James Comey cut an unorthodox path as FBI director, compelled by what he described as strongly held convictions to speak with unusual candor and eloquence about the bureau’s work. It’s a combination of qualities that may come back to haunt the president who fired him, the Associated Press reports. Comey’s ouster last week, while his FBI led an investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, raises the potential that a man defined by his independent streak, willingness to buck protocol and a flair for the dramatic could resurface to rebut White House efforts to smear his reputation. “He’s not shy, and he’s got a tremendous moral compass,” said former FBI assistant director Jim Yacone. “Above all, he will want to see the truth come out.”
Comey’s reputation for independence manifested itself in a 2004 hospital room clash with fellow Bush administration officials over a domestic surveillance program. It was a moment in history that he recounted three years later to a captivated congressional audience. At the FBI, he occasionally got ahead of Obama administration messaging or sometimes split with it altogether, by injecting himself into weighty public policy discussions. He floated the disputed idea that a violent crime spike might be linked to police officers becoming less active from fear of being caught on video. Even after the Obama White House said there was no evidence to support the assertion, Comey repeated it. In a speech quoting the musical “Avenue Q,” he declared that the U.S. was at a crossroads on matters of race and policing. He said minorities in poor neighborhoods often inherit a “legacy of crime and prison” while officers in those same neighborhoods may take “lazy mental shortcuts” in dealing with suspicious situations. Comey’s outspokenness sometimes rankled Obama administration officials.