Heroes and villains form the backbone of any epic saga. As we watch the current drama unfold, which will determine the fate of humanity’s greatest experiment in democracy, we wait for the hero to emerge. We have plenty of villains in the Trump-Russia story, but no one person has appeared yet to take the reins and save us as we careen out of control.
Former FBI director James Comey has tried more than once to be that hero, and it cost him his job. In this current epic, he has much in common with Captain James T. Kirk, as he was buffeted around the bridge of the Enterprise while desperately trying to save the Federation from relentless enemy attack.
Comey cemented his reputation March 10, 2004, when he raced through the streets of Washington, D.C., lights flashing, to the bedside of Attorney General John Ashcroft. Comey was trying to prevent George W. Bush’s men from obtaining the signature of Ashcroft — ill and resting in a hospital bed — on a document reauthorizing the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program, found by the Justice Department to be illegal. Comey, the acting attorney general, got there just in time, saving the day, the Department of Justice, and, to some, the country.
On July 5, 2016, Comey stepped in front of the cameras at a press conference to announce that there was no criminal case to pursue against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the matter of her emails and supposed classified information. Attorney General Loretta Lynch was off on the sidelines, purportedly due to an impromptu conversation in late June between her and Bill Clinton on a tarmac in Phoenix. Director Comey wagged his finger at Clinton about her supposedly careless handling of sensitive emails, but there were no criminal charges to be brought. Comey, in dramatic fashion, once again entered the fray to ostensibly protect the Justice Department's rep.
As the 2016 presidential election came down to the wire, Comey wrote a letter that was made public October 28, informing members of Congress that the FBI had found more Clinton emails and it was unknown if these communications contained classified information. On November 6, two days before the election, Comey wrote a second letter saying there was nothing illegal or even controversial there. What he didn’t know was that he put the final finger on the scale, resulting in the critical tip to Donald Trump. There was no intention to make Trump our 45th president on Comey’s part, I believe.
Comey, like most of us, thought Clinton would win and his two announcements would protect the bureau from accusations of a cover-up he knew would come from congressional Republicans as they fought President Clinton tooth and nail. Between Comey's two infamous actions last year, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid fired off an October 30 letter to Comey telling him he was sitting on explosive information regarding the Trump campaign and the Russians. We had heard about such things, but not much credence was given to them.
After Trump took office, the Trump campaign–Russian collusion matter picked up stream. Now only the most ardent Trump supporter believes there is “no there there.” On February 13, a Washington Post report forced the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. A reinvigorated media and leakers, viewed as either patriots or criminals depending on what side you’re on, have taken us where we are today, with a president in the bunker as he turns our government into something we don’t recognize, while Republican congressional enablers look on and Democrats wave their arms.
Comey got himself fired May 8 when he wouldn’t play ball with the new president by looking the other way when it came to Flynn. Robert Mueller, another former FBI director, is appointed as special counsel to hopefully figure this mess out. The nation stands divided, and a few of us remember what Lincoln said. Trump tweets about fake news, and a relentless press recalls the glory days of Watergate.
If Hillary Clinton had become our 45th president, the Trump campaign–Russian collusion allegations would be investigated, but quietly, because to most Americans it would only be a footnote in 2016 presidential politics. Comey would most likely still be the FBI director in a cautious relationship with the White House. Jim Comey would be considered brilliant in his handling of the Clinton emails and all things Trump-Putin to those in the know.
Back in reality — which feels more like an alternate reality — many of us are begging Comey to stand up Thursday, when he testifies before Congress, speak the truth, and be the hero to lead us out of this nightmare. Just like Captain Kirk would.
SUSAN SURFTONE is a musician who previously served as an FBI agent. Her latest EP is Making Waves Again.