A ‘Higher Loyalty’ to Their Inflated Sense of Virtue

Some portion of the reading public is eagerly awaiting A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, the aptly titled exercise in self-serving historical revisionism by James Comey, the disgraced former FBI director who was fired last May by President Trump.

The reading material in which I am most interested at the moment is the report by Michael Horowitz, the Obama-appointed inspector general of the Department of Justice who has been toiling away for the last year investigating the DOJ and the FBI for its handling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal.

Comey’s aria, currently swaddled with embargoes, is due out April 17. Horowitz has said he aims to release his report “in the March, April time period.”

So there is a lot to look forward to. Chris Swecker, a former FBI assistant director, said that the report will contain “some pure TNT.” I have no doubt that’s true.

Adventures in “Ethical Leadership”
On Saturday, in the aftermath of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s sacking, Comey tweeted:


Well, yes. Comey’s Twitter profile informs the world that these days he is “writing and speaking about ethical leadership.” It also notes that he is “taller and funnier in person.” I hope so.

As for “ethical leadership,” we needn’t even wait for his book to understand exactly how he embodies ethical leadership. When the College of William and Mary announced last month that Comey would be coming to teach a class on the subject, the announcement was accompanied by a statement from Comey. “Ethical leaders,” he said, “lead by seeing above the short term, above the urgent or the partisan, and with a higher loyalty to lasting values, most importantly the truth.” The Wall Street Journal, digesting this declaration, published a useful classroom aid for students struggling with the question of ethical leadership.

Week One case study: The FBI is investigating a presidential candidate for mishandling classified emails as Secretary of State. The director decides on his own to violate Justice Department rules and exonerate that candidate in a public statement to the media, letting an aide replace the legally potent phrase “grossly negligent” in a draft of his statement with “extremely careless” in the final version.

Possible test question: When and under what circumstance may a federal official decide that the rules that bind others do not apply to him?

The Journal also offers a topic for a breakout session:

Having exonerated that candidate, the FBI director intervenes in the campaign again only days before Election Day, saying new evidence has required him to reopen the email case. Two days before the polls open he says that the new evidence turned out to be nothing of consequence. Was the FBI director protecting the rule of law, or his own reputation?

Presumably, Comey will talk not only about his favorite topic, himself, but will also provide other examples of ethical leadership. The Journal has some good advice about that as well. Consider, for example, Mr. Comey’s good friend Robert Mueller. Long before he embarked on his quest for the Holy Grail—i.e., the destruction of Donald Trump—Robert Mueller was involved in other high profile cases. The Journal suggestion for Week Three focuses on one of those.

FBI Director Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York are convinced that the man behind the 2001 anthrax mail attacks is a government virologist. They spend years pursuing him and destroying his reputation through the media, only to concede years later that they had fingered the wrong man.

Students will examine the ethics of trial-by-media and the risks to the fair administration of justice from prosecutors who ignore contrary evidence.

The Journal has other illuminating exercises that prospective readers of Comey’s book and students for his class will find useful.

About the McCabe Firing
For my part, I am more interested in seeing what Michael Horowitz’s report has to say. We can glean a little about it by noting that some of its contents provided the basis for the recommendation from the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility that Andrew McCabe be fired. On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions took time off from his recusal and did just that.

It is worth noting who did what to whom. The Left and its NeverTrump Chihuahua enablers exploded in a frenzy of vituperation at the news that Andrew McCabe had been fired just a day before he was eligible for his full pension. His bitter statement following his firing was full of recriminations. “It is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation,” he said.

But the bad cop in this scenario was not Donald Trump—though the president did, understandably, take pleasure in the news. Nope, McCabe’s downfall was the result of his own actions: unauthorized leaks to the media, “lack of candor” under oath (a fireable offense), not to mention his failure to disclose the $700,000 contribution to his wife’s political campaign from the Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe.

Writing at the Lawfare blog, Quinta Jurecic Benjamin Wittes outline the process:

[A]lthough Sessions made the ultimate call to fire McCabe, the public record shows that the process resulting in the FBI deputy director’s dismissal involved career Justice Department and FBI officials—rather than political appointees selected by President Trump—at crucial points along the way. To begin with, the charges against McCabe arose out of the broader Justice Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation.

One of the most interesting details to emerge from the Comey-McCabe Affair is the . . .  er, tension between what McCabe has just said about who said what to whom and with what authority and the testimony of Comey before Congress under oath. In his post-firing statement, McCabe said “I chose to share [information about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server] with a reporter through my public affairs officer and a legal counselor. As deputy director, I was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter” (my emphasis).

But as Jonathan Turley reports at The Hill, “If the ‘interaction’ means leaking the information, then McCabe’s statement would seem to directly contradict statements Comey made in a May 2017 congressional hearing.”

Asked if he had “ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation” or whether he had “ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation,” Comey replied “never” and “no.”

What, never? Well, hardly ever.

Things are happening very fast in the Swamp Drama surrounding Robert Mueller’s Galaxy Quest. We’ll have to wait on the inspector general’s report to fill out some details about Andrew McCabe’s activities. Already, though, a lot of unsavory allegations are swirling about. The investigative journalist Sara Carter, for example, just told Fox News “I have been told tonight by a number of sources . . . that McCabe may have asked FBI agents to actually change their 302s”—that is, the forms that FBI agents are required to complete after interviewing a subject to memorialize the contents of their interview.

The level of hysteria that greeted McCabe’s firing is instructive. Many people, friends as well as opponents, criticize President Trump for his freewheeling tweets. But how about this tweet emitted by former CIA Director John Brennan after McCabe’s firing:


There’s a lot to be said about John Brennan. Lee Smith has some of the unsavory details in a recent essay in Tablet. At the end of the day, Brennan is the fons et origo of the whole Trump-Russian collusion fantasy. Although that narrative is unraveling before our eyes, the principle of inertia assures that Mueller’s team of 17 pro-Clinton prosecutors will toil on. Will they, I wonder, have anything to say about John Brennan’s lying to Congress about whether or not the CIA spied on them under his direction (they did). And surely the public should be reminded that Barack Obama’s director of our premier foreign intelligence service voted for Gus Hall, general secretary of the Communist Party of the United States, in 1976.

J. Edgar Hoover described Hall as “a powerful, deceitful, dangerous foe of Americanism.” He was that. But Brennan voted for that despicable representative of a monstrous ideology anyway. He was “unhappy with the system,” he had what James Comey calls “a higher loyalty”—not to the boring rule of law but to the projection of his own self-infatuated idea of virtue. It was ever thus with “idealists,” which is one thing that makes them so dangerous to our republic.

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Photo credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

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