Someone has to get former FBI director James Comey to stop tweeting. Ever since Comey revealed his anonymous Twitter account last October, he’s displayed a weird and disconcerting side of his personality on social media that can only be described as emo James Comey.
Last spring, in an impressive feat of online sleuthing, Gizmodo reporter Ashley Feinberg figured out that an anonymous Twitter account under the name Reinhold Niebuhr (consisting mostly of nature photos) actually belonged to Comey. In October, Comey confirmed it and changed the account name to his own and his handle to @Comey.
Since then, Comey’s Twitter persona has grown increasingly odd. He has a penchant for posting sentimental platitudes along with awkward pictures of himself—not selfies, mind you, he actually asks someone to take the shots—like this overwrought gazing-at-the-statue-of-liberty-at-sunset post from December:
In NYC to meet with my publisher. Hope leadership book will be useful. Reassuring to see Lady Liberty standing tall even in rough weather. pic.twitter.com/KIjb29k2Cg
— James Comey (@Comey) December 6, 2017
Or this weird back-of-the-head shot of Comey with his Christmas tree, wishing us all kindness and peace, “no matter what you believe or think.” (Thanks, emo Comey!)
Our tree is ready. May we all get and give a little more kindness this Christmas. No matter what you believe or think, I wish you peace. pic.twitter.com/0maUHCXoZG
— James Comey (@Comey) December 24, 2017
Or this one of Comey wandering through an Iowa cornfield:
Good to be back in Iowa. pic.twitter.com/TGJHOhQ9KF
— James Comey (@Comey) October 21, 2017
Also, he sometimes quotes himself. Comey’s most bizarre tweet is this self-quote from December, accompanied by a somewhat creepy collage of FBI agents that, how to put this, features a lot of butts:
“I want the American people to know this truth: The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is, and always will be, independent.”
Me (June 8, 2017) pic.twitter.com/OZ1ZiBrMNL
— James Comey (@Comey) December 3, 2017
Anyway, after a month-long lull, emo Comey was back on Tuesday, posting this walking-along-the-Potomac-reflecting-on-leadership tweet, to which the best reply was probably Mark Hemingway’s: “And when he got to the end of his walk, he looked back and saw only one set of footprints…”
I’ve heard people have missed my photo tweets. 🙂 I took this yesterday during a long, peaceful walk by the Potomac on a break from putting finishing touches on my book. I’m looking forward to its release and joining the discussion about ethical leadership. pic.twitter.com/GLcDGsSWR9
— James Comey (@Comey) February 6, 2018
Questions About Comey Are Stacking Up
It’s easy to scoff at this treacly stuff, but what’s really unsettling is the disconnect between Comey’s carefully crafted public image of an upright public servant and the details now emerging from the ongoing congressional investigation of surveillance abuse at the FBI and Department of Justice.
Ever since President Trump fired Comey last spring, the mainstream media have been at pains to assure us that the former FBI director is the last honest man in Washington—a leader dearly beloved by the FBI’s rank-and-file and a paragon of ethical leadership. He’s the good guy, Trump’s the bad guy. Of course, this has never really been true. Comey’s been around a while, and has a long history of questionable obstruction of justice cases among other instances of prosecutorial excess. This is also not the first time he’s been in the middle of partisan attempt to oust a top Republican.
But as the recent release of the House Intelligence Committee memo shows, the FBI under Comey sought a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to spy on Carter Page, a Trump campaign volunteer, using uncorroborated information bought and paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee—a detail that was never shared with the FISA court.
The application for the FISA warrant relied on what Comey himself, in testimony last summer before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called a “salacious and unverified dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele, a British ex-spy working for an opposition research firm paid by the Clinton campaign.
According to a criminal referral from top Senate investigators released Tuesday, Comey told lawmakers in a March 2017 briefing that the Steele dossier was included in the FISA application because Steele was “considered reliable due to his past work with the Bureau.” The FBI later suspended its relationship with Steele when it found out he had been talking to the press about the dossier and lying to the FBI about it, yet the FBI continued to rely on the Steele dossier in successful applications for reauthorizing the FISA warrant.
In light of all this, questions about Comey and the FBI under his leadership are stacking up. Why did Comey rely on an uncorroborated partisan dossier to get a warrant to monitor Page? Why didn’t Comey tell the FISA court that the Steele dossier was political opposition research compiled by Fusion GPS at the behest of the Clinton campaign and the DNC? Why didn’t he tell the FISA court that Steele, a supposedly reliable source, had been meeting with the press behind the FBI’s back and that the agency had cut him loose?
Perhaps the most pressing question is: Why didn’t Comey tell Trump about the dossier’s political origins when he briefed him on it last January, or when Comey discussed the matter with Trump over dinner weeks later? Senior FBI officials reportedly had known for months about the dossier’s provenance, knew its claims were unverified, and knew that Steele was a die-hard partisan who was “desperate” that Trump not win the election. Comey himself said Trump wanted the FBI to look into the origins of the dossier, and that he counseled Trump against it even though Comey already knew where the dossier came from and that its claims were uncorroborated.
Those are just some of the questions about Comey that need answers. In the meantime, his emo Twitter outbursts have lately veered into flippantly opining on the release of the House Intelligence Committee’s memo, claiming that whatever the FBI does is above reproach because the FBI is doing it, and calling Trump and Republicans “weasels and liars.” It’s a not a good look, especially at a moment when his credibility is fast eroding.
Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty,” comes out this spring. Expect more emo Comey on Twitter in the run-up to its release, but don’t hold your breath waiting for him to come clean between now and then.