President Trump’s second most-hated former FBI Director — assuming that Robert Mueller is sitting comfortably in the top slot — James Comey is a former Republican who is now fiercely criticizing his erstwhile party members.
In an interview with Boston public radio station WGBH, Comey castigated the GOP’s members in Congress for failing to defend their party from the damage being caused by the president’s “threats and tweets.”
Comey is now the subject of a desperate last-minute attempt by House Republicans to subpoena him to testify in front of a closed-door session of the House Judiciary Committee before the party loses its majority powers when the Democrats take control in the incoming Congress in January.
Comey has said that he wants to testify in an open setting rather than in secretive closed testimony because he’s concerned about the kind of selectively leaks that GOP committee members have allegedly used in the past to push their own skewed narratives, rather than allow the former FBI Director’s answers to speak for themselves. His lawyers are still negotiating with the committee over the terms of his appearance.
“I always respect subpoenas,” Comey told WGBH. “I would never just ignore a subpoena. If I were going to respond in some way, I would respond legally. I wouldn’t just blow it off.”
The former FBI Director also responded to news reports that President Trump improperly attempted to pressure the Justice Department into launching a frivolous investigation into Comey to discredit him and undermine his value as a witness in the investigation of the charges of obstruction of justice against the president.
“I am a little bit numb to the president’s threats and tweets because there is nothing there,” Comey said. “Then I stop myself, because it’s wrong for me or anybody else to become numb to the president of the United States announcing that a private citizen should be prosecuted.”
“I say that slowly because I hope Republicans listen to it and realize that if a Democrat were president and did that, their heads would explode. So my question is, why are your heads not exploding now?”
As satisfying as the mental image of exploding Republican Congressional leaders’ heads may be, the fact that the halls of the Capitol are not littered with specks of skull bones and brain matter right now is a sad indictment of the current state of the GOP.
Besides shaming the Republican leadership, Comey also casually gave a less than flattering assessment of the newly appointed acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. While saying that the legality of Whitaker’s appointment needs to be decided by the courts, he added that he didn’t see the acting Attorney General as a serious threat to the Mueller inquiry since Whitaker just isn’t strong enough to overcome the rapidly advancing progress made by the Special Counsel’s team.
“He may not be the sharpest knife in our drawer, but he can see his future and knows that if he acted in an extralegal way, he would go down in history for the wrong reasons,” Comey said of Whitaker. “I’m sure he doesn’t want that.”
Comey’s cutting insult aside, let’s hope his optimism over the acting Attorney General’s reluctance to implement his previously expressed malicious intentions towards Mueller’s probe is justified. Even more so, let’s hope that at least a few Republicans in Congress are shamed into even a minor mind blast over the next instance of outrageous behavior from Trump and begin to hold him accountable for it.
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Original reporting by Jared Bowen at WGBH News.