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The Price of James Comey’s Integrity


The former FBI director's mistaken sense of integrity brought us Donald Trump, writes Susan SurfTone.

Even in the face of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton was leading in the polls on the morning of October 28. That morning the Real Clear Politics average of national and state polls had her ahead of Donald Trump by 5.2 points among likely and registered voters. At 1:04 p.m. Eastern time, the James Comey letter to Congress about newly discovered Clinton emails dropped while Clinton was in the air. She was given no advance notice about the pending damaging letter, and from that moment on she was fighting for her political life. As we all know, with then-FBI director Comey's thumb on the scale, she lost.

Comey's brand of integrity resulted in the election of President Donald J. Trump. The Department of Justice inspector deneral's report released last Thursday equated Comey's bad judgment in the Clinton email investigation with insubordination, both in his July 5, 2016, public scolding of her, even though no charges were brought against her, and the infamous October 28 letter. We know from Comey's book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, and subsequent TV appearances to promote the book that he was motivated by his brand of integrity.

Comey handed the presidency to a man who represents all that one would think James B. Comey loathes. Their mutual distaste for one another is no secret, yet similarities abound. Both men have massive egos. Both believe only they can handle difficult situations. Comey certainly made that clear when he pushed Attorney General Loretta Lynch aside to make his announcement at a press conference which, as FBI director, was not his to make on July 5, 2016, regarding the "no charges" determination in the Clinton investigation. Only he could protect the Department of Justice and the FBI from Republican accusations of favoring Clinton over Trump. On the campaign trail Trump relished telling his supporters only he could fix their perceived problems. He is certainly the most go-it-alone president in modern times while being the least qualified by far. Both seek out the spotlight with an affinity for drama. Both see themselves as exceptional leaders, Comey with his unquestionable moral compass and Trump with his superior everything else apart from a moral compass. As mirror images, Comey believes himself the master of the truth while Trump is the master of deceit. Both men have revealed their flaws to the country while denying those flaws to themselves. Our nation has been changed for the worse by these two self-absorbed men who erroneously see themselves as the hero of every story.

It is difficult to believe Comey did not affect the outcome of the election. The trajectory of the polls after October 28 seems to confirm that he did. The inspector general deems him an insubordinate with bad judgment and not the hero who saved the reputation of the bureau in a situation Comey sees as a 500-year flood.

The consequences of James B. Comey's integrity are staggering. The United States of America is aligning itself with autocrats around the world and moving away from liberal Western democracies, thereby destroying post-World War II alliances that have kept the world safe from major conflicts. Unnecessary trade wars are being started in the name of outdated and disproven economic theories. An American president salutes a North Korean general while a smiling murderous dictator looks on, knowing he has just played the foolish incompetent American president to his great advantage. Republicans refuse to do their congressional duty and check this runaway president because he is one of the greatest con men of all time and has Republican voters, with the help of Fox News and Sinclair, convinced he is making America great again by playing into their fears and perceived victimhood. A Supreme Court, now leaning conservative, in a ridiculous 7-2 decision upholds a cake baker's claim of religious freedom while eroding the rights of the LGBTQ community. This same Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision upholds Ohio's voter purge, which will target minority voters, of course. The Environmental Protection Agency rolls us back to the Stone Age. The United States pulls out of so many international agreements our signature on anything is worth nothing. As an unintended consequence of his integrity, James Comey gave Putin the Trump presidency Putin wanted, and we pay the price.

The children ripped from their parents at our southern border pay the price and will probably be damaged by toxic stress for the rest for their lives. Those parents pay the price by watching helplessly as the U.S. government takes their children from them. Attorney General Jeff Sessions quotes the Bible to defend this horrible, shameful policy that belongs solely to the Trump administration. We in the LGBTQ community know all too well how the misuse of the Bible can drive hate, bigotry, and persecution. None of us would be in this nightmare if it was not for James B. Comey and his inflated integrity.

SUSAN SURFTONE is a musician who previously served as an FBI agent. Her latest EP is Making Waves Again.

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Susan Surftone