James Comey paid a visit to the Ed Sullivan Theatre last night in order to promote his new book “A Higher Loyalty,” bringing the Late Show their third highest ratings yet, and allowing host Stephen Colbert to do what he does best: making the political maelstrom, hot mess that is our Current State of Affairs bearable, and, in a way not too dissimilar to the clever young mother who hides spinach in her kid’s brownies, lightening the weight of substantial, hard-hitting journalism with his sharp-as-a-tack sense of humor and just the appropriate amount of tomfoolery. Here are the highlights:
COLBERT: “I know you don’t like the man, but do you think he has an opportunity still to be an ethical leader, can he turn the presidency around in your eyes?”
COMEY: “…Ethical leaders make the hardest decisions by looking to some reference point, for some it is religion, history, or logic or philosophy… his reference point is entirely internal. He could be a more ethical leader… but I wouldn’t be optimistic, honestly.
COLBERT: “You describe him, or the people around him as having a mob quality. What is it about him or the people about him that feels like the mob or the people you prosecuted to you?”
COMEY: “The leadership style is actually striking similar. When this first popped into my head, I pushed it away because I thought ‘that’s way too dramatic, how could that comparison be apt?’ I don’t mean that necessarily that Donald Trump is out there breaking legs, or shaking down shopkeepers. I mean it in the sense that, he leads, and it is all about the boss. What will serve the boss best, how are you helping the boss. It’s all about that person, and nothing external to that.”
COLBERT: “Well, if you feel you were working for a mob boss, were you surprised that you got whacked?”
On Confidential Information:
COLBERT: “Are there things that you know about the Russia investigation that we haven’t learned yet as a public.”
COMEY: “Yes. ”
COLBERT: “Can you tell us what those things are?”
COMEY: No. And they’re not in the book, I had to have my book reviewed by the F.B.I… it’s not in the book, I can’t talk about it.
COLBERT: Okay. Drink some more wine.
On Attacks and Accountability:
COLBERT: “[The President] has called you a slippery jim and a slimeball. Anything to say back?
COMEY: “No. He’s tweeted at me like, fifty times. I’ve been gone for a year. I’m like the breakup he can’t get over. My reaction, honestly, the first couple times is a shrug. But actually I’ve caught myself, and gone ‘wait a minute, if I’m shrugging, is the rest of the country shrugging?’ Does that mean we’ve become numb to this? It’s not okay for POTUS to say a private citizen should be in jail. It’s not normal. It’s not acceptable. It’s not okay. I feel that norm destroying in my own shrug, we have to call it out and talk about it.”
On Reopening the Clinton Investigation:
COMEY: “My judgement was, the public faith in the F.B.I. and Justice Department is all we have. If we do the normal thing, corrosive doubt will creep in on whether it was done in a competent, honest, and independent way… that was the best chance we had in closing it in a credible way.”
COLBERT: “You believe in norms and standards. The norm and the standard would have been to let the Justice Department make this announcement that it had been closed. Why in this moment of critical revelation did you decide to break a norm and a standard when you’ve built your life on them. You’re a by-the-book guy. Why throw out the book?”
COMEY:… “I thought [circumventing the Justice Department] was best calculated to protect the institutions that I love so much.”
COLBERT: “What was the rationale to [sending a letter to Congress about reopening the investigation]? Again, the norm and the standard was the F.B.I. does not discuss anything having to do with a political campaign 60 days out to the election.”
COMEY: “Yeah, that’s not true though. I don’t know where the 60 days come from but there is a really important norm, that I believe in entirely. You take no action, if you can avoid it, that might have an impact on any election.”
COLBERT: “You had to imagine this would have an effect.”
COMEY: “If there was going to be a smoking gun, it would be at the beginning. October 27th, (after Clinton emails were found on Weiner’s computer), the team said to me… this could change the outcome of the investigation. At that point, what do you do? Take no action if you can avoid it. I kept looking for a door that said no action here. I only saw two doors that both said action on it. One said speak and one said conceal. My view, and people can disagree about this, would be that to not speak would be an affirmative act of concealment…”
On His Impact on the Election:
COMEY: I honestly don’t know. It makes me sick to my stomach that we might have had an impact, I hope and pray it didn’t but, this may sound strange, it wouldn’t change my decision.
Watch the rest of James Comey’s full, uncut interview here.
Photo Credit: Youtube