the arm’s length relationship, pulling Comey ‘inside the family’, something that could not be accepted. It was this desire to remain impartial, justice-driven, and transparent that began the soured relationship between President Trump and his FBI Director, especially when the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election arose and furthered when questions around Trump involvement became a strong possibility. The poisonous exchanges around the role and limits the FBI should have within an Administration soon led to the ire-driven (guilt-laden?) decision to fire Comey, hoping that would silence him once and for all. It is here that things take a more personal note, though Comey tries to stay above the fray, providing foundational arguments to back his opinions. While surely not the last word on the topic, as it continues to make headlines (and Twitter fodder), Comey does his best to set the record straight without debasing himself to the level of inferior intellect that can be presumed with the epithets flying around from atop the ivory tower on Pennsylvania Avenue in DC. Interesting reading for any reader looking for some context and understanding of the situations that may have swayed the 2016 campaign, but also to better know the man who ended up in the middle of the firing line, despised by both GOP and Democratic supporters for making decisions they could not handle. It certainly has added much to the discussion, even if some prefer to paint Comey as something other than a complete professional.

I entered into reading this book with an inherent dislike of the POTUS, for reasons that were only further supported by some of the content of this book. However, while I have tried to assert the foundation of my issues with the man, this book took less of a smear approach than I might have thought. I knew very little of Comey the man or even his story, which was presented in a succinct manner here and helped me to better comprehend his thinking. This book is not written to be a tell-all or to create a safe ground on which James Comey can launch verbal bombs to destroy those who have attacked him. Instead, Comey chose to present his side of the story (life, rather than just recent events) and to support that he has always tried to take a neutral and principled perspective. This is the man who signed-off on taking Martha Stewart to trial and to face-down the likes of Dick Cheney during what was supposed to be an easy renewal of torture tactics. Comey seeks less to pat himself on the back than to show that his standing up to authority and steering clear of the partisan rhetoric is lifelong and not one to push him into the spotlight during the most contentious presidential election in recent memory. While the fallout continues on the Russia Probe and Twitter is full of hateful comments from a number of people, Comey could not let that flavour his decisions, and he still stands behind the decisions that were made. This exemplifies a man whose determination to find the truth is stronger even than mine, though I have come to see that justice should supersede the easy solution. I’ll not deny that I have my own hopes for what happens in Congress as it relates to the Oval Office, but I can see Comey’s desire to let things run their course and not to tinker with the machinery. For, as he hopes throughout, justice will have the final word and maybe even bring about a solution that is best for all. James Comey is no saint, but his approach and calm demeanour surely has done much to help me better understand some of the decisions he made in life, permitting him to hold his head high and know he did what was best for the country, through the eyes of Lady Justice.

Kudos, Mr Comey, for such an insightful piece that is free of finger-pointing and scandalous name-calling. It is refreshing to get your perspective and see that you had your eye on the ultimate prize for all, a just society that could stand tall and without blemish. Let’s hope others can take a page out of your book.

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,056 reviews1,856 followers
May 14, 2018
I see many so-called conservative commentators, including some faith leaders, focusing on favorable policy initiatives or court appointments to justify their acceptance of this damage, while deemphasizing the impact of this president on basic norms and ethics. That strikes me as both hypocritical and morally wrong.

Okay. *sips coffee*

This book is not a Trump-bashing book. Or maybe it is the most Trump-bashing book... depending on how you read it.

Michael Wolff's book is a salacious, gossipy, tell-all that wants to shame and hurt Trump. It focuses on shallow things people can make fun of Trump for: his appearance, his eating habits, his vanity.

Comey is coming from a much more serious and intelligent angle.

In fact, 85% of this book isn't even about Trump at all. It's about Comey: how he grew up, what is important to him, how he views the world, the experiences that shaped his world view, and his opinions and decisions on everything from #blacklivesmatter to whether Apple should encrypt their data against the government.

All of this is designed to lend credibility and weight to his words when he finally gets around to discussing President Trump and Trump's actions in the last three chapters of the book.

If you are ONLY after the Trump-bashing and reading this book to get the sweet, sweet rush of hate you feel when people criticize Trump, skip this and read Wolff.

If you are interested only in hearing/reading what Comey has to say about Trump, read the transcript of the interview I have linked below (or watch it). That's pretty much his last three chapters right there.

The book is actually a semi-biography, semi-leadership-manual, semi-FBI-insider kind of deal. Comey is painfully straight, saying 'ugh' and having a real Boy Scout kind of feel. He realizes this on some level and tries to laugh at himself about it, but it's obvious that he sees himself as a shining knight and expects the people around him in the FBI (and in the presidency, ideally) to uphold a certain level of morality and ethics. Laughable? Perhaps, to some people. But he comes off as admirable, if a little stiff.

His shock and dismay at President Trump and how Trump handles things is pretty comical. I can't say Comey is a funny guy - when talking about himself and his life I only smiled a tiny bit - but he made me laugh out loud when describing his interactions with Trump. Not because he was mocking Trump, or belittling him, but simply witnessing Comey's complete horror of Trump's very manner of being is just hilarious. He paints a very vivid picture, and it's so funny to think of his righteousness and his straight-arrow-ness clashing with Trump's vanity, lying, and attempts to draw Comey into his inner circle of buddies. It's actually hilarious.

But on the other hand, you can see Comey is very wounded. He hides it well. He hides it very well, but for this type of man to write this type of book... and losing his job the way he did, you can see it wounded him deeply. He's not petty, but he's hurt, and I really do believe he is lashing out at Trump because he feels the sanctity of the U.S. of A. is being violated, not because he takes joy in tearing people down - but he IS lashing out. One has to admit that.

Comey actually writes a fascinating book here, not because he is a stellar writer, but because he tackles some interesting topics and offers an insider's view of things that you and I have only read about in the papers.

Yes, Comey is no wizard with words. This isn't Donna Tartt, okay? But I found this book not only to be better than Wolff's in regard to content and quality, but also in writing. As I've said before and will say again, Wolff is a terrible, TERRIBLE writer and his book gave me an intense headache simply trying to parse his meaning from a sentence. His sentence structure is awful, putting aside that Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House is the kind of hateful tabloid material people drool over, the writing is shit. SHIT.

Comey has a simple, Boy-Scout-type way of writing that is not particularly good but is far from bad and is definitely readable and understandable. This is a huge plus when compared to Wolff's book.

I was fascinated by what Comey had to say about a variety of things: Martha Stewart, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton... he actually held my attention and had interesting things to say that felt relevant and accurate, not like he was flinging mud or was full of hate. He gave me insight into a lot of news I had read. I read the news every day, and reading Comey helped me make sense of a lot of things that might have escaped me from simply reading the paper.

Comey accomplishes something here that Wolff fails to do. He brings a gravitas and a respectability to the table. He keeps politics really low and almost invisible here, but you can sense a Republican who is horrified at the way his party is being represented nowadays. Of course he has witnessed corruption and nastiness on both sides in his long years of government work, but he intimates he's never seen the likes of someone like Trump before operating at the highest levels of government, although he does paint Rudy Giuliani as a smaller Trump, and compares Trump to a lot of mob bosses he has known.

Coming from someone who is conservative and on the right lends an aura of credibility and depth to his words. His career in law and government also help us get a handle on things.

This book isn't juicy. There's no shocking revelations or chapters about Trump eating fast food or accusations that Trump is senile. This might lessen its appeal to some readers. But people who insist on reading the news every day will be eager for the insights Comey is able to offer here. He makes some great points.

TL;DR: Most of this book is about Comey and his worldview. It isn't a bashing-President-Trump-fest. This may make you sad. If you are looking for a book where you can really revel in your hatred of Trump and the mocking of him - everything from 'how ugly he is' to 'how stupid he is' - then Wolff's book is the book for you.

However. If you want a more subtle and serious look at the situation, this is your best bet. So far. I see a lot of books about President Trump in the future. I was surprised and delighted at this little book from Comey. It was surprisingly fair and made for interesting reading IMO. It won't be for everyone - lots of news and Washington politics, only three measly chapters on President Trump, and that's at the very end. Actually, the interview I linked below is juicier than the book, tbh.

When discussing this book with a friend, he was like,
"How do you like Comey's book?"

I was like, "Well, I am enjoying it more than Wolff's book."

My friend started laughing. "You hated Wolff's book! Are you telling me this is better than a book you despised?!"

We both laughed a lot. But it's not just the better writing (basic, simple writing - not trying to say Comey is a super-talented writer, here) that makes me laud this book over Wolff's, it's the content. Comey offers a sober, nuanced view of today's political climate whereas Wolff's is bombastic and dripping with venom and slime.

I hope this helps you make a choice about whether to read this book or not. Democrat, Republican, or other, American or non-American, I think Comey says some things that would interest any reader who is a daily consumer of the news. Comey doesn't come at this from a liberal, I-hate-Republicans angle, and that is for the best. I don't think this huge political divide is doing anyone any favors.

Like Wolff's book, this book is ALREADY out of date and not relevant. Nature of the beast. I'd also like to point out that this isn't a five-star read. It's missing what it needs to be a five-star book, I'm not praising this to high heaven. But it's good for what it is.

I have to say I want to read this book now that I've read http://abcnews.go.com/Site/transcript... which I found very fascinating. 04/16/2018

"I don't buy this stuff about him being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia. He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence who's tracking conversations and knows what's going on. I don't think he's medically unfit to be president. I think he's morally unfit to be president." - James Comey

UPDATE: 4/20/2018 Comey Memos: https://static01.nyt.com/files/2018/u...
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,345 reviews4,865 followers
March 27, 2022

Former FBI Director James Comey became a household name during the run-up to the 2016 election, for the way he handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. Later, Comey became even more famous when he declined to be 'persuaded' by Donald Trump, who wanted NO INVESTIGATION into charges of collusion between Trump's election team and Russia. When Comey refused to kowtow to Trump's demands he was abruptly and publicly fired. Of course this didn't do Trump much good, since Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to look into the allegations. 😀

James Comey

In this memoir, Comey explains the Clinton and Trump incidents from his point of view, but not until the end of the book, after he's related other stories about his life and work.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Comey acknowledges that anyone writing about ethical leadership can come across as presumptuous and sanctimonious. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to write this book because "we are experiencing dangerous times, where truth is distorted." Perhaps to anticipate criticism, Comey also admits that he's stubborn, prideful, and driven by ego.....and knows he can be wrong.

Comey was always a 'law and order' type of guy, and - after graduating from law school - worked as a prosecutor for most of his life. Comey may have been drawn to this profession because of a traumatic incident when he was a high school senior living in Allendale, New Jersey. That fall - when the 'Ramsey Rapist' was terrorizing northern New Jersey - an armed gunman broke into the Comey home and held a gun on James and his younger brother. The robber demanded to know where the valuables were kept, and James - who was paralyzed with fear - immediately spilled the beans.....even revealing the location of piggy banks and birthday money.

James was almost certain the gunman would kill him and his brother, but they managed to get away and call the police. The robber was arrested and tried, though not convicted. However, the 'Ramsey Rapist' attacks stopped, perhaps because the perpetrator was now in police sights.

Even before the gunman incident, James' high school years were difficult. He had been a popular little boy in Yonkers, New York before the family moved to Allendale, New Jersey, where James was enrolled in Brookdale Elementary School. The kids in the new school made fun of James' haircuts (administered by mom), cheap clothes, and clunky shoes, and they constantly bullied him and started fights. The torment went on all the way through high school, leaving James with few classroom friends.

Comey admits he later became a bully himself, when he joined a group of young men who relentlessly harassed a fellow freshman at The College of William and Mary. Afterwards, James regretted his behavior, which he concedes was cowardly and shameful. Comey didn't jump on many bandwagons after that.

There were also positive influences during James' teenage years. He connected with his teachers and liked Harry Howell, the supervisor at the grocery store where he had a part-time job. In Comey's words, "Howell created an environment that was demanding and incredibly fun. He cared about the boys, and they loved him in return." Moreover, stockboy mistakes - like spilling liquids in the aisle - were corrected with understanding and compassion. Howell's empathy may have informed Comey's own leadership philosophy later in life.

Early in Comey's career he became a lawyer in the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York, where he worked under Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani was an egoist who always placed himself at center stage and took credit for everyone's work. (He still loves the public eye, IMO. 🤨) It was then that Comey decided this wasn't the best way to run an agency, and did things differently when he became a supervisor.

Rudolph Giuliani

As a director in the Southern District of New York, Comey got the opportunity to prosecute a number of Mafia bigwigs, such as John Gambino - head of the Mafia's Sicilian faction. Comey realized that Mafia dons are "part of a common species: the bully who threatens the weak to feed some insecurity inside them." Comey's anecdotes about the Cosa Nostra are insightful and fascinating.

John Gambino

After working in New York for several years, Comey entered the private sector, having promised his wife Patrice that the family would live in Virginia. During this time, James and Patrice lost a newborn baby, Collin, who died from Group B Strep - a preventable infection that THEIR doctor and hospital didn't test for. The Comeys were furious, and Patrice started a nationwide campaign that forced all doctors to test for the Strep B bacteria. Patrice's quest to make things right for all mothers influenced Comey's view of the purpose of the justice system, and persuaded him to return to public service.

Back in the public harness, Comey assisted with the infamous Whitewater probe; led the investigation into the terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; became the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and finally returned to the Southern District of New York, where - in 2002 - he stood at Ground Zero and "thought about the unimaginable loss."

Later, Comey prosecuted the very popular lifestyle guru Martha Stewart for lying to the FBI during an investigation into insider trading. At this time, Comey got his first taste of public condemnation and hate, which was good practice for the future. 😀 Comey wasn't anxious to prosecute Stewart, whose cooking tips taught him to put basil leaves under the skin of a turkey, but couldn't justify prosecuting 'small fry' if he let 'big fry' go.

Martha Stewart

Turkey with basil leaves under the skin

Afterwards. when Comey became Deputy Attorney General (DAG) - under Attorney General John Ashcroft - he got involved in serious skirmishes with President George W. Bush and his administration.

- Comey was instrumental in prosecuting the Bush insider, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, in connection with the 'outing' of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame. Plame was targeted after her husband, Joseph Wilson, published a newspaper piece criticizing Bush for invading Iraq. Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein had bought uranium and Wilson claimed there was no evidence for this.

- Comey believed that torturing accused terrorists ("enhanced interrogation") was against the law, as was the NSA's widespread surveillance of Americans. The Bush administration, by contrast, insisted these practices were necessary and legal. This tug-of-war led to an incident worthy of a movie thriller, as Comey raced to the side of hospitalized Attorney General Ashcroft, to prevent Bush's cronies from bullying Ashcroft into acceding to their demands.

Comey's wife Patrice encouraged him to stand his ground, saying "Don't be the torture guy"..... and Comey's descriptions of enhanced interrogation techniques are graphic and bone chilling.

James Comey and his wife Patrice

After his stint as DAG, Comey returned to private enterprise - to make money to send his five children to college.

James Comey with his wife and children

Having accumulated a nice nest egg, Comey agreed to become FBI director under President Barack Obama. Comey liked Obama, but understood that the FBI Director and the President can't be buddies. To prevent even the appearance of impropriety, the President and the Director can't have private meetings; play golf; have dinner alone; etc. No personal hobnobbing! (This 'rule' seems to elude Trump. More about this later.)

Barack Obama and James Comey in the Oval Office. Comey snagged an apple for his daughter, who asked for one.

Comey was FBI Director for 3 years 8 months and 5 days, during which time he dealt with vital issues, such as:

- The tragic and repeated killing of black youths by law enforcement officers, and the occasional murder of cops in retaliation. Comey attempted to highlight the situation and force a conversation, with little success.

- Edward Snowden's release of classified NSA data, which led corporations to create unbreakable encryptions that put them (and their clients) outside the eyes of the law. This appalled Comey, and he tried to take corrective measures, but encryption remains an ongoing problem.

Finally, Comey writes about the Clinton and Trump uproars, which will probably haunt him until eternity.

In 2015, Clinton was accused of using her private email to discuss classified information when she did her work as Secretary of State. When the FBI investigated these allegations, they had to answer two questions:

- Was classified information discussed outside a secure server?
- What was Clinton thinking? Was she sloppy? Or was there criminal intent?

Looking back at previous investigations into mishandling of classified information, the FBI found that cases resulting in prosecution involved some combination of the following factors:

- Clearly intentional and willful handling of classified information.
- Vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct.
- Indications of disloyalty to the United States.
- Efforts to obstruct justice.

The FBI concluded that these criteria did not apply to Clinton. Their report, issued on July 5, 2016, stated that Clinton was "extremely careless" but "no charges were appropriate." Both Republicans and Democrats were furious with the statement, which seems to support Comey's assertion that there was no political bias in the investigation.

Later on, a couple of weeks before the election, a huge trove of Clinton emails were found on the computer of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner, husband of Clinton's assistant Huma Abedin. At this time, Comey made the foolish (IMO) decision to publicly announce that the FBI was reopening the Clinton email probe.

Anthony Weiner

The whole business came to naught (still no prosecutable offense), but the incident may well have influenced voters - and Comey goes to great lengths to justify what he did. To me, Comey comes off as arrogant, supercilious, and too full of himself, but I'll leave it to history to analyze the consequences of his actions.

The Clinton email hullaballoo wasn't the only issue concerning the FBI before the 2016 election. The intelligence community had evidence that Russia was trying to interfere with the U.S. election by doing three things: undermining confidence in the American democratic enterprise; hurting Hillary Clinton; and helping Donald Trump win. One wonders why the government didn't do anything about this BEFORE the election, but once again history will have to elucidate.

In any case, when Trump became President-elect, the FBI had to tell him about Russia's egregious actions, which included - among other things - cyberactivity; manipulation of social media; and use of Russian state media to influence the American election.

It fell to Comey to speak to Trump about an especially sensitive issue. A dossier was circulating that said Trump consorted with prostitutes when he was in Moscow for the 'Miss Universe' contest in 2013. Furthermore, Trump supposedly hired prostitutes to pee on each other (called a golden shower) in a bed used by the Obamas when they visited Russia. Worse yet, Russia supposedly filmed the incidents, which would provide material for blackmail - a definite FBI concern!

Trump was outraged at the allegations, and obsessively denied them again and again. He asked Comey, "Do I seem like the kind of guy who needs to use prostitutes?" For weeks and months afterward Trump would bring up the allegations - and vigorously deny them - whenever he spoke to Comey. And Trump spoke to Comey a lot.

Trump phoned the Director repeatedly to 'say hello'; invited Comey to a one-on-one dinner; arranged private meetings with Comey; and so on. During one tête-à-tête, Trump asked for assurances that he wasn't under investigation for colluding with Russia, and asked Comey to make a public announcement verifying this. Comey refused. Trump insisted that he needed loyalty from the FBI, and hinted that Comey would be fired if he didn't comply. Comey had the impression that the President wanted to make him part of the administration's 'inner circle', like a Mafia don with his capos.

Comey tried to make it clear that the Director had to be independent of the White House, but found it hard to get a word in edgewise when speaking to Trump. According to Comey, Trump talks and talks and talks non-stop, determined to foist his point of view on everyone around him. And Trump lies. During one sit down with the President, Trump asserted that he had the biggest inaugural crowd in history (not true); that he never mistreated women (not true); that the golden shower thing never happened (truth unknown); etc. In Comey's view, "Trump built a cocoon of alternative reality and expected everyone to agree with him."

During the short time Comey was FBI Director under Trump, the President tried to pressure him about several vital matters.

- After General Mike Flynn, the National Security Advisor, was forced to resign for lying to the FBI about talking to the Russian Ambassador, Trump finagled a private meeting with Comey. Trump told the Director that "Flynn did nothing wrong" and that "Flynn was a good guy." The President then asked Comey to "let it go." The FBI didn't let it go, and expanded the matter into an investigation of Russian interference in the election.

- Once the Russia investigation became serious, Trump called Comey and said "the Russia business was a cloud preventing him from leading the country." He asked the Director to "drop the matter."

Comey didn't drop the matter and was fired on May 9, 2017

In Comey's opinion, Trump is an unethical, untruthful, ego-driven person who lacks leadership qualities and threatens what's good in this country. Nevertheless, Comey believes "America is going to be fine." Fingers crossed he's right.🤞


My impression of James Comey is that he's a good husband and father and - in social situations - affable and unpretentious. Comey mentions that he mostly lunched at his desk, alternating turkey and tuna fish sandwiches, or waited in line at the FBI cafeteria - though people in front were getting paninis that took forever. 😊 Can you imagine many powerful people doing this?

In the period before the 2016 election Comey may have done what he thought was right, or he may have had his eye on his personal legacy. Hard to know. In any case, the Director apparently torpedoed Hillary Clinton's chances of winning and helped saddle us with Donald Trump, which infuriates me. But - to give the devil his due - Comey may not have done it on purpose, especially since his wife and daughters supported Clinton. 💖 In the end, I'd probably have coffee with the guy, who appears to be intelligent, interesting, and well-spoken.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for Faith.
1,846 reviews516 followers
April 18, 2018
Let me start by saying that I hate James Comey for reopening the Clinton email investigation a week before the election, no matter what his explanation is. I believe that played a role in the victory of Trump and the related destruction of America. That being said, I found this book to be an interesting glimpse into the interaction of various parts of government. Further, I believe that Comey, on his worst day, has more integrity than Trump, his cabinet, his family and everyone he has appointed or hired before or after becoming president have collectively.

Comey wrote this book because (besides needing to make money after being fired in a clumsy attempt to derail the Russia probe) he sees the risks of the normalization of lying and unethical behavior. While admitting that he struggles with his own pride and ego, he espouses loyalty to values, especially truth. The book tracks Comey's entire career, so only the end of the book deals with Trump. I had not been aware of Comey's impressive resume and I didn't realize that he had worked under Rudolph Giuliani in New York. It's good to know that the people who worked for Giuliani recognized what an asshole he is. Unfortunately, that didn't keep him from getting elected mayor of NYC, just like it didn't keep people from voting for Trump. Comey's view of the country is more optimistic than mine. He believes that the damage caused by Trump will be short term. I hope he's right.

The book was written and edited pretty quickly so there was some repetition that could have been cleaned up. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book and the narration by the author of the audiobook.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,742 reviews2,268 followers
May 29, 2018

”We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized, and unethical behavior is ignored, excused, or rewarded.”

James Comey, former FBI director, former U.S. attorney general for the Southern District of New York, former U.S. deputy attorney general during President G.W. Bush’s administration, former prosecutor of Martha Stewart, and the Mafia. A man who most of the general public never thought twice about, if they knew anything about him at all, before the most recent election for the 45th President.

”Ethical leaders do not run from criticism, especially self-criticism, and they don’t hide from uncomfortable questions. They welcome them.”

I knew next to nothing about James Comey before the scandal with Hillary Clinton’s emails was on the news every five minutes, but I was always impressed by his demeanor, how calm and unruffled he appeared despite all the commotion around him, but also sincere, earnest. Before and beyond those moments, replayed again and again, he was a cog in the wheels of justice to me.

”Ethical leaders choose a higher loyalty to those core values over their own personal gain.”

What I discovered in reading this has less to do about anything “revealing” about him, or about Trump, or about his time in the FBI, it was more about what a decent man he seems to consistently try to be, how high his ethics are, and how devoted he was to taking the higher moral ground. Not that he is perfect, but it seems as close to a religion as anything else, to remain fair and unbiased in his treatment of all.

Most of this book deals with the years prior to the election, prior to every breaking news announcement being about yet another “alleged” sexual relationship Trump has had, or a new tweet Trumpeting of some new record-breaking event, or firing someone, or grabbing someone’s… If you’re looking for Comey’s comments about Trump, his “appearance,” they consist of maybe a paragraph or two.

There is so much more to this book than just Trump’s tie that is too long (it is – but I don’t really care).

Decency, ethics, morals, credibility, a sense of fairness, of what is legally right and morally right, what values an ethical person holds, this also delves into where we are now, and hopefully how we can regain some of that sense of decency, and fairness that it might extend beyond this country. What our leaders say and do (and tweet) affects the world. Affects our relationship with the world – which is important, and I do care about that.

”A commitment to integrity and a higher loyalty to truth are what separate the ethical leader from those who just happen to occupy leadership roles. We cannot ignore the difference.”

Many thanks, once again, to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book!
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,989 reviews14 followers
January 25, 2023

Description: In this book, former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.

Mr. Comey served as director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017, appointed to the post by President Barack Obama. He previously served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the U.S. deputy attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush. From prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart to helping change the Bush administration's policies on torture and electronic surveillance, overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation as well as ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Comey has been involved in some of the most consequential cases and policies of recent history

Cosa nostra - mafia
Amicus noster - friend of ours
Amicus noster non es - you are not our friend

The US en masse committed a horrible lazy crime and the country has been reeling ever since. What?, you ask. The taking for granted that HRC would win so there was not a desperate scramble to go vote or prick the smug balloon. Some people are paying personally for that assumption: enter Comey with a heart of an avid boy scout, and a notebook for jotting down descriptions enviable of rookie coppers on the beat, ready to tackle either HRC's emails or tread on the toes of a huge ongoing investigation into the dotard. The justification of picking the emails is that it could be solved quickly and allow President HR Clinton to start her office without a cloud over her head. Fantastic decision in principle, yet no-one knew the scope of enemy interference on the election at that time, and it is probable that she would have lost in any case due to that foul modus operandi.

HRC supporters will never forgive, they tend to be as media-bubbled as Trump's base, but I for one support Comey's fallible sainthood, his earnest belief in morals and ethics, and his fully fleshed out descriptions, which border on the poetic at times.

But Comey's catholic tasting narration cannot compete with the populism of Avenatti's public - they still want a three-ringed circus where they can ooh and aah and shake a fist at the baddies. There is serious dumbing down and willing lack of education on show. Now I love Avenatti's efforts to make a cult of personality of Stormy Daniels (hope there will be a book/graphic soon), however, Stormy's case cannot, and should not, be equated with FBI procedure.

NB Michael Wolff's tome was compiled because the projected title MW gave to DJT misconstrued content, this still makes me chuckle, and nothing in there has been proven as cut and dried willful falsehood.

Bob Dylan - Tight Connection To My Heart (Has Anyone Seen My Love)
May 28, 2018

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I'm honestly shocked that some of you haven't figured out my political affiliation by this point since I try to be pretty open about it, but yes, I am a liberal (I mean, I live in SF, for god's sake, LOL). And yes, I like to read left-leaning/political books. Seems like this should be pretty common sense and I don't think I'm particularly inflammatory, but literally every time I pick up a book about politics or feminism, a bunch of people immediately unfriend me, hence the books-that-made-me-lose-friends shelf. (Also YA for some reason, but I think that's because y'all just don't like it when I rip on your favorites. #SorryNotSorry)

So for future reference, I am a Californian, free-trade-coffee-drinking, feminist-thinking, left-leaning, energy-efficient-car-driving, climate-change-believing liberal hipster snowflake.


Now that that's all out of the way, let's talk A HIGHER LOYALTY. I've been on the waitlist for this book at the library forEVER and it finally came into my eager little paws a couple weeks ago. People were hyping this up like it was FIRE AND FURY PT. 2, and I was like, "Ha ha, no, I remember what a bust that was! You cannot fool me again BuzzFeed/pundits/bloggers." My first impression was to side-eye the title because that sounded a bit self-aggrandizing. "A higher loyalty"? To whom? God? (I kid, I kid.) But seriously, this is the dude who definitely contributed to the election sh*t-storm that resulted in Mango Mussolini being our current president, and while I certainly do not blame Comey for single-handedly causing a Republican win (because that would be insanity), I definitely do believe that dropping that email bomb to Congress eleven days before the election was a HUGE mistake - especially since he dropped a "JK, it's no big deal" bomb just a week after that.

So yes, I was side-eying Mr. Comey from the get-go as I picked up this book, but I was willing to be swayed, despite my biases, and hear what he had to say. The first part of the book is actually really amazing, probably four-stars worthy, if I'm being honest. He talks about his involvement in investigating Cosa Nostra (and later on, compares some of Trump's tactics to those that the mafia employed, particularly where loyalty is involved); he mentions the inciting incident that got him interested in being on the right side of the law (a man broke into his house with a gun and terrorized him and his little brother); and he discusses what it was like to work with Rudy Giuliani (bad) and two and a half very different presidents (okay, great, and wtf-I-am-questioning-all-of-life's-choices-right-now, respectively; guess who's who - hint: chronological order).

The part that I really took issue with was the way he discussed how he handled the "email" situation. It felt like an attempt to exonerate himself from a really bad decision of which he was one of the main deciders. I get that my own political affiliation here biases my feelings on the matter, and on some levels I do understand why Comey felt that he had to do what he did, but it was still incredibly bad timing and biased the election in a way that he swore, every moment up to that point, that he did not want to do, because he believed that the FBI and the government should be totally unaffiliated and then did something like that, something that totally embroiled the FBI in all kinds of political mess.

Yeah, I think that was a mistake. I think even people who weren't pro-Hillary could see that.

I'm glad I read this book, and even if Mr. Comey does pat himself on the back a little too much for my liking, I think he's an interesting and fascinating man who is (or at least portrays himself as wanting to be) a genuinely good guy who wants to do the right thing. I still don't quite agree with his decision about the email thing, but seeing him poke fun at Trump and Bush was mildly entertaining, and honestly, he was pretty fair to Bush (lest you brand him a liberal snowflake). Don't read this book if you're expecting a Trump-bashing spree, though, because Mango Mussolini doesn't really appear until the very last part of the book. This is more a career memoir, than anything else.

3 to 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Betsy Robinson.
Author 9 books1,036 followers
May 3, 2018
James Comey is a very good writer, storyteller, and teacher, so on a literary level (except for one odd plot order choice—the highly dramatic John Ashcroft hospital showdown between Comey and Bush representatives—which I suspect has to do with the need to insert a ton of detailed background information), this book works.

Comey is a man who is in love with the law and justice and has a loathing of bullies. He is a student and practitioner of ethical leadership—which is really the topic of this book. He is a deeply reflective person. Yes, he tries to make himself look good by talking about his noble motives, but, unless he practiced introspection, he could not relay his introspective self-interrogations about his motives and whether something is ego-driven or directed for the higher good. If he were not compelled to know what’s honest, he would not have told the story of the time he was the very thing he loathes—a horrible bully. I relate to this introspective inquiry because I do it myself—constantly, relentlessly—and I’m amazed so many other people don’t. But I shouldn’t be surprised. As Comey writes, “It is painful to stare openly at ourselves, but it is the only way to change the future. (137)” One can only know this pain by experiencing it, so I believe he is committed to this. Also like me, Comey has had a lifelong struggle with his tendency to think he’s right—overconfidence—and he has had to learn to check his opinions with others, let in belief-disputing information, and monitor his tendency to be impulsive and arrogant. He freely admits all this, and he sees and admires Obama’s enlightened ability to believe in himself yet remain humble enough to learn from others “which doesn’t often exist alongside overconfidence. (155)”

I like this guy. I really, really like him. We are made from a lot of the same stuff.

I enjoyed hearing about his formative experiences (from a terrifying house break-in when he was a boy to his prosecution of Mafia bosses as a young attorney), and I loved being his student, learning about the working of the Justice Department from such an educated, experienced source. Even if this book weren’t a response to Trump’s firing of him and possible obstruction of justice, it is valuable for the education it offers. Once Comey reached the pinnacle of his career, standing in the Oval Office with the leader of the free world, I could relate to his humility and shock at realizing, “It’s just us”—that’s how I would feel if I were suddenly still just me and had such responsibility. In other words, the protagonist of this memoir, for me, is highly “relatable.”

All of this makes it personally painful to read his rationalization—with the agreement of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who in my opinion shares equal blame—to ever talk publicly about an ongoing investigation, no matter what the precedents, no matter how many people already knew that Hillary Clinton’s email use was being examined. When he publicly confirmed the investigation—referring to it as a “matter” at the direction of Lynch—he set in motion absolutely everything that was to come, ensuring that the FBI would play an untenable role as a political actor, and I’m amazed that a man of his introspective bent would not look at this critical decision and action and at least question it. He screwed up way before the election-changing announcement. His public disclosure in 2015 mandated the later decisions, because it established a “duty to inform.” And his lone-wolf announcement about the investigation's conclusions in July 2016, without checking with the Justice Department because he believed it would politicize things (read the book for the details for that conclusion) belied his own belief in checking what he was certain was true with people of contrasting opinions—and trusting them to be just as fair and responsible as he.

I read and liked Hillary Clinton’s What Happened . She admitted that using a private email server was a mistake, and I appreciate that. But I believe it was a mistake of arrogance: it was just too hard to carry two phones and learn the blasted cumbersome and antiquated systems and she didn't want to be bothered. But that's my theory, not founded in provable fact. However her flippant dismissal of the DNC's rigging of the primary (see linked review for more on that) is in her book and, in my opinion, just as mind-blowing as Comey's rationalization of the original disclosure of the email investigation. And I believe that Clinton and Comey suffer from the same blinding arrogance at times, and blaming one more than the other is a distortion of what happened. In some ways, they mirror each other.

I like Clinton. As I said, I like Comey a lot—so much that, trusting he would learn from this debacle, I'd consider voting for him if he were running for office. I am not wild about the Democratic Party, but I've always voted for Democrats. Like Comey and Clinton, I've suffered from blinding arrogance, and after reading this and other "aftermath" books, I can only conclude that this Blinding Arrogance is the disease that has allowed and perhaps invited the current "forest fire that is the Trump presidency (275)"—well documented in the last three chapters of this fourteen-chapter book (and I had no problem with any of that, which is largely stuff already in the public record).

Now what are we going to do about the disease that led to all this?

I defer to the book about those things: Steve Almond's wonderful Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country . It's time to stop blaming, look at ourselves, be honest, and VOTE.
Profile Image for Suzzie.
908 reviews164 followers
April 18, 2018
First and foremost: this review will not have political opinions.

I actually don’t comment on politics or religion (even when asked to do so) because I find both subjects tend to just start arguments, and as a non-confrontational person, it is not my forte. Plus I don’t get involved in debates or deep conversations about things I know very little about, which politics falls right into. But I was drawn into reading this book in order to read about some of the high profile cases Comey was involved in. I actually found the book entertaining and quick. I was concerned about being bored before reading it but instead I found the afternoon and part of the evening just passed right by while I read. Simply put, It was actually a good book.

My quick and simple overall: obviously I don’t comment on politics and whatnots but I will say this was a fascinating read.
Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,734 reviews649 followers
September 3, 2019
Over a year after the IG Report, the Justice Department found no reason to initiate prosecution of James Comey. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/01/us...

RESPONDING TO THE IG REPORT JUNE 2018: "Comey said he welcomed the report, regardless of the pounding he took in it. “I respect the DOJ IG office, which is why I urged them to do this review,” he said on Twitter. “The conclusions are reasonable, even though I disagree with some.”

“The report also resoundingly demonstrates that there was no prosecutable case against Mrs. Clinton, as we had concluded,” the ex-FBI director continued in a New York Times op-ed. “Although that probably will not stop some from continuing to claim the opposite is true, this independent assessment will be useful to thoughtful people and an important contribution to the historical record.”

DISCUSSING THE INCREASE IN HOMICIDE, PARTICULARLY HOMICIDE INVOLVING PEOPLE OF COLOR: "I finished with a plea: We need to figure out what’s happening and deal with it now. I have heard some folks suggest that it’s too early, it’s only October, we should wait to the end of the year and then see what the crime stats look like. I refuse to wait. Especially given the information that we have from all the big-city chiefs and especially because these are not just data points, these are lives. Law enforcement leaders must not wait to push their folks to police well. By that I mean firmly, fairly, and professionally. And as important, community leaders must not wait to demand and assist those officers in policing well. And to insist those officers get the space, time, and respect to do it effectively and professionally….Everybody was upset by my comments. In fact, more people than I expected. My goal had been to highlight a serious problem, give a nuanced treatment of it, and ignite a discussion about possible causes and solutions. I wanted to force a conversation about a hard thing. I wanted to stimulate people to ask difficult questions about what could be true, to drive collection of data, and to push for the study of that data. And I hoped that it might even change behavior and save lives by encouraging both better policing and more supportive community relationships. Instead, I got to see another demonstration of tribalism in America."

"I laid out my five expectations that first day (that I started as FBI Director) and many times thereafter. Every new employee heard them, and I repeated them wherever I went in the organization:
• I expected they would find joy in their work. They were part of an organization devoted to doing good, protecting the weak, rescuing the taken, and catching criminals. That was work with moral content. Doing it should be a source of great joy.
• I expected they would treat all people with respect and dignity, without regard to position or station in life.
• I expected they would protect the institution’s reservoir of trust and credibility that makes possible all their work.
• I expected they would work hard, because they owe that to the taxpayer.
• I expected they would fight for balance in their lives."

"Laughing in a genuine way requires a certain level of confidence, because we all look a little silly laughing; that makes us vulnerable, a state insecure people fear. And laughing is also frequently an appreciation of others, who have said something that is funny. That is, you didn’t say it, and by laughing you acknowledge the other, something else insecure people can’t do."

As Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales is about to go into the NSC meeting and discuss the rules for "enhanced interrogation." He has asked Comey (the Deputy Attorney General) to brief him on what was currently going on with prisoner's interrogated by the CIA and on Comey's recommendations to halt these practices. "I painted a picture for him of a human being standing naked for days in a cold room with hands chained overhead to the ceiling, defecating and urinating in his diaper, engulfed in deafening heavy metal music, and spending hours under a constant bright light. He is then unchained to be slapped in the face and abdomen, slammed against a wall, sprayed with cold water, and then, even though weak from a severely reduced-calorie liquid diet, made to stand and squat in positions that put extreme stress on his muscles and tendons. When he can’t move any longer, he will be put in a coffin-sized box for hours before being returned to the ceiling chain. And, of course, in special cases, he may be made to believe he is drowning on the waterboard." Gonzales asked for Comey's notes and said that he would advocate the changes. After the meeting, Gonzales told Comey that the NSC had decided not to change anything. Comey resigned shortly thereafter.

Comey's experience at the FBI and the Department of Justice has been extensive. I sort of knew that but I wasn't putting the specifics together. I was not appreciating that he had Ron Rosenstein's job, Deputy Attorney General, shortly after 9-11-2001. One of the cases that he had to consider involved the "leaking" of the name of a covert CIA operative. Because of alleged involvement of people in the West Wing and Cabinet, Comey describes the need for a special prosecutor. He also observes: "To Democrats, it was obvious that key members of a Republican administration were subverting justice to undermine and punish critics. To Republicans, it was just as obvious that this was a witch hunt (note the earlier use of this term H.B.) against people who made an inconsequential mistake...We had to do everything we could to protect the department's reputation for fairness and impartiality., its reservoir of trust and credibility. (The A.G.) understood that, and when I met with him to discuss my recommendation that he recuse himself from the case, he agreed." Eventually the special prosecutor got a conviction against "Scooter" Libby for his lies to the FBI. Many Republicans loudly objected to this because they said it was in lieu of being able to prove that Libby leaked the name with malice. Comey observes: "Of course, these were the same Republicans who passionately believed that President Bill Clinton's lies under oath over an affair with an intern simply had to be pursued, because obstruction of justice and perjury strike at the core of our system."

I appreciate that Comey is explaining why things don't happen quicker with the FBI. Here is a good example: "If federal agents burst into a hotel room and find a kilo of heroin piled in the middle of a table, everybody sitting at that table is going to jail. It isn't open to any of them to say it had never occurred to them that this activity was illegal, or that their accountants and lawyers had reviewed the heroin and concluded it was lawful and appropriate under governing rules and regulations. Nope. Everybody is going to jail. In a corporate fraud case, the challenge was reversed. At the end of the day, the government would understand the transactions completely. We would know who was sitting at the table and exactly what the deal was. But everybody at the table would say they had absolutely no idea that this complicated, mortgage-backed, reverse-repo, foreign-exchange-swap transaction was illegal. The would invariable say they were deeply, deeply sorry people had lost their life savings, but committing a crime was the furthest thing from their minds. It fell to investigators and prosecutors to prove the content of a person's mind beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of twelve, who must unanimously agree that the government met its burden. Really hard. Not impossible, thanks to the twentieth century's great gift to law enforcement --- electronic communications --- but still hard...People shouting that the CEO 'must have known' or 'should have known' was not good enough. Where is the proof beyond reasonable doubt that he knew he was committing a crime? Senior-executives are shocked, shocked that lower-level employees may have been breaking the law."

I really am appreciating the time Comey takes to discuss what people and events affected his view of life and work. It is nice to see how he gives credit to both men and women in his work experiences as being his "teachers and mentors."

Rudy Giuliani has been back in the news lately. I knew that Comey, as an Assistant U.S. Attorney worked for him. I was interested in his impressions. Comey has a lot to say. Here is a sample: "There was something of an unwritten code about working in the office of Rudy Giuliani, a I suppose there is in most organizations. In his case, the message was that Rudy was the star at the top and the successes of the office flowed in his direction. You violated this code at your peril."

"Who am I to tell others what ethical leadership is? Anyone claiming to write a book about ethical leadership can come across as presumptuous, even sanctimonious. All the more so if that author happens to be someone who was quite memorably and publicly fired from his last job."

"I understand the impulse to think that any book written about one's life experience can be an exercise in vanity, which is why I long resisted the idea of writing a book of my own. But I changed my mind for an important reason. We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized, and unethical behavior is ignored, excused, or rewarded....For some of the crooks, liars, and abusers, there has been a reckoning. For others, there remains excuses, justifications, and a stubborn willingness by those around them to look the other way or even enable the bad behavior. So if there ever was a time when an examination of ethical leadership would be useful, it is now."

Is Comey the one to do this? I am not finished with the book, so I can't say. I am not sure when I will finish it because I am also reading historian James MacGregor Burns' book on Leadership at the same time. I believe that will allow me to gain some additional perspective.

One of the things that I have learned already is that the book is quite different from what the media are doing with it. Yes, Comey mentions Donald Trump's hair color. Yes, Comey says a lot about his decisions leading up to the 2016 Presidential election. This is not another version of Fire and Fury. However much you are interested in those sections, I hope you will do as I am doing and read it for what he says about ethical leadership.

Comey is a very intelligent person. He writes a lot about his life and provides insights in a very measured style. I hope to get a sense from these two books and your comments how well his thoughts are shared or not by you and others in our community.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,653 followers
May 11, 2018
Here's a sentence I never thought I'd say: I kinda like James Comey now.

"A Higher Loyalty" has some good stories about the former FBI director's interactions with Donald Trump, but the bulk of the book is Comey's experiences with managers he's admired and what it takes to be a good leader. (Spoiler alert: the case is made that Trump is a TERRIBLE leader.)

This is a fast read and I finished it in a day. I would recommend it to those who want to read the firsthand details of the Trump and Comey drama, and also those who like books on leadership.

Favorite Quotes
"Ethical leaders do not run from criticism, especially self-criticism, and they don’t hide from uncomfortable questions. They welcome them."

"Doubt, I’ve learned, is wisdom. And the older I get, the less I know for certain. Those leaders who never think they are wrong, who never question their judgments or perspectives, are a danger to the organizations and people they lead. In some cases, they are a danger to the nation and the world."

"Whenever I speak to young people, I suggest they do something that might seem a little odd: Close your eyes, I say. Sit there, and imagine you are at the end of your life. From that vantage point, the smoke of striving for recognition and wealth is cleared. Houses, cars, awards on the wall? Who cares? You are about to die. Who do you want to have been? I tell them that I hope some of them decide to have been people who used their abilities to help those who needed it—the weak, the struggling, the frightened, the bullied. Standing for something. Making a difference. That is true wealth."
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,164 reviews511 followers
April 28, 2018
First off, five stars for this excellently written book. It was one of those memoirs that I started reading and did not stop until the very last word.
Dishonest leaders have the same ability to shape a culture, by showing their people dishonesty, corruption, and deception. A commitment to integrity and a higher loyalty to truth are what separate the ethical leader from those who just happen to occupy leadership roles. We cannot ignore the difference.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the title of this book. In one sense, it came out of a bizarre dinner meeting at the White House, where a new president of the United States demanded my loyalty—to him, personally—over my duties as FBI director to the American people. But in another, deeper sense, the title is the culmination of four decades in law, as a federal prosecutor, business lawyer, and working closely with three U.S. presidents. In all those jobs, I learned from those around me and tried to pass on to those I worked with that there is a higher loyalty in all of our lives—not to a person, not to a party, not to a group. The higher loyalty is to lasting values, most important the truth. I hope this book is useful in stimulating all of us to think about the values that sustain us, and to search for leadership that embodies those values.
What disturbed me is the reactions to this book. Either people have not read it but jump on the partisan bandwagon of their choice in condemning and criticizing it just to be confirmed as a loyal member of a group, or read it but judge it from a partisan viewpoint anyway. I cannot find any sober, objective interview or review of this book anywhere.

As for the title of the book: it suits the content perfectly. This is not the story of Donald Trump and the Russian saga. It's about leadership and what it is suppose to mean, with examples from The Bush/Obama/Trump administrations to illustrate the differences in leadership. Each chapter begins with a profound quote about leadership, such as:
Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. —REINHOLD NIEBUHR...

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. —AL PACINO (AS MICHAEL CORLEONE), THE GODFATHER, PART II...

Ralph Waldo Emerson: “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
Comey talks about his childhood in The Bronx, his education, his family, the bullies he encountered in life and his eventual decision to become a prosecutor who could defend the defenseless against the bullies of life.
I don’t think Dick Cates taught me a single explicit lesson in the year we worked together. At least I don’t remember any. But for a year, as a brand-new lawyer and soon-to-be husband, I sat at his side and watched him. I watched him laugh at pretension and at pressure. I watched him make commonsense decisions when big-city lawyers were tied up in knots of overthinking and arrogance. I watched him light up at the mere mention of his wife and children and grandchildren. I watched him move heaven and earth to be at their events, their dinners, their projects. I watched him not care that he earned a fraction of what the New York and Los Angeles lawyers on the case were paid. He was a happy man. This is the person I want to be, I thought. My effort at life-plagiarism has been imperfect, but the lessons were priceless.
His recall of the mafia cases, the Martha Stewart case, his participation in the Clinton investigation - the Whitewater affair, the Foster saga, the emails, etc. delivers a fascinating insight into the work of the FBI and the role it plays in defending democracy as well as the rule of law, and the people of America. The FBI is defined. For the first time someone is explaining what the functions of this organization is and the insight is inspiring. Well, the good part of it. The noble part. He relates his encounters with the shark tank of Congress.

The Bush administration was caught red-handed in torturing people. The nature of the torture, the sloppy interpretation of laws behind it, was just shocking. Comey was even then regarded as a danger to political ambitions. To him, the law and the interest of the American people was all that counted. He was a despised man for standing up and defending the principles of the Constitution and what it stood for.

To understand his viewpoint of calling Trump a mafia boss, one must read his gripping memories of the many mafia cases he was involved in. He did not grab the allegation out of nowhere. Here is one of his comments:
To prove Salerno was a danger to the community and bail should be withheld, the federal prosecutors offered tapes of conversations made by an FBI bug planted under a table at Fat Tony’s social club, the Palma Boys, located in an Italian enclave in East Harlem. Salerno could be heard talking about ordering beatings and killings, and being quite clear about his role: “Who am I? I’m the fucking boss.”

The case showed that in a Mafia family the boss was not to be questioned. His words about life and death meant someone was going to die. And the worst sin was betraying the family, becoming a “rat.” The Mafia was all about loyalty, and you left it when you left this earth, whether by natural causes or otherwise. Only rats left the Mafia alive.
While reading this I thought it could have served as a metaphor for the Clinton reign, more so at this point than Donald Trump's. But that's just my opinion.

So far I have only read nonfictional accounts of American leaders, written by biased journalists with a quick bug in mind. It is the first time that I enjoy a book from someone in the inner circles who actually know what is happening and explains the roles of everyone involved eloquently. Of course it is an autobiographical memoir, with the I as the main protagonist. But it is also invigorating to find someone who don't hesitate to criticize himself the most.
All people have flaws and I have many. Some of mine, as you’ll discover in this book, are that I can be stubborn, prideful, overconfident, and driven by ego. I’ve struggled with those my whole life.
What I wish would happen is that people will read the book for what it is, namely a means to stimulate debate about democracy, safety, security and the pressure from all politicians to sidestep the law for their own purposes. It questions the American voter expectation of government institutions in preventing the abuse of power. Comey focuses on these very important issues, for the past few decades, endangering America as the leader of the free world. Basically, people should decide if they want politicians to wipe law and order from the table so that they can loot, plunder and reign unhindered, or support the government institutions who must prevent it. Right now the politicians have become demigods who should be protected from the law.

The FBI is not there to serve any political agenda, although recent events almost made it happen with leaders who overstepped their boundaries, and the public who no longer find truth and the law important enough, but only aim to fight a dirty, slimy political war that will eventually destroy America. Everybody wants blood. It's all that counts. And Comey is bleeding, attacked by both political party mobs...AND THEIR FOLLOWERS! The Hilary cabal and the Trump mafia. Nobody is interested in protecting the people who actually try to maintain the rule of law. Honesty and integrity have become an afterthought, like remembering to wish someone happy birthday before storming the bar with free drinks at the party.
Republicans wanted to be assured that the Russians hadn’t elected Donald Trump. Democrats, still reeling from the election results weeks before, wanted the opposite. There was little common ground. It was like having Thanksgiving dinner with a family eating together by court order.

The FBI, with me as its director, was caught in the middle of the partisan bile.
Any person with any claim to individual opinion who followed the elections closely, would know and admit, that James Comey was not the cause of Hilary's election defeat. The outcome of the election was already decided many months before, fed by the shady events filling up her bag of problems, like Bill Clinton's conduct, the women who were intimidated and threatened by her, the Benghazi tragedy, the notorious deals of the Clinton Foundation, the hordes of lawsuits the Clintons had to defend, the Bernie Sanders issue, the implosion of the middle-class, and the BIG ONE: "the basket of deplorables" who finally turned the tide against her.

Comey discusses the Russian interference in the election, but exposes the real reason behind it: Hilary's interference in Russian politics. He does not address the Steele dossier in detail. He also does not address the role of Andrew Mcabe in his firing. In fact, he defends McCabe as an honorable man. He has only good words for Obama and a disgust for Trump. As simple as that. Biased? Perhaps. I think so. But I also think that Comey, despite his vast experience as lawyer and prosecutor, had a naive view of how to deal with dirty scoundrels in both society and politics. He IS a good man. But not everyone wants to acknowledge that. I do. I knew from the beginning of this political drama, that the Justice department and the FBI was in a very difficult position. It is excellently illustrated in this book.

To use Comey as a scapegoat in Hilary's defeat and Donald Trump's win, is simply grossly dishonest. I don't share this opinion as a result of the book, but from following the saga daily like a bad soap opera for years now. It's not about democracy anymore. It's about blood... and vultures battling for power. Not only the leaders should be ashamed of themselves. For instance, a few million women did not think Hilary should be the first woman president of the USA. Those who voted for her just because she is a women, blindly ignored her dishonesty, corruption, and deception and almost destroyed this country as voters for allowing honesty and integrity and the rule of law to step aside. In fact it was thrown aside with a pseudo-moral justification bordering the insane.

So by the way, his memos on Trump was never CLASSIFIED. It is still not CLASSIFIED, and therefor openly used in this book. He is not breaking any laws. Since it is UNCLASSIFIED, it cannot be regarded as leaks. And he shared it with a friend AFTER he was fired, as a private citizen. Which is also legal.

I really don't care who's upset with my 'review'. I appreciate Comey's guts to stand for what he believes in. It should be respected and honored. Besides, he has a right to do so. He did not help Hilary lose and he did not help Trump win. What happened to them was their own fault. (my opinion)

Comey warns Americans about what is happening to this country, and once again, does not blame Trump alone. It is much more than personalities and their sordid behavior. It is about citizens who should make a decision about their preferences. Either the rule of law, or the loss of everything America stands for.

So yes, five stars it is. I wish him and his family the best. Godspeed. They will need it.
Profile Image for Mary.
264 reviews
April 14, 2018
I'll start with a spoiler alert. Despite the overblown commentary from newscasters and the president's outrage, the fact is that James Comey's book has only 277 pages of which the first 210 (76%) do not deal with Donald Trump. Rather, they are a sanctimonious autobiography of sorts, clearly intended to gain the reader's sympathy and respect before delving into his attempt to justify his last-minute announcement about material discovered on Anthony Weiner's computer, an announcement which may well have derailed Hillary Clinton's chances of getting elected in 2016. However, despite arguing that it was all for the sake of the integrity of the FBI, he then goes on to mention that, had Loretta Lynch and/or Sally Yates ordered him not to reveal that damaging information, that would have been, "an order I would have followed." (Page 197) So much for "leadership" and "integrity." With that sentence, in my opinion, he threw away his entire argument. Of the remaining 67 pages, other than the few salacious remarks that have already been over-reported, you have heard it all before, in earlier news reports and in Comey's testimony before Congress.
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,690 reviews451 followers
May 1, 2018
"A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" is a very readable memoir of events that molded James Coney's views on leadership, public service, and ethics. A confrontation with an armed robber as a teenager sparked his interest in justice. Studying the works of the philosopher and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr made him reflect on how he could make a difference, and he applied to law school. He writes about working as an assistant US attorney on cases involving the Mafia, the prosecution of Martha Stewart for insider trading, and other memorable cases. During the George W Bush administration after 9/11 he was one of the attorneys that refused to reauthorize certain surveillance techniques and torturing since the government was on shaky legal ground.

Comey was the director of the FBI during the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and details his reasoning for making statements about it so close to the 2016 election. The investigation had been reopened when emails were found on a laptop belonging to Clinton's aide, Huma Abedin, and her husband. However Comey did not make any statements about the Russians who were trying to help Donald Trump by influencing the election. Even if one does not agree with his reasoning, it's interesting to read Comey's explanation.

Comey compared President Trump to a Mafia boss who demanded total loyalty and complete control of a situation. Comey told Trump he could only promise honesty. Trump did not seem to grasp the idea that Justice, including the FBI, works independently from the President.

The title of the book refers to a higher loyalty--to do what is best for the country and to rise above partisanship. Comey writes about the leadership styles of people he has worked with over the years, emphasizing the need for strong ethics. Some people are wondering if the new norm is constant lying and partisanship. Comey is optimistic that there will be a swing back from the present situation as people get fired up and demand a higher loyalty and ethical leadership. I wish I could share his optimism, but I enjoyed his thoughts on the subject.
9 reviews1 follower
April 17, 2018
Be Fearless: Read this Book

I try to think of other nonfiction books deserving of five stars. I can think of a number of scholarly histories: David Cecil's two-volume biography of Lord Melbourne, anything written by Winston Churchill. But Comey's personal history that is a proper history, nevertheless, is in a different class. His narrative, well written as so few are these days, is painstakingly candid. The quality of his writing, the reaches of his candor meant I couldn't put down the book until I finished it. I want everyone to read it because it has given me some relief from the despair of current US political history. To read Comey's narrative is to understand why he made the disastrous pronouncements about the Hillary emails. There were no extant rules he broke, and DOJ, when consulted, punted, leaving the public talk of emails to Comey. Yes, there is a self-righteous tenor to the narrative. Yes, he seems to be a bit too old to be such a Boy Scout, but it is a comfort, a source of reassurance to read this book that speaks so directly, so clearly to integrity and the concept of the good that harkens back to Judeo-Christian and truly Islamic concepts of that goodness. Were I teaching Kant's third critique, I would require Comey's book in the syllabus. Were I teaching freshman composition, I would have it in the syllabus as a supplementary text. Were I teaching ethics, I would thrill to use it to excite my students and engage them in the critical and analytical thinking healthy survival demands.
At the very least, Comey makes it easy to know the difference between couth and uncouth, the respectable and the reprehensible. This knowledge is at present insufficiently implemented and decisively, perilously ignored.
Read this book; be fearless.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,688 followers
July 17, 2018
I'll review later. I can't help liking Comey, but I also liked (the person) Neville Chamberlain. Both men allowed virtue to become a vice, however, and ended up as slightly absurd Greek characters in the tragedies of their day.
Profile Image for Laura.
746 reviews269 followers
April 22, 2018
Five wonderful stars. I knew after watching Comey's congressional testimony that if he ever wrote a book, I would be interested in reading it. However, I was unprepared for what turned out to be an inspirational page turner.

I was lucky enough to obtain the book and cd book from the library on Saturday because I had got on the hold list for this some time ago. I wasn't sure the timing for this would be right, so I thought I would do a quick flick-through and in all likelihood table it for a more settled time. It sucked me right in, though. This guy is a writer! I didn't expect he would be able to hook me from page one.

Comey has had some personal and professional life experiences that made this book quite compelling. He was a victim of violent crime as a teen, almost died as a young adult, lost an infant child as a young father of three, and served as both the Deputy Attorney General in a Republican administration and Director of the FBI in a Democratic administration. He's also worked at big law firms and large corporate organizations. So if the only thing you are looking for is a book about ethical leadership written by someone with a pretty interesting life, this is a great choice. But this book is much more than that.

Despite what partisans on both sides of the political aisle may think or believe about Comey, all he really is is someone who cares about doing a difficult job right. He is a husband and father first, and everything else second. He is passionate about the truth. He has opinions, but he's a straight-shooter. And that's what I was looking for in this account. I just wanted someone who was there, who knows a lot more about the current climate than I do, to lay out the facts and allow me to draw my own conclusions.

After several hours reading this book, I went to bed listening to the audio version, read by the author. Once again, this author surprised me in that he narrated this book really well. Authors aren't usually good at this. I was awake from 10pm until midnight, riveted. I finally had to switch audiobooks so I would be able to fall asleep. That doesn't usually happen to me, even with really good fiction. It even brought me to tears several times. Again, quite unexpected.

So yes, this was five stars for me, all the way through. Not at all what I expected, but much better. I hope he continues to write, because he really has a gift for it. This is a highly readable account of ethical leadership, using examples from the author's own background. I enjoyed every page of this, and highly recommend it. At least half of it has nothing to do with politics. So you definitely do not have to be a political hound to enjoy it. I found it a fair and balanced account. I'd love to read about ten more just like this.

Book and audiobook, five stars.
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,014 reviews365 followers
November 13, 2020
Rumo a um Mundo Melhor...

Recordam-se de Hitler? Estaline? Salazar? Franco? Mussolini?...

Todos eles ditadores — chefes políticos cuja passagem pela História deixou um rasto de morte — exemplos de quão calamitosos podem ser os desempenhos de líderes desumanos.

Verdade + Bondade + Justiça é a Lealdade Suprema que define um Líder humano, honrado, íntegro ... e é aí que devemos apostar se almejamos um mundo melhor!

Exultar à prática dos princípios morais e à escolha de líderes que lhes sejam fiéis, é o principal objectivo deste livro, e um pressuposto essencial nos tempos que correm...

Líderes criminosos, não obrigada!👎👎👎
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,014 reviews365 followers
November 9, 2018
Sociedade — Um Jardim Da Nossa Lavra


São apenas alguns itens do rol de Ditadores que passaram pela nossa História!
Todos eles imagens de líderes indesejáveis que convém ter presentes na hora do voto. São ícones malévolos que já não constam entre nós, mas a violência que propagaram persistiu, canalizada para outros alvos.
O assédio, o bullying, a violência doméstica, o racismo... são venenos sociais para os quais urge encontrar antídotos, e é nesse contexto que podemos inserir este livro — ao incitar à recuperação dos valores morais, bem como à escolha de chefias que lhes sejam fiéis, advoga um projeto de construção social que nos envolve a todos.
Afinal tudo se resume naquela célebre frase do Cândido de Voltaire:

“É Preciso Cultivar o Nosso Jardim”

James Comey incita-nos a fazê-lo!!!

"Be the change you want to see in the world"...
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