The curtain rises on the James Comey show

Details from James Comey’s new book exploded across the media landscape yesterday, as outlets raced to post stories on what has become the second book to shake Washington in 2018. Even before the New York Post led with Comey’s claim that President Trump had asked him to investigate the most salacious detail contained in the infamous Steele dossier, the GOP had launched a website aimed at discrediting the former FBI Director.

Comey’s memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, reportedly covers his upbringing, as well as important moments during his time serving under Presidents Bush and Obama. But the chapters getting attention are those describing Comey’s interactions with Donald Trump from January 2017 until Comey was fired in May of that year. Those expecting new information on the investigation that still shadows the administration will apparently be disappointed. But based on excerpts quoted so far, Comey doesn’t hold back judgement on Trump’s actions and temperament.

“The book is an indictment of Trump’s presidency as well as of his character,” The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker writes. “Each chapter can be interpreted as an elaborate trolling of Trump, starting with the title, A Higher Loyalty, a subtle reference to the loyalty pledge that Trump sought and did not receive from Comey.”

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Comey’s reemergence allows for a strange reexamination of recent history. Since the moment in July 2016 when he announced the FBI would not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server, Comey has been an almost constant presence, at least tangentially, in the news. He has been, at varying times, hero and villain to partisans on both sides of the aisle, and his firing in May of 2017 was the impetus for the appointment of a special counsel whose investigation continues to make news as it draws closer to President Trump’s inner circle.

The general public won’t be able to get their hands on a copy of A Higher Loyalty until next Tuesday, so until then we’ll be left with excerpts, reviews, and interviews with the former FBI Director. It’s going to be a long four days.

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Below, a few notes from the early reviews, and more on the Comey media circus.

  • NYT: The New York Times brought former chief book critic Michiko Kakutani out of retirement for the occasion. “The central themes that Comey returns to throughout this impassioned book are the toxic consequences of lying; and the corrosive effects of choosing loyalty to an individual over truth and the rule of law,” she writes.
  • Associated Press: The AP’s Chad Day and Jonathan Lemire write that Comey “casts Trump as a mobster-like figure who sought to blur the line between law enforcement and politics and tried to pressure him personally regarding his investigation into Russian election interference.”
  • ABC News: George Stephanapolous has already recorded the first televised interview with Comey. It will air Sunday night on a special edition of 20/20. This morning, ABC posted the first excerpt from their conversation.

  • Warnings about the hype: The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan cautioned against the “swoonfest” that would greet Comey’s book. “The conflict-addicted media love a high-profile fight, and Comey vs. Trump continues to be a classic steel cage match,” she writes. “That is all fine, as long as some critical distance is brought to bear.”

 

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Pete Vernon is a CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.