Several times during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey described himself as afraid, weak, and even cowardly in his dealings with the president — likely the first FBI director in American history to describe himself this way.
“It was kind of a slightly cowardly way of trying to avoid telling him we’re not gonna do that, that I would see what we could do. It was a way of kind of, getting off the phone, frankly,” he said in response to a question from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (R-Calif.) about an April 11 conversation he had with President Donald Trump.
“Comey showed himself to have many excellent qualities during his sworn testimony — integrity, honesty, intelligence, humility and self-control … Comey did not, however, show much bravery,” wrote Chicago Tribune reporter Eric Horn in a column on Thursday afternoon, recounting all the times Comey told senators he didn’t feel brave enough to speak up when talking to the president.
Comey is 6 feet, 6 inches tall and a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan. Unlike President Trump, who has no experience in government, he’s worked for the Justice Department for almost a decade, including as assistant attorney general, and has been the director of the FBI since 2013.
So it was strange to hear him say in questioning before the committee on Thursday that he was not courageous enough to tell the president when he was having dinner with him at the White House that he could not pledge his loyalty to him, in the end promising his “honest loyalty.”
“Mr. Comey’s testimony was reflective of a truly unusual personality,” said Joseph diGenova, a U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia who’s been an outspoken critic of the FBI director. “Any self-respecting FBI director would have resigned several times during the end of the Obama administration and the beginning of the Trump administration if he had so many concerns.”
Comey’s resignation, he said, would have been “honorable” and “dispositive.”
“He chose not to resign, and there’s one reason for that,” said diGenova. “He wouldn’t be the center of attention.”
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“Mr. Comey is all about Mr. Comey,” he went on, calling the former FBI director “bizarre” and a “narcissistic individual.”
Columnist and author Michelle Malkin, meanwhile, also noted that the FBI director — the nation’s top law-man, the top G-man — called himself a coward.
“Comey admits he’s a feckless, confused, self-preservationist coward. Media elites: IMPEACH TRUMP,” she tweeted during the hearing.
In one of the more surprising parts of the testimony, Comey admitted he passed along one of the memos he’d written after a meeting with the president to a friend of his to share with the media — and that he did it to force the naming of a special counsel in the Russian election-interference counterintelligence investigation.
On “Fox & Friends” in late May, famed Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz said Comey was cowardly for “using his friends to get his point out.”
“He was a great director of the FBI,” said Dershowitz, “but when the whole Hillary Clinton thing began, he cared more about his reputation and his dignity than about what was good for America.”