Attorney General James Comey sealed a reputation as a brave and principled actor after a 2004 standoff during the Bush administration, when he refused White House efforts to get him to reauthorize warrantless eavesdropping while Attorney General John Ashcroft was hospitalized.
Comey had been appointed deputy attorney general by President George W. Bush, having served as a U.S. attorney in New York under Rudy Giuliani in New York.
With Ashcroft incapacitated, Bush administration officials wanted Ashcroft, and then Comey, to sign off on an extension of the authority, with just hours to go before an N.S.A. program expired. Comey refused.
His stand was a major reason why President Obama nominated him to be head of the FBI in 2013. Obama hailed Comey as a person of ‘fierce independence and deep integrity’ as he nominated him for the FBI post, which carries a 10-year term.
A devout Catholic, a registered Republican and a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, he seemed to radiate independence from the Democratic machine.
And many congressional Democrats became far less supportive of Comey after the 2016 presidential election.
Obama’s man: Republican James Comey was chosen by the Democratic president for his principled stand but ended up in the words of one senator as ‘as popular as cholera’
Led by defeated candidate Hillary Clinton, many have griped about Comey’s handling of the Clinton email scandal.
On July 5th, 2016, Comey personally announced the FBI’s decision not to charge Clinton in connection with its investigation of her private email server and handling of classified material. He nevertheless called her conduct ‘extremely careless.’
Then on October 28, he told lawmakers the bureau was reviewing newly discovered emails in connection to the investigation. The FBI had uncovered thousands of emails on disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop that had been sent to his wife, longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Comey drew the Democrats’ ire once again when he announced two days before the election that the investigation hadn’t turned up anything to alter the decision not to prosecute. Clinton said it only made matters worse and stole headlines.
In the congressional hearing where he made inaccurate statements about about Abedin’s emails, Democrats grilled Comey about why he had not revealed the existence of an ongoing investigation into alleged Russian election interference. Comey said the FBI ‘didn’t say a word about’ the Russia investigation until months into, whereas he had testified under oath about the existence of the Clinton investigation.