James Comey

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James Brien "Jim" Comey, Jr. (born December 14, 1960) is an American lawyer who served as the seventh Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from September 4, 2013 until his dismissal by President Donald Trump on May 9, 2017. [75]

Comey was the United States Deputy Attorney General from December 2003 to August 2005, serving in President George W. Bush's administration. As Deputy Attorney General, Comey was the second-highest-ranking official in the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), and ran the day-to-day operations of the Department. He was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from January 2002 to Decembwer 2005, prior to becoming the U.S. Deputy Attorney General.

In December 2003, as U.S. Deputy Attorney General, Comey appointed the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, Illinois, a close friend and former colleague Patrick Fitzgerald, as Special Counsel to head the CIA Leak Grand Jury Investigation, after Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself.

In August 2005, Comey left the DOJ and became General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland. 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 a Hertog Fellow on National Security Law at Columbia Law School in New York City, NY. He serves on HSBC Holdings Board of Directors, based in London, United Kingdom.

In September 2013, Comey was appointed Director of the FBI.[3]



Early life and education

Born in Yonkers, New York, Comey grew up in Allendale, New Jersey, the son of Joan and J. Brien Comey.[4] His father worked in corporate real estate and his mother was a computer consultant and homemaker.[5] Comey is of Irish heritage.[6] He attended Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale.[7] Comey graduated from the College of William and Mary (1982), majoring in Chemistry and Religion. His senior thesis analyzed the liberal theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and the conservative televangelist Jerry Falwell, emphasizing their common belief in public action.[8] He received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Chicago Law School.

Early career (1985–2001)

After law school, Comey served as a law clerk for then-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 served as Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division. He helped prosecute the Gambino crime family.[9]

From 1996-2001, Comey served as Managing Assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the Richmond Division of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. In 1996, Comey acted as deputy special counsel to the Senate Whitewater Committee.[10] He also served as the lead prosecutor in the case concerning the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.[11] While in Richmond, Comey served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Richmond School of Law.[12]

Bush years (2002–2005)

U.S. Attorney

He 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.[12] Among his first tasks was to take over the investigation into President Bill Clinton's controversial pardon of Marc Rich.[10] In November 2002, he led the prosecution of three men involved in one of the largest identity fraud cases in American history. The fraud had lasted two years and resulted in thousands of people across the country collectively losing well over $3 million.[13] He also led the indictment of Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas of bank fraud, wire fraud, and securities fraud. His sons: Timothy J. Rigas and Michael J. Rigas as well as executives James Brown and Michael Mulcahey were also charged with participation in these crimes. Rigas was convicted of the charges in the summer of 2004 and on June 27, 2005, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Adelphia Corporation was forced to file for bankruptcy after it acknowledged it took $3.1 billion in false loans. It was "one of the most elaborate and extensive corporate frauds in United States history."[14]

In February 2003, Comey led the prosecution of Martha Stewart who was considered for the charges of securities fraud, obstruction of justice, and lying to an FBI agent. 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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

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. The certification was required under White House procedures in order for the program to continue.[19]

After Comey's refusal, the newspaper reported, Andrew H. Card Jr., White House Chief of Staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and future Attorney General, made a visit to the George Washington University Hospital to attempt to win approval directly from Ashcroft for the program.[19] According to the 2007 memoir of Jack Goldsmith, who had been head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the time, Comey went to the hospital to give Ashcroft support in withstanding pressure from the White House.

Comey confirmed these events took place (but declined to confirm the specific program) in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on 16 May 2007.[20][22][23][24][25][26] FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, like Comey, also supported Ashcroft's decision; both men were prepared to resign if the White House ignored the Department of Justice's legal conclusions on the wiretapping issue. 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. AG is feeble, barely articulate, clearly stressed." Comey withdrew his threat to resign after meeting directly with President Bush, who gave his support to making changes in the surveillance program.[3]

Post-Bush years (2005–present)

In April 2005, Comey announced that he was leaving the Department of Justice in the fall. 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 defense contractor.[3] Comey's tenure took effect on October 1, 2005,[3] 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.[3] On 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.[4] He was also appointed to the board of directors of the London-based financial institution HSBC Holdings,[4] 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.[4][4] Since 2012, he has also served on the Defense Legal Policy Board.[4]

Testimony before congressional committees

Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy

In May 2007, Comey testified before both the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and the House Judiciary subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law on the U.S. Attorney dismissal scandal. His testimony contradicted that of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who 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 in order to function.[36]

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.[36]

Supreme Court consideration

Politico reported in May 2009 that 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.[4] 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, "[Comey] 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."[4]

Same-sex marriage

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.[4]

FBI Director

In May 2013, it was reported,[4][5] and in June 2013 it was made official, that President Barack Obama would nominate Comey to be the next Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, replacing outgoing director Robert Mueller.[5] Comey was reportedly chosen over 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.[5][5]

Comey was confirmed by the Senate on July 29, 2013, for a full ten-year term running the Federal Bureau of Investigation.[5] He was sworn in as FBI director at 4:32 pm on September 4, 2013.[5]

Police and African Americans

In February 2015, Comey delivered a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., regarding the relationship between police and the African American community.[47][5]

Comey said. “At many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo — a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups,” including his own Irish ancestors. Law enforcement often treated the Irish unfairly and often regarded them as drunks and criminals in the early 20th century, he said. “The Irish had some tough times, but little compares to the experience on our soil of black Americans.”[47]

Deep-rooted societal problems often lead young black men to crime and create tensions with law enforcement, he said.[47]

“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,” Comey said. “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.”[47]

In October 2015, Comey gave a speech raising concerns that body worn video results in less effective policing, contradicting the President’s public position.[49] Days later, President Obama met with Comey in the Oval Office to address the issue.[49]

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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[6] 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."[6]

Ambassador Mull issued an apology for Comey's remarks,[6] but when Comey was asked to apologize, he handwrote a letter expressing "regret:" "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."[6][6] When asked if he was apologizing, he said, "I don’t. Except I didn't say Poland was responsible for the Holocaust. In a way I wish very much that I hadn't mentioned any countries because it's distracted some folks from my point." According to formal agreements during the war, Hungary was officially allied with Nazi Germany, but Poland was not.

Hillary Clinton email 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.[57] During an unusual 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".[57] Comey's public comments came after Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that she would "fully" accept the recommendation of the FBI regarding the probe. It was the first time the FBI disclosed its prosecutorial recommendation to the Department of Justice publicly.[57] On July 7, 2016, Comey was grilled by a Republican-led House committee during a hearing regarding the FBI's recommendation.[6][6]

Government surveillance oversight

In his July 2013 FBI confirmation hearing, Comey said that the oversight mechanisms of the U.S. government have sufficient privacy protections.[6] In a November 2014 New York Times Magazine article, historian Beverly Gage reported that Comey keeps on his desk a copy of the FBI request to wiretap Martin Luther King, Jr., "as a reminder of the bureau's capacity to do wrong."[61]

He and his agency were criticized for their request at Apple to install a "back door" for U.S. surveillance agencies to use. Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden stated: "Jim would like a back door available to American law enforcement in all devices globally. And, frankly, I think on balance that actually harms American safety and security, even though it might make Jim's job a bit easier in some specific circumstances."[7]

Personal life

Comey and his wife Patrice Failor are the parents of five children.[2] He is of Irish descent and was raised in a Roman Catholic household in Bergen County, New Jersey.[7][7] Comey subsequently joined the United Methodist Church and has taught Sunday school in the past.[2]

Although Comey was a registered Republican for most of his adult life, he disclosed during Congressional testimony on July 7, 2016 that he is no longer registered in any party.[65] In the past Comey donated to U.S. Senator John McCain’s campaign in the 2008 presidential election and to Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign in the 2012 presidential election.[7]


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Created: July 27, 2016, 9:47 a.m.
Last Modified: May 9, 2017, 11:44 p.m.