Comey’s actions are ‘unworthy’ of the FBI, says former Assistant Director and 24-year veteran agent

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Through his actions during his relatively brief tenure as FBI Director and now in penning and promoting a salacious “tell all” book, it is now quite evident that James Comey’s higher loyalty is to James Comey, and James Comey alone. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, to the FBI, where I served for 24 years, or to the selfless men and women who work there – all of whom he has tossed, once again, into the middle of a political firestorm.

The ancient Greeks had a word for the excessive vanity that would cause someone to place his interests before those of his country and those of the dedicated public servants he was called to lead – it’s called hubris.

There is no other plausible explanation for his series of ill-advised actions, beginning with the then-director’s now-infamous press conference in July 2016, when he acted contrary to 28 US Code Section 547, Section 9 of the United States Attorneys Manual and over 100 years of established practice between the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). He did this in declaring, without ever consulting with a DOJ prosecutor, that Hillary Clinton was un-prosecutable in the wake of a kid gloves investigation.

His actions are unworthy of the storied law enforcement agency I served for close to a quarter of a century, and they shocked many of us who worked with and around him during his years serving in the Department of Justice.

The statutes cited above clearly state that the U.S. Justice Department and the United States Attorneys have plenary authority to make prosecution decisions. In contravention of this wisely drawn system of checks and balances, then-FBI Director Comey held his unprecedented press conference and in doing so, he needlessly injected the FBI into one of the most volatile political controversies of our time.

The public needs to understand that this is really not how the FBI operates within today’s criminal justice system. Jim Comey and his discredited inner circle in no way represent the FBI and its dedicated men and women.

Comey’s rationale that he took these actions because Attorney General Loretta Lynch was “conflicted” doesn’t hold water with anyone possessing even a rudimentary knowledge of the federal criminal justice system.

The American system was designed by our founding fathers to interject an objective party with legal training between those who are investigating and those who decide whether to invoke the legal process to deprive someone of his or her life, liberty or property.

This brilliant system, which Comey trashed, was designed to keep the FBI and other law enforcement agencies out of politics. Now his book renews the controversy to the detriment of nearly everyone but Jim Comey, who is clearly out to repair his tarnished reputation and mete out some payback for his dismissal by President Trump.

Sunday’s interview on ABC – and every action he has taken since usurping the role of the Justice Department – has only thrust the FBI deeper into the political crucible. It has also apparently reinforced Comey’s misplaced belief that he, and he alone, is better equipped than anyone else in the criminal justice system to make important decisions.

As former director of the FBI, Comey is very familiar with the recusal process and knows full well that if Attorney General Lynch was “conflicted,” the legally appropriate process was for her to delegate decision-making authority to another person inside the Justice Department. He never gave her a chance. Instead of allowing her to fulfill her responsibilities and do the right thing, Comey effectively took her off the hook and placed the FBI on it.

He also forever tainted any future prosecution of Hillary Clinton because he, the head of the lead investigative agency, had basically absolved the former Secretary of State of any wrongdoing.

Further evidence of Comey’s ego overriding sound judgment is his willingness to leak and tolerate leaks among his inner circle. Leaking information concerning sensitive investigations is a violation of federal law. As the DOJ Inspector General stated in the Andrew McCabe investigation, such leaks serve no public interest whatsoever – aside, of course, from serving the private agendas of McCabe and Comey.

Comey’s book removes any doubt that personal animus towards Donald Trump and acute sensitivity to the political environment permeated his inner circle and drove key actions and decisions. Regardless of how one feels about Trump’s presidency, Comey’s petty references to the president’s physical appearance and other aspects of his personality are far more revealing about Comey than anyone else.

He describes Donald Trump as acting like a mob boss and not “tethered to the truth.” He pronounces the president a liar and “morally unfit to be president.”

If he truly believed this was so, then Jim Comey had a golden opportunity on several occasions to act on conviction and either forcefully stand up to the president or resign on principle. The truth is that Jim Comey relished the role of FBI Director and wanted to keep his job, so he remained silent until he miraculously found the courage to speak up while out promoting his book.

I am also particularly concerned that Comey’s grandstanding could be devastating to ongoing prosecutions and investigations by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Our country deserves to know the truth about how extensively the Russians interfered in our election and who may have assisted them. And Comey, as an attorney and officer of the court, knows that as a potential key witness it is highly inappropriate and potentially prejudicial to the prosecution for him to comment on matters in which he played such a significant role – and may have to testify about.

It is ironically Comey and his band – including McCabe, Lisa Page and Peter Skrozk (he of the infamous “insurance policy” again Trump being elected) – who will most likely be called as the first witnesses for the defense in any prosecution that the Special Counsel might bring forward.

When the director of the FBI, his second in command, the national security lawyer assigned to keep the case within legal boundaries and the lead case agent all express a strong bias or even hatred toward the target(s) of the investigation, they become key defense witnesses. Juries will take note of this bias and question everything that stems from it, meaning Comey has carelessly and needlessly complicated Special Counsel Mueller’s mission.

Comey’s book will sell because these kinds of tabloid stories always do. There may have been a time and place for him to tell his story, but now is not that time. His “tell all” is beneath the office of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who does indeed owe a “higher loyalty” – to the criminal justice system and the mission of the FBI.

Jim Comey’s attempt at burnishing his legacy has thrust the FBI back into the political arena even as current Director Chris Wray patiently and doggedly tries – in the models of former directors Robert Mueller, Louie Freeh and William Webster – to extricate the agency from this political environment and return to established procedures and processes free of even a hint of bias or grandstanding.

The public needs to understand that this is really not how the FBI operates within today’s criminal justice system. Jim Comey and his discredited inner circle in no way represent the FBI and its dedicated men and women.

FBI Agents may have political and personal opinions but they check them at the door as they leave their homes to conduct the public’s business. FBI employees serve in a complex, global environment, many in war zones and international hotspots. They provide the most skilled and professional law enforcement services in the world. They do not deserve to have their professionalism and objectivity called into question because of the actions of Jim Comey, whose time as FBI director was an aberration.

It is very painful for this FBI veteran to say that the Comey manuscript, with its petty and gratuitous observations, self-aggrandizement and moralizing, sadly displays an ego that is loyal first and foremost to its author.

Chris E. Swecker served 24 years in FBI as Special Agent. He retired from the Bureau as Assistant Director with responsibility over all FBI Criminal Investigations. He currently practices law in Charlotte, N.C.