Behind Comey’s claim that Trump “eats your soul”

Earlier this month, the New York Times published an op-ed by James Comey in which the former FBI director claimed that President Trump “eats your soul in small bites.” Talk about demonizing your adversaries.

Comey must not have read Robert Mueller’s report very carefully. One of Mueller’s findings is that members of Trump’s team didn’t carry out his instructions when they believed the instructions were wrongful.

Don McGahn, then the White House counsel, is perhaps the main example, but he’s certainly not the only one. The report cites Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, Reince Priebus, Rob Porter, K.T. McFarland, and others, including Comey himself.

Even Cory Lewandowski was among the “refuseniks.” According to Mueller, Trump twice pressured Lewandowski to ask Sessions to give a speech walking back his recusal from the Russia investigation. Lewandowksi didn’t do it.

His soul, and those of the others, remained intact.

Clearly, Comey isn’t writing honestly about Trump’s team. Is he writing honestly about himself?

Explaining why he served under Trump until being fired, he states:

You feel [the soul-eating] happening. It bothers you, at least to some extent. But [Trump’s] outrageous conduct convinces you that you simply must stay, to preserve and protect the people and institutions and values you hold dear. Along with Republican members of Congress, you tell yourself you are too important for this nation to lose, especially now.

You can’t say this out loud — maybe not even to your family — but in a time of emergency, with the nation led by a deeply unethical person, this will be your contribution, your personal sacrifice for America. You are smarter than Donald Trump, and you are playing a long game for your country, so you can pull it off where lesser leaders have failed and gotten fired by tweet.

Was this really Comey’s thought process when he stayed on as FBI director? Maybe. Or maybe he just really liked being FBI director.

I suspect that the real target of Comey’s op-ed isn’t Trump, but rather William Barr. Comey starts his piece by wondering how Barr, “a bright and accomplished lawyer,” could be behaving as he has since Mueller transmitted his report.

Comey’s answer? With his customary flair for the dramatic, he claims (and with a straight face) that Trump has eaten Barr’s soul.

Comey has good reason to take this approach to Barr. The Attorney General has made it clear that he suspects the Russia investigation had its origin in wrongdoing by key federal officials. Barr says that the DOJ is investigating this possibility. Such an investigation will likely lead to Comey’s doorstep.

Thus, it’s not too early for Comey to attempt to discredit Barr.

But given Barr’s standing and (I assume) their past relationship, he can’t plausibly make Barr the main villain. Thus, he attributes supernatural powers to Trump and claims, notwithstanding Mueller’s findings regarding McGahn, Lewandowsky, and others, that Barr is under some kind of nearly irresistible spell.

Okay, pal. If you want to go with that story, be my guest.

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