Book review: A Higher Loyalty by James Comey

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In this book, former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.

Mr. Comey served as director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017, appointed to the post by President Barack Obama. He previously served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the U.S. deputy attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush. From prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart to helping change the Bush administration’s policies on torture and electronic surveillance, overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation as well as ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Comey has been involved in some of the most consequential cases and policies of recent history.

“We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized and unethical behavior is ignored, excused or rewarded.”

Earlier this year, I read both Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury and Hillary Clinton’s What Happened. When I heard that the infamous James Comey was releasing a book about his experience as the FBI director under both Barack Obama and Donald Trump, I knew I had to read it. When a certain POTUS referred to Comey as an “untruthful slime ball,” the book rocketed up to the top of my TBR. With some furious refreshing and a little bit of luck, I ended up first on the holds list at my library and was rewarded with a copy of this book at exactly midnight on its release date.

Let me tell you, I haven’t always agreed with Comey. I think he handled the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s emails poorly, even after finishing this book. Sure, he followed protocol, but I still think there must have been a better way to go about the investigation that wouldn’t have so strongly influenced the election. That said, I think it’s important to get multiple perspectives in life. In all honesty, he did a great job with this book.

To start off, let me just say that I hadn’t realized Comey had lived such an interesting life. He was heavily involved in both Abu Ghraib (one of the first big political controversies that I remember comprehending) and the prosecution of Martha Stewart for insider trading. He also worked to bring down the mafia, which I didn’t even realize was still a thing, but apparently is. (Yikes.)

This is what I wanted when I read Fire and Fury. Comey pushes back against Trump’s accusations and allegations, but he never gets gossipy. He injects some humor into his writing but it never comes across as frivolous. He draws a lot of comparisons between Trump’s administration and the mafia, which I never would’ve picked up on my own but doesn’t seem too far from the truth. All in all, he has a nice, accessible writing style. I enjoyed this book so much more than I thought I would.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

#mm18: read locally
Comey was raised in New Jersey and discusses his childhood in New Jersey, including a terrifying experience with the Ramsey Rapist. As a bonus, he also discusses his work in Wisconsin, my home state!

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