Late in the 2016 election, former FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress announcing a renewed investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails, a letter that polling suggests may have had a major impact on the outcome. After the race was over, according to Comey's upcoming book, he got some solace from none other than Trump's predecessor. Former President Barack Obama apparently comforted Comey after the election, and it almost brought him to tears.
The details of the story are laid out in freshly released excerpts from Comey's upcoming book, titled A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership. According to Comey, Obama met with him after Trump's dramatic and unexpected 2016 win ― he defeated Clinton soundly in the Electoral College, despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million ― and reassured him about his decision-making.
"I picked you to be FBI director because of your integrity and your ability," Obama said to Comey, according to excerpts released on Thursday. "I want you to know that nothing — nothing — has happened in the last year to change my view."
"Boy, were those words I needed to hear. ... I’m just trying to do the right thing," Comey replied, writing that he was on the verge of tears at the comfort Obama offered.
"I know, I know," Obama responded.
Comey, 57, ultimately continued on as FBI director when Trump took office, and that's not at all uncommon. FBI directors serve 10-year terms in order to insulate them from changing political tides. However, mere months into Trump's first year, Comey was unceremoniously fired, bringing his career in public life to an abrupt end.
In a subsequent interview with NBC News' Lester Holt, Trump admitted that he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he made the decision to fire Comey, leading critics to accuse him of obstruction of justice.
This uproar led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has indeed examined whether Trump committed obstruction of justice, according to reports. Trump himself has vigorously denied wrongdoing in the Russia investigation, repeatedly insisting that it's a "ruse" and "fake news."
Comey would eventually testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, and among other things, claimed that Trump asked him to halt the FBI's investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Flynn has since been indicted by the Mueller team, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and is reportedly cooperating with the investigation.
The story about Obama comforting Comey is notable, given that the latter publicly absorbed a lot of fire from the Democratic Party following Clinton's loss. Many Democrats blamed Comey and his 11th-hour letter about Clinton's emails for swinging the election to Trump, whether in part or in whole. Prominent political data journalist Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight has also argued, based on polls before and after Comey's letter was sent, that the letter was likely decisive in the outcome.
The Obama anecdote is, based on what's been reported from excerpts so far, not the only compelling and politically relevant story in Comey's book. It also touches on his interactions with Trump, whom he calls "unethical" and "untethered to truth," and whose leadership style he compares to that of a mafia boss.
"The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth," Comey says of Trump, according to The New York Times.
If you're curious to see what Comey has to say for yourself, the book is due to be released next week, on Tuesday, April 17, and will be available both in physical bookstores and online retailers. There will also be an audiobook version read by Comey himself, so you'll get to hear from the man in his own words.