USA: James Comey Biography And Profile
Born December 14, 1960, in Yonkers, New York, James Brien Comey grew up in Allendale, New Jersey, graduating from Northern Highlands Regional High School in 1978.
Criticized for appointing big dollar campaign donors and bundlers to important federal jobs, President Barack Obama broke the mold in nominating James B. Comey to be the next FBI director. Although Comey donated more than $7,000 during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, his money went to Obama’s Republican opponents, Arizona Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney.
But Comey became a political hero on the moderate Left in January 2006, when reports surfaced regarding his role two years previously in averting a constitutional crisis by forcing the George W. Bush White House to accept certain changes to its warrantless wiretapping program.
Comey earned undergraduate degrees in Chemistry and Religion at the College of William and Mary in 1982, writing his senior thesis on liberal theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and conservative televangelist Jerry Falwell, trying to find commonality in their belief in public action. He earned his JD at the University of Chicago Law School in 1985.
After law school, Comey served as a law clerk for U.S. District Judge John M. Walker, Jr., in Manhattan, and practiced law as an associate at the New York office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. In 1987, Comey joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, working on the prosecution of the Gambino crime family and rising to deputy chief of the Criminal Division before leaving in 1993.
Comey moved South in 1996 to serve as managing assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the Richmond Division of the Eastern District of Virginia, remaining through 2001. Comey was the lead prosecutor in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing case in Saudi Arabia, and also worked as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Richmond School of Law.
Comey was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in January 2002, staying until his confirmation as Deputy Attorney General on December 11, 2003. In those two years, he led or supervised many cases, including the high-profile prosecutions of Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas, sons Timothy and Michael, and others for fraud; of Martha Stewart for securities fraud and obstruction of justice; of ImClone CEO Samuel Waksal for tax evasion; and of Frank Quattrone for obstruction of justice.
It was during his tenure as deputy attorney general from December 9, 2003, to August 15, 2005, that Comey took the stand that later made him famous. In March 2004, Comey was acting attorney general during a surgical hospitalization of Attorney General John Ashcroft. Certain aspects of a secret domestic wiretapping program run by the National Security Agency needed to be certified as lawful by the Justice Department, and Comey, based on legal conclusions reached by the Office of Legal Counsel, refused. Despite Ashcroft’s fragile condition, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Jr., and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales made an emergency visit to Ashcroft’s hospital bedside to try to gain approval from him instead.
Alerted to their plan, Comey, accompanied by FBI director Mueller, went to the hospital to help Ashcroft withstand the White House pressure. Both Comey and Mueller threatened to resign if the White House ignored the Justice Department’s legal conclusions. Comey withdrew this threat after meeting with President George W. Bush, who finally agreed to changes in the surveillance program. Comey later testified to a Senate Committee that after the Card-Gonzales visit he was “angry,” because “I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man who did not have the powers of the attorney general.”
Many human rights and civil liberties advocates are not so impressed by Comey’s record. The ACLU released a statement noting that “As the second-highest ranked Justice Department official under John Ashcroft, Comey approved some of the worst abuses committed by the Bush administration.
Specifically, the publicly available evidence indicates Comey signed off on enhanced interrogation techniques that constitute torture, including waterboarding. He also oversaw the indefinite detention without charge or trial of an American citizen picked up in the United States and then held for years in a military brig. Although Comey, despite tremendous pressure from the Bush White House, deserves credit for courageously stopping the reauthorization of a secret National Security Agency program, he reportedly approved programs that struck at the very core of who we all are as Americans.”
Comey left the Department of Justice in August 2005 to become general counsel and senior vice president at Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor. Leaving five years later, Comey joined Bridgewater Associates, LP in June 2010. After leaving Bridgewater, on February 1, 2013, Comey was appointed a senior research scholar and Hertog Fellow on National Security Law at Columbia University Law School. Since 2012, he has also served on the Defense Legal Policy Board.
A Republican, Comey has donated about $10,000 to Republican candidates and organizations over the years, including $2,300 to John McCain in 2008 and $5,000 to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign.
James Comey and his wife Patrice are the parents of five children.
– All Gov
James Comey says:
“Doubt at a high level of government is seen as weakness. And I thought doubt is strength. The wisest people I work with make decisions knowing they could be wrong.”
“The integrity of Comey is pretty much unmatched with the exception of Director Mueller.” Tim Murphy, former deputy director of the FBI.
7 Things To Know About James Comey
He opposed Bush White House officials in a dramatic standoff
Comey came into national prominence in 2007 when, during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, he told the story of a tense standoff over a federal domestic surveillance program with top officials from the administration of President George W. Bush.
The incident took place in the evening of March 10, 2004, according to Comey’s account, with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft ill and incapacitated in a hospital intensive care unit.
Top White House lawyer Alberto Gonzales (who would later become U.S. attorney general) and Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card had raced to Ashcroft’s side in an effort to have him sign off on an extension to the wiretapping program, which Justice Department attorneys had deemed illegal. The weakened Ashcroft managed to make clear his refusal and Gonzales and Card left the room — with Comey, then Ashcroft’s top deputy, watching on — without a word.
He prosecuted Martha Stewart
When lifestyle guru Martha Stewart was indicted in 2003 on a series of charges connected to a dodgy 2000 stock deal, it was Comey who brought the charges.
”This criminal case is about lying — lying to the FBI, lying to the SEC, lying to investors,” Comey, then a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a press conference. ”Martha Stewart is being prosecuted not for who she is, but because of what she did.”
Stewart was convicted on all counts in 2004 and sentenced to five months in prison. She served her time and was released in March 2005.
This was not his first time investigating the Clintons
Nor his second. The email server probe marked the third time Comey has investigated Bill or Hillary Clinton.
His first run-in came in the mid-1990s, when he joined the Senate Whitewater Committee as a deputy special counsel. There he dug into allegations that the Clintons took part in a fraud connected to a Arkansas real estate venture gone bust. No charges were ever brought against either Clinton, but the scandal would eventually lead to independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s probe that would result in the Lewinsky scandal.
In 2002, Comey, then a federal prosecutor, took over an investigation into President Bill Clinton’s 2001 pardon of financier Marc Rich, who had been indicted on a laundry list of charges before fleeing the country. The decision set off a political firestorm focused on accusations that Rich’s ex-wife Denise made donations to the Democratic Party, the Clinton Library and Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign as part of a plan to get Rich off the hook. Comey ultimately decided not to pursue the case.
The kicker: Comey himself had overseen Rich’s prosecution between 1987 and 1993.
He was locked up and held at gunpoint by a high-profile serial criminal as a teen
Comey’s first brush with the law was a traumatizing one.
In October 1977, he and his younger brother were held captive in their home by the so-called “Ramsey Rapist.” The armed man, who cops were hunting following a series of home invasions, had recently assaulted two babysitters in the area.
According to an account in the Bergen Record, the Comey brothers were held at gunpoint and locked in a bathroom inside their family’s Allendale, New Jersey, house. They escaped through a window but were confronted outside by the suspect before bolting back in and contacting police.
He was overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate in 2013
Comey became the seventh FBI director when he was confirmed by the Senate on July 29, 2013, by a 93-1 count, with Sen. Rand Paul the lone holdout.
The Kentucky Republican had threatened to block Comey’s nomination, but relented and allowed a vote after being further briefed on FBI drone surveillance policy.
Comey succeeded Robert Mueller III, who had held the job for the previous 12 years.
He was a registered Republican for many years
In his testimony Thursday on Capitol Hill, Comey insisted that his FBI is “resolutely apolitical.”
Comey himself, however, does have a partisan past — as a Republican.
“I have been a registered Republican for most of my adult life,” he said before adding that he is “not registered any longer.”
He is quite tall
The 6-foot-8-inch Comey, a basketball player like President Barack Obama, is likely the tallest FBI director in the bureau’s history. In a White House ceremony to announce his nomination, Obama winked at Comey’s height, calling him “a man who stands very tall for justice and the rule of law.”