James Comey, former Director of the FBI and self-admitted scab, published an op-ed in the New York Times today about the “hard questions” people have been asking him about his former colleagues in the Department of Justice, namely Attorney General William Barr and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. He ultimately concludes—shockingly—that these two guys kinda suck.
The “hard questions” Comey claims to be fielding mostly boil down to “How COULD they” in reference to Barr—who seems to have repeatedly lied to Congress about the Mueller report—and Rosenstein, who announced his resignation letter on Monday but still praised the president on his way out.
The whole thing reads like the manifesto of a 58-year-old high school history teacher who has a shrine to Alan Alda’s noble Republican West Wing character in his basement, but Comey does eventually come to a point: It was TRUMP who turned these otherwise respectable white lawyer dudes into unethical liars. He writes in the Times:
What happened to these people?
I don’t know for sure. People are complicated, so the answer is most likely complicated. But I have some idea from four months of working close to Mr. Trump and many more months of watching him shape others.
Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them. Sometimes what they reveal is inspiring. For example, James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, resigned over principle, a concept so alien to Mr. Trump that it took days for the president to realize what had happened, before he could start lying about the man.
But more often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.
What Comey observes, to a certain extent, is correct. Barr is a spineless suit who’s shackled himself to an obviously evil administration and done all he can to push its goals during his short tenure. But Comey also heaps praise on Mattis, cleverly ignoring the fact that Mattis made the same choice to do Trump’s bidding for nearly two years. (He’s also an alleged war criminal to boot.)
The whole op-ed is reminiscent of Comey buddy Ben Wittes’ weird denouncement of Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings, where one Good Ol’ Boy Who Respects the Law expressed shock and horror that one of his peers turned out to be a piece of shit. This is far from new information to anyone who’s been following along, and the last thing we needed was another self-righteous op-ed from a guy who didn’t even have the guts to leave the administration on his own terms.