Book Review - A Higher Loyalty, by James Comey

 A Higher Loyalty, By James Comey

Of course I had to read this book, given all the drama surrounding the 2016 presidential election, Russian interference in it and its links to the Trump campaign, the Mueller investigation and of course Hillary Clinton’s emails.  I’ll say at the outset Comey is a very persuasive writer and storyteller - after all, he was the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York,  Deputy Attorney General under G.W. Bush, as well as the head of the FBI, the nation’s top law enforcement agency.  He knows how to make a case.  I would say it is a good idea to put that filter on while reading the book, to help maintain an ability to analyze what he is saying.  

The upshot of the book is it is primarily a defense of the FBI and its (and his own) handling of the investigation into the Clinton emails as well as the investigation into Russian interference in the election, and Comey’s own dealings with Donald Trump.  

Relating to the Clinton e-mails, Comey goes into a good deal of detail as to why he went public both times - once in June of 2016, and again right before the election in late October.  Essentially, the conflicts of interest involved and data that got into the hands of the House GOP that could be leaked without proper analysis led Comey to announce on his own in October - without the Attorney General - the fact that additional emails came to light that needed to be analyzed.  You have to read the book to get the full accounting.

As for Donald Trump, Comey’s account largely relates to his interactions with Trump after the election - with each encounter described in exacting and compelling detail, threading an overall narrative of how Trump deals with the people around him.  You get a clear sense of how Trump was seeing the election, the emails, and his perceived exposure to the Russian investigation.  Early in the book Comey relates his experiences as a prosecutor, bringing cases against organized crime, in particular against the Gambino family.  It is this experience that leads him to compare Donald Trump to a mob boss, with the demands of personal loyalty, bullying, an “us versus them” mentality, the lying with impunity, casting people out with public shame, and so on.  Frankly, it scared me not just a little to read this account.  As with the emails, you really have to give it a read to get a sense of it - the encounters are up close and personal.

If you are interested in the events leading up to the election, and are looking for a detailed first hand account of how the President interacts with his staff, then I would highly recommend this book.  I believe Comey when he says that his motives were governed by having to pick from no good options.  Of course, the book is written from his point of view; even with the filter I suggest above, I believe Comey makes a good case for his view.