Former FBI Director James Comey spoke Tuesday in Chicago, a day after the person who fired him, President Donald Trump, visited the city to speak at a conference of police chiefs.
Comey served as deputy attorney general under former President George W. Bush and as FBI director from 2013 to 2017.
He gave remarks on leadership at his alma mater, the University of Chicago Law School, and did not hold back his opinions on Trump.
“This leader knows nothing about leadership,” Comey told the assembled law students Tuesday. He says he decided to devote his current public platform to speaking about the qualities of effective leadership. Comey says he believes one of his bosses displayed them, and the other did not.
“I found President Obama to be an extraordinarily confident person,” Comey said. “His successor was the polar opposite. Deeply insecure.”
Comey recounted how he found out he was fired by Trump while on a recruitment trip to Los Angeles.
“I looked at the cable news and they all said ‘Comey resigns,’” he said.
Comey has received criticism from Attorney General William Barr, for what Barr referred to as a “lack of leadership,” and has frequently been the subject of scorn from Trump. Barr is currently overseeing what has been reported as a criminal probe into the origins of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections – an investigation in which Comey played a key role. Comey did not address the probe, but scoffed at the notion that a deep state of intelligence bureaucrats in Washington are out to get the president.
“There is no deep state in the United States, except in this sense: there’s a deep culture in the intelligence community, military community, civil service community, law enforcement community that goes into bedrock. Which is, the rule of law matters, apolitical exercise of law matters, and the truth matters,” he said.
Comey defended his handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server, noting the announcement to congressional leaders that he had reopened the investigation came three years ago this week – just days before the 2016 presidential election.
“Painful as it is, I actually still feel comfortable with that decision. I wish to God we hadn’t been involved. But we had something to do with it, and we were faced with a decision that was excruciating, and both options were bad,” he said.
But Comey also expressed optimism, saying he feels the Trump era could serve to remind citizens of different backgrounds that their political differences are small in the grand scheme of things.
“We don’t come from common culture, it’s this polyglot collections of humans that is bound together by a glue that I don’t think has ever been used before: a set of truths that we all have in common,” he said.
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