In an op-ed for The New York Times published Friday, former FBI Director James Comey lays out “what I want from the Mueller report.” Comey was fired by President Trump at the recommendation of deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein in order to help “restore public confidence in the FBI” after Comey’s botched handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Now, Comey is hoping that Mueller’s report will effectively do what his firing has apparently failed to do: restore public confidence in the justice system.
Comey opens by reiterating his belief that the man who fired him is “morally unfit to be president of the United States.” While he admits to believing that Trump should not be in office, Comey insists that he is “not rooting” for any particular outcome in the report — whether it finds the president to be a “criminal” or exonerates him.
“Even though I believe Mr. Trump is morally unfit to be president of the United States, I’m not rooting for Mr. Mueller to demonstrate that he is a criminal,” writes Comey. “I’m also not rooting for Mr. Mueller to ‘clear’ the president. I’m not rooting for anything at all, except that the special counsel be permitted to finish his work, charge whatever cases warrant charging and report on his work.”
Though Trump is openly welcoming the final report, and even calling for it to be released to the public, Comey writes as if the completion of the investigation and report is under threat.
“I have no idea whether the special counsel will conclude that Mr. Trump knowingly conspired with the Russians in connection with the 2016 election or that he obstructed justice with the required corrupt intent,” he states. “I also don’t care. I care only that the work be done, well and completely. If it is, justice will have prevailed and core American values will have been protected at a time when so much of our national leadership has abandoned its commitment to truth and the rule of law.”
Framing the partisanship as it relates to the Mueller investigation as being entirely one-sided — “our president and his enablers” versus Team Mueller, which Comey portrays as “apolitical” — Comey says he believes the completion of the report will be “a demonstration to the world” that U.S. justice system will not be ruled by “personal interest and tribalism.”
“I am rooting for a demonstration to the world — and maybe most of all to our president and his enablers — that the United States has a justice system that works because there are people who believe in it and rise above personal interest and tribalism,” says Comey. “That system may reach conclusions they like or it may not, but the apolitical administration of justice is the beating heart of this country. I hope we all get to see that.”
Though Comey underscores that Trump has repeatedly attacked Mueller and the FBI, he acknowledges that “he hasn’t used his authority to end Mr. Mueller’s work,” adding, “That would have been a crisis of a different order — shutting down the investigation, rather than just trying to undermine its credibility.”
Comey concludes with a confession: He does not want Trump impeached because “a significant portion of this country would see this as a coup.” Instead, Comey stresses, he wants a “resounding” defeat of Trump in 2020 to restore “the belief that the president of the United States cannot be a chronic liar who repeatedly attacks the rule of law.”