James Comey is both wit­ness, au­thor

New book may un­der­cut his cred­i­bil­ity, some say

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Kevin John­son and Su­san Page

WASH­ING­TON – When James Comey was fired by Pres­i­dent Trump last year, the for­mer FBI di­rec­tor quickly as­sumed the man­tle of chief pros­e­cu­tion wit­ness for Rus­sia spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller.

His writ­ten record of sev­eral trou­bling en­coun­ters with Trump while FBI di­rec­tor — in­clud­ing the pres­i­dent’s re­quests for loy­alty and for the FBI to drop its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn — are at the heart of Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Trump sought to ob­struct the con­tin­u­ing ex­am­i­na­tion of Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

The wit­ness is now an au­thor. And his ex­plo­sive book, in which Comey com­pares Trump with the Mafia bosses he once pros­e­cuted, not only rep­re­sents a new cri­sis for a reel­ing White House but also is rais­ing ques­tions about the for­mer di­rec­tor’s cred­i­bil­ity as a wit­ness against the pres­i­dent.

“The book amounts to a new 300page wit­ness state­ment, and if it dif­fers at all from what he pro­vided the spe­cial coun­sel, you can be sure that there will be a chal­lenge if this case moves to an im­peach­ment or a trial,” said Jack Shar­man, a for­mer spe­cial coun­sel in the White­wa­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “This will be, at least, a pain (for Mueller) to deal with.”

The Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee al­ready has launched an of­fen­sive against the book, chal­leng­ing the for­mer di­rec­tor’s cred­i­bil­ity with a fea­ture on its web­site ti­tled “Lyin Comey.” The site in­cludes crit­i­cal tweets from Trump and com­ments from law­mak­ers ques­tion­ing Comey’s han­dling of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Hil­lary Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate email server.

For­mer FBI as­sis­tant di­rec­tor Ron Hosko said the pub­li­ca­tion likely opens the door to crit­i­cism that Comey wrote the ac­count merely to en­rich him­self.

“You can see that com­ing,” said Hosko, who worked for the for­mer di­rec­tor and has sup­ported him. “You can al­most hear the de­fense lawyer say­ing, ‘This wit­ness has a mo­tive to sell books.’ ”

In an in­ter­view with USA TO­DAY, Comey char­ac­ter­ized the book as “an obli­ga­tion to try to drive a healthy con­ver­sa­tion” about lead­er­ship and ethics.

“I learned from my wife long ago that when some­thing bad hap­pens, you should try to make some­thing good come from it,” Comey said, re­fer­ring to the loss of a young son to a pre­ventable in­fec­tion. “This is nowhere near that . ... I was fired from a job that I loved in a place that I loved work­ing. And the good I hope to come out of it is for me to of­fer a vi­sion to peo­ple, es­pe­cially young peo­ple, about what eth­i­cal lead­er­ship is.”

In A Higher Loy­alty: Truth Lies and

Lead­er­ship, he also de­fended the tim­ing of the book’s pub­li­ca­tion in the midst of the on­go­ing Rus­sia in­quiry and be­fore the re­lease of a Jus­tice Depart­ment in­spec­tor gen­eral’s ex­am­i­na­tion into the FBI’s han­dling of the Clin­ton email in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which Comey over­saw.

Comey told USA TO­DAY that he did not con­sult Mueller about the tim­ing of the book’s pub­li­ca­tion.

“It is wrong to stand idly by, or worse, to stay silent when you know bet­ter, while a pres­i­dent brazenly seeks to un­der­mine pub­lic con­fi­dence in law en­force­ment in­sti­tu­tions that were es­tab­lished to keep our lead­ers in check,” Comey wrote.

Patrick Cot­ter, a for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor, said that while there is less risk in lim­it­ing a wit­ness’s pub­lic state­ment about an on­go­ing case, Comey’s story al­ready has been the sub­ject of a full, pub­lic Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing.

“Un­less there are glar­ing in­con­sis­ten­cies in his tes­ti­mony and what he told the spe­cial coun­sel and in his book, I don’t see a prob­lem,” Cot­ter said. “It ap­pears to me that what I know about the book is that he is shar­ing his in­ner mono­logue about his in­ter­ac­tions with the pres­i­dent that he al­ready has tes­ti­fied about. He’s not chang­ing the facts.”

Cot­ter said any ar­gu­ment re­lated to a fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive also could fall flat. “As far as I know, ev­ery­body does what they do for money . ... In a per­fect world you would put wit­nesses in a cryo­genic cham­ber and only let them out when it’s time to tes­tify,” Cot­ter said. “That’s not the world we live in.”

2017 PHOTO BY JACK GRUBER/USA TO­DAY

For­mer FBI di­rec­tor James Comey’s book is in stores Tues­day.

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