Is former FBI director James Comey the unwitting successor to famed FBI head J. Edgar Hoover?
Reports of his vast collection of notes, files and records kept during his tenure with President Donald Trump (and probably with President Barack Obama), seem to indicate that Comey planned to insulate himself with a wealth of information in the event he was ever ousted or blamed for a mis-step.
According to reports that surfaced late Tuesday, Comey kept scrupulous notes of every interaction he had with Trump, resulting in a series of memos that Comey’s close friends claim could put Trump’s Presidency in serious danger.
Yesterday, the New York Times revealed that Comey had recorded a discussion with Trump from the early days of his Presidency, with Trump asking Comey to drop the investigation into the then-already fired former Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, and seeking Comey’s advice on punishing journalists who published leaked White House information.
The memo has sparked outrage among Democrats who say they believe they have enough to impeach the President on “obstruction of justice”—even though they don’t control enough seats in Congress to actually do the job.
But it’s Comey’s apparent wealth of documentation that’s the most interesting part of the story: The memos will factor prominently in whatever method Comey chooses to tell his story, including a hearing before Congress. Because the notes are considered “contemporaneous writings” and compiled in the moment as events were happening, they’re considered, by law, to be truthful enough to be admitted as evidence in court.
Since they seem to be the only ongoing record of Trump’s actions (that has been uncovered so far), the memos could be key in any Congressional investigation and subsequent action.
Of course, its unlikely that Comey was regularly feeding his diary false information, Gone Girl-style, on the assumption that he’d one day use it to fell his enemies, but that’s not to say that Comey didn’t keep meticulous records in order to protect himself, and provide an insurance policy against his employer.
According to Comey’s close friend who spoke to reporters at the NYT, Comey has detailed notes and personal reflections from every interaction he had with Trump, and double that for times when Comey thought Trump was acting in a way that could cause trouble.
The habit isn’t unusual for an FBI director—at least, not one in the 20th century—or in Washington, generally. J. Edgar Hoover kept thousands of pages of personal documents, organized into hundreds of individual files dating back to the late 1920s, locked in his office. The “Official & Confidential” files included notes on political leaders, members of the media and anyone else Hoover thought could potentially be a threat to his position.
Comey could have made a similar effort, compiling endless information either to protect himself—or seek revenge. At this point, just a week after Comey was booted from his post while on a work trip to Los Angeles, it would be the latter.
Whether those memos translate into enough to impeach a President remains to be seen, but whatever the outcome, Comey’s writings are likely to provide some interesting fodder for a very eager news media.