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James Comey
James Brien Comey Jr. (born December 14, 1960) is an American lawyer who was the 7th Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 2013 until

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"Comey" redirects here. For other people with the surname, see Comey (surname). Former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

James Comey 7th Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation In office
September 4, 2013 – May 9, 2017President Barack Obama
Donald TrumpDeputy Sean M. Joyce
Mark F. Giuliano
Andrew McCabePreceded by Robert MuellerSucceeded by Christopher A. Wray31st United States Deputy Attorney General In office
December 9, 2003 – August 15, 2005President George W. BushPreceded by Larry ThompsonSucceeded by Paul McNultyUnited States Attorney for the Southern District of New York In office
January 7, 2002 – December 15, 2003President George W. BushPreceded by Mary Jo WhiteSucceeded by David N. Kelley Personal detailsBorn James Brien Comey Jr.
(1960-12-14) December 14, 1960 (age 57)
Yonkers, New York, U.S.Political party Independent (2016–present)[1]Other political
affiliations Republican (before 2016)[2]Spouse(s) Patrice FailorChildren 6Education College of William and Mary (BS)
University of Chicago (JD)Signature

James Brien Comey Jr. (born December 14, 1960) is an American lawyer who was the 7th Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 2013 until his dismissal in May 2017.[3] Comey had been a registered Republican for most of his adult life but recently described himself as unaffiliated.[4]

Comey was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from January 2002 to December 2003, and the United States Deputy Attorney General from December 2003 to August 2005 in the administration of President George W. Bush. Comey appointed Patrick Fitzgerald to be the Special Counsel to head the grand jury investigation into the Plame affair after Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself.

In August 2005, Comey left the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and became general counsel and senior vice president of Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland.[5] In 2010, he became general counsel at Bridgewater Associates, based in Westport, Connecticut. In early 2013, he left Bridgewater to become a Senior Research Scholar and Hertog Fellow on National Security Law at Columbia Law School. He served on the board of directors of HSBC Holdings until July 2013.[6]

In September 2013, President Barack Obama appointed Comey to the position of Director of the FBI.[7] In that capacity, he was responsible for overseeing the FBI's investigation of the Hillary Clinton email controversy. His role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, particularly with regard to his public communications, was highly controversial.[8] Many Clinton supporters feel that Comey's decisions might have cost her the presidency.[9] In one of those decisions, he reopened the investigation into Clinton's emails less than two weeks before the election.[10][11][12] Comey also received heavy criticism from Republicans, in part after it was revealed that he had begun drafting an exoneration letter for Clinton before the investigation was complete.[13]

President Donald Trump dismissed Comey on May 9, 2017.[14][15][16] Statements from Trump and the White House suggested that he had been dismissed to ease the "pressure" Trump was under due to the Russia investigation.[17][18][19] Later that month, Comey arranged for a friend to tell the press about a memo he had written after a February 14 private meeting with the president. It said Trump had asked him to end the FBI's investigation into Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor. The dismissal, the memo, and Comey's subsequent Congressional testimony were interpreted by some commentators as evidence of obstruction of justice by the President, and became part of a widening investigation by Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel appointed to probe Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.[20]

On June 14, 2018, the DOJ Inspector General released his report on the FBI's handling of the Clinton email investigation, which criticized Comey's actions during the 2016 election. The report stated that Comey made "a serious error in judgment" by sending the letter to Congress about the reopening of Clinton's email investigation, but it found no evidence to support claims by Trump and his supporters that the FBI "rigged the case to clear Clinton".[21]

  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Early career (1985–1993)
  • 3 Clinton administration (1996–2001)
    • 3.1 Assistant U.S. Attorney
  • 4 Bush administration (2002–2005)
    • 4.1 U.S. Attorney
    • 4.2 Deputy Attorney General
      • 4.2.1 NSA domestic wiretapping
      • 4.2.2 Enhanced interrogation techniques
  • 5 Private sector (2005–2013)
    • 5.1 Testimony before congressional committees
    • 5.2 Supreme Court considerations
  • 6 FBI Director (2013–2017)
    • 6.1 Police and African Americans
    • 6.2 Comments on Poland and the Holocaust
    • 6.3 OPM hack
    • 6.4 Hillary Clinton email investigation
      • 6.4.1 Release of information about the investigation
      • 6.4.2 Investigations
    • 6.5 Russian election interference investigation
    • 6.6 Government surveillance oversight
    • 6.7 Dismissal
      • 6.7.1 Reasons for dismissal
      • 6.7.2 Reference to tapes
      • 6.7.3 Aftermath
  • 7 Writings
  • 8 Post-government life
  • 9 Party affiliation
  • 10 Personal life
  • 11 See also
  • 12 References
  • 13 Further reading
  • 14 External links
Early life

Comey was born on December 14, 1960, in Yonkers, New York, to parents Joan Marie Comey (née Herald)[22] and J. Brien Comey.[23] His grandfather, William J. Comey, was an officer and later commissioner of the Yonkers Police Department.[24] The family moved to Allendale, New Jersey, in the early 1970s.[25][26] His father worked in corporate real estate and his mother was a computer consultant and homemaker.[27] Comey is of Irish heritage.[28] He attended Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale.[29] Comey graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1982, majoring in chemistry and religion. His senior thesis analyzed the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and the televangelist Jerry Falwell, emphasizing their common belief in public action.[30] He received his Juris Doctor (JD) from the University of Chicago Law School in 1985.[31]

Early career (1985–1993)

After law school, Comey was a law clerk for United States District Judge John M. Walker Jr. in Manhattan. Then, he was an associate for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in their New York office. He joined the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, where he worked from 1987 to 1993. While there, he was Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division and helped prosecute the Gambino crime family.[32]

Clinton administration (1996–2001) Assistant U.S. Attorney

From 1996 to 2001, Comey was Managing Assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the Richmond Division of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.[12] In 1996, Comey acted as deputy special counsel to the Senate Whitewater Committee.[33] He also was the lead prosecutor in the case concerning the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.[34] While in Richmond, Comey was an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Richmond School of Law.[31]

Bush administration (2002–2005) U.S. Attorney Comey as a US Attorney

Comey was the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, from January 2002 to the time of his confirmation as Deputy Attorney General on December 11, 2003.[31] Among his first tasks was to take over the investigation into President Bill Clinton's controversial pardon of Marc Rich.[33] In November 2002, he led the prosecution of three men involved in one of the largest identity fraud cases in American history.[35] The fraud had lasted two years and resulted in thousands of people across the country collectively losing over $3 million.[35] He also led the indictment of Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas for bank fraud, wire fraud, and securities fraud. Rigas was convicted of the charges in 2004 and in 2005, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Adelphia Corporation was forced to file for bankruptcy after it acknowledged that it took $3.3 billion in false loans. It was "one of the most elaborate and extensive corporate frauds in United States history".[36][37][38][39]

In February 2003, Comey was the lead prosecutor of Martha Stewart, who was indicted on the charges of securities fraud, obstruction of justice, and lying to an FBI agent.[12] She sold 3,928 shares of ImClone Systems, making $227,824. The next day, the Food and Drug Administration refused to accept the company's application for Erbitux.[40] In March 2003, he led the indictment of ImClone CEO Samuel Waksal, who pleaded guilty to avoiding paying $1.2 million in sales taxes on $15 million worth of contemporary paintings. The works were by Mark Rothko, Richard Serra, Roy Lichtenstein, and Willem de Kooning.[41] In April 2003, he led the indictment of Frank Quattrone, who allegedly urged subordinates in 2000 to destroy evidence sought by investigators looking into his investment banking practices at Credit Suisse First Boston.[42] In November 2003, he led the prosecutions in "Operation Wooden Nickel", which resulted in complaints and indictments against 47 people involved in foreign exchange trading scams.[43]

Deputy Attorney General NSA domestic wiretapping

In early January 2006, The New York Times, as part of its investigation into domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency, reported that Comey, who was Acting Attorney General during the March 2004 hospitalization of John Ashcroft, refused to certify the legality of central aspects of the NSA program.[44] Under White House procedures, in order for the program to continue, the certification was required.[45]

In March 2004, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert S. Mueller III and Comey had prepared their resignations from the Bush administration if the White House overruled the DOJ finding that the domestic wiretapping under the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) was unconstitutional, if such were done without a court warrant.[46] On March 10, 2004, United States Attorney General (USAG) John Ashcroft was being visited by his wife as he was treated in the intensive care unit at the George Washington University Hospital. She solicited Mueller and Comey to join them, and shortly after their arrival, they were joined by Jack Goldsmith of the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel and Patrick Philbin. In Goldsmith's 2007 memoir, he said Comey had come to the hospital to support Ashcroft in withstanding pressure from the White House.[47] None of the four visitors wanted the TSP reauthorized. After the quartet's arrival, Ashcroft refused to give his consent to its extension, despite being pressured at the hospital soon afterward by Andrew H. Card Jr., White House Chief of Staff, and White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales. The two had urged Ashcroft to waive the DOJ ruling and permit the domestic warrantless eavesdropping program to continue beyond its imminent expiration date. Ashcroft additionally informed the pair that due to his illness, he had delegated his powers as USAG to Comey.[48][45] Comey later confirmed these events took place (but declined to confirm the specific program) in testimony to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee on May 16, 2007.[49][50][51][52][53][54] FBI director Mueller's notes on the March 10, 2004, incident, which were released to a House Judiciary committee, confirms that he "Saw (the) AG, John Ashcroft in the room (who was) feeble, barely articulate, clearly stressed."[55]

Comey and Mueller cancelled their plans to resign after meeting on March 12, 2004, directly with President Bush, who directed that requisite changes be made to the surveillance program.[56]

Enhanced interrogation techniques

When Comey was Deputy Attorney General in 2005, he endorsed a memorandum that approved the use of 13 enhanced interrogation techniques that included waterboarding[44] and sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, which would be used by the CIA when interrogating suspects.[57][58] Comey objected to a second memorandum, drafted by Daniel Levin and signed by Steven G. Bradbury, which stated that these techniques could be used in combination.[57] Comey was one of the few members of the Bush administration who had tried to prevent or limit the use of torture.[59][60][61]

During his 2013 confirmation hearing, Comey stated that in his personal opinion, waterboarding was torture,[62] the United Nations Convention against Torture was "very vague" and difficult to interpret as banning the practice.[47] Even though he believed the practice was legal at the time,[57] he strongly disagreed with the techniques and as a matter of policy, he opposed implementing them.[58][63] His objections were ultimately overruled by the National Security Council.[64]

Private sector (2005–2013)

In the fall of 2005, Comey announced that he was leaving the Department of Justice.[65] In August 2005, it was announced that Comey would enter the private sector, becoming the General Counsel and Senior Vice President for Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Department of Defense's largest contractor.[66] Comey's tenure took effect on October 1, 2005,[67] serving in that capacity until June 2, 2010, when he announced he would leave Lockheed Martin to join the senior management committee at Bridgewater Associates, a Connecticut-based investment management firm.[68] Comey received a three million dollar payout from Bridgewater, and his net worth is estimated at 14 million dollars.[69][69] In February 1, 2013, after leaving Bridgewater, he was appointed by Columbia University Law School as a Senior Research Scholar and Hertog Fellow on National Security Law.[70] He was also appointed to the board of directors of the London-based financial institution HSBC Holdings,[71] to improve the company's compliance program after its $1.9 billion settlement with the Justice Department for failing to comply with basic due diligence requirements for money laundering regarding Mexican drug cartels and terrorism financing.[72][73] Since 2012, he has also served on the Defense Legal Policy Board.[74]

Testimony before congressional committees Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy
  • Main issues
  • Timeline
  • Summary of attorneys
  • Documents
  • Congressional hearings
  • List of Dismissed Attorneys
  • Complete list of related articles

In May 2007, Comey testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the House Judiciary subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law on the U.S. Attorney dismissal controversy.[65] His testimony contradicted that of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who had said the firings had been due to poor performance on the part of some of the dismissed prosecutors. Comey stressed that the Justice Department had to be perceived as nonpartisan and nonpolitical to function.[75]

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The Department of Justice, in my view, is run by political appointees of the President. The U.S. attorneys are political appointees of the President. But once they take those jobs and run this institution, it's very important in my view for that institution to be another in American life, that—because my people had to stand up before juries of all stripes, talk to sheriffs of all stripes, judges of all stripes. They had to be seen as the good guys, and not as either this administration or that administration.[75]

Supreme Court considerations

Politico reported in May 2009, White House officials pushed for Comey's inclusion on the short list of names to replace Associate Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court.[76] Politico later reported liberal activists were upset about the possibility of Comey's name being included. John Brittain of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law stated, " came in with the Bushies. What makes you think he'd be just an inch or two more to the center than Roberts? I'd be greatly disappointed."[77]

In 2013, Comey was a signatory to an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage during the Hollingsworth v. Perry case.[78]

FBI Director (2013–2017) Comey, President Obama, and outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller at Comey's nomination to become FBI Director, June 21, 2013 Comey at the Oval Office following the San Bernardino shooting, December 3, 2015 Obama receives an update from Comey and Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco on the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, June 12, 2016

May 2013 reports became official the following month when President Barack Obama revealed that he would nominate Comey to be the next Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, replacing outgoing director Robert Mueller.[79][80][81] Comey was reportedly chosen over another finalist, Lisa Monaco, who had overseen national security issues at the Justice Department during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012.[82][83]

On July 29, 2013, the Senate confirmed Comey to a full ten-year term as FBI Director. He was confirmed by a vote of 93-1. Two senators voted present.[84] He was sworn in as FBI director on September 4, 2013.[85] Comey was dismissed by Donald Trump on May 9, 2017.[14]

Police and African Americans Comey at annual FBI and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute conference, May 25, 2016

In February 2015, Comey delivered a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., regarding the relationship between police and the African American community.[86][87] He said that, "At many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo – a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups", mentioning as an example his own Irish ancestors, who he said had, in the early 20th century, often been regarded by law enforcement as drunks and criminals. He added: "The Irish had some tough times, but little compares to the experience on our soil of black Americans", going on to highlight current societal issues such as lack of opportunities for employment and education which can lead young black men to crime.[86] Comey stated:

Police officers on patrol in our nation's cities often work in environments where a hugely disproportionate percentage of street crime is committed by young men of color. Something happens to people of good will working in that environment. After years of police work, officers often can't help be influenced by the cynicism they feel. A mental shortcut becomes almost irresistible.[86]

In October 2015, Comey gave a speech in which he raised concerns that body worn video results in less effective policing; this opinion contradicted the President's public position.[88] Days later, President Obama met with Comey in the Oval Office to address the issue.[89]

In an October 23 speech at the University of Chicago Law School, Comey said:

I remember being asked why we were doing so much prosecuting in black neighborhoods and locking up so many black men. After all, Richmond was surrounded by areas with largely white populations. Surely there were drug dealers in the suburbs. My answer was simple: We are there in those neighborhoods because that's where people are dying. These are the guys we lock up because they are the predators choking off the life of a community. We did this work because we believed that all lives matter, especially the most vulnerable.[90]

Comments on Poland and the Holocaust

In April 2015, Comey spoke at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, arguing in favor of more Holocaust education.[91] After The Washington Post printed a version of his speech, Anne Applebaum wrote that his reference to "the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary" was inaccurately saying that Poles were as responsible for the Holocaust as Germans.[92] His speech was also criticized by Polish authorities, and Stephen D. Mull, United States Ambassador to Poland, was called to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[93] Applebaum wrote that Comey, "in a speech that was reprinted in The Post arguing for more Holocaust education, demonstrated just how badly he needs it himself".[94]

Ambassador Mull issued an apology for Comey's remarks.[95] When asked about his remarks, Comey said, "I regret linking Germany and Poland ... The Polish state bears no responsibility for the horrors imposed by the Nazis. I wish I had not used any other country names because my point was a universal one about human nature."[96]

OPM hack

In June 2015, the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that it had been the target of a data breach targeting the records of as many as four million people.[97] Later, Comey put the number at 18 million.[98] The Washington Post has reported that the attack originated in China, citing unnamed government officials.[99] Comey said: "It is a very big deal from a national security perspective and from a counterintelligence perspective. It's a treasure trove of information about everybody who has worked for, tried to work for, or works for the United States government."[100]

Hillary Clinton email investigation Main article: Hillary Clinton email controversy

On July 10, 2015, the FBI opened a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State.[8] On June 29, 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton met aboard her plane on the tarmac of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, leading to calls for her recusal. Lynch then announced that she would "fully" accept the recommendation of the FBI regarding the probe.[8] On July 2, FBI agents completed their investigation by interviewing Hillary Clinton at FBI headquarters, following which Comey and his associates decided there was no basis for criminal indictments in the case.[8]

Release of information about the investigation

On July 5, 2016, Comey announced the FBI's recommendation that the United States Department of Justice file no criminal charges relating to the Hillary Clinton email controversy.[101] During a 15-minute press conference in the J. Edgar Hoover Building, Comey called Secretary Clinton's and her top aides' behavior "extremely careless", but concluded that "no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case".[101] It was believed to be the first time the FBI disclosed its prosecutorial recommendation to the Department of Justice publicly.[101] On July 7, 2016, Comey was questioned by a Republican-led House committee during a hearing regarding the FBI's recommendation.[102][103]

Comey's October letter

On October 26, 2016, two weeks before the presidential election, Comey learned that FBI agents investigating an unrelated case involving former Congressman Anthony Weiner had discovered emails on Weiner's computer between his wife, Huma Abedin, and Hillary Clinton.[8] Believing it would take months to review Weiner's emails, Comey decided he had to inform Congress that the investigation was being reopened due to new information.[8] Justice Department lawyers warned him that giving out public information about an investigation was inconsistent with department policy, but he considered the policy to be "guidance" rather than an ironclad rule.[104] He decided that not to reveal the new information would be misleading to Congress and the public.[105] On October 28, Comey sent a letter to members of Congress advising them that the FBI was reviewing more emails. Members of Congress leaked the information to the public within minutes.[106] Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as well as the Clinton and Trump campaigns, called on Comey to provide additional details.

The Clinton campaign and numerous former officials and other commentators criticized his decision to announce the reopened investigation.[107][108][109][110][111][112] Law professor Richard Painter filed complaints with the United States Office of Special Counsel and the United States Office of Government Ethics over Comey's letter to Congress.[113]

The investigators received additional resources so they could complete their review of the new emails before Election Day,[8] and on November 6, 2016, Comey wrote in a second letter to Congress that "Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July".[114]

Comey was broadly criticized for his actions from both the right and the left.[115][116] According to the Clinton campaign, the letters effectively stopped the campaign's momentum by hurting Clinton's chances with voters who were receptive to Trump's claims of a "rigged system".[117] Statistician Nate Silver said that Comey had a "large, measurable impact on the race".[118][119][118][10] Other analysts, such as Democratic strategist David Axelrod, said that Comey's public actions were just