Comey assails Bill Barr's reputation in epic NYT op-ed: ‘Trump eats your soul in small bites’
When anti-Trump conservatives such as MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and attorney George Conway address Attorney General William Barr’s vigorous defense of President Donald Trump, their tone is often one of disappointment—an assertion that they expected better from someone who previously served as attorney general under the late President George H.W. Bush. And former FBI Director James Comey offers some insights on what he sees as Trump’s negative influence on Barr and others in a May 1 op-ed for the New York Times.
“Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump,” Comey writes, “and that adds up to something they will never recover from.”
Comey cites Barr and outgoing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as two people who Trump has had a negative influence on and former Defense Secretary James Mattis as someone who refused to sacrifice his integrity.
“Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them,” Comey explains. “Sometimes, what they reveal is inspiring. For example, James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, resigned over principle—a concept so alien to Mr. Trump that it took days for the president to realize what had happened before he could start lying about the man….. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’ to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.”
Explaining the psychology of those who become Trump loyalists and those who refuse to, the former FBI director (who Trump fired in 2017) poses some questions: “How could Mr. Barr, a bright and accomplished lawyer, start channeling the president in using words like ‘no collusion’ and FBI ‘spying?’ And downplaying acts of obstruction of justice as products of the president’s being ‘frustrated and angry,’ something he would never say to justify the thousands of crimes prosecuted every day that are the product of frustration and anger? How could he write and say things about the report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, that were apparently so misleading that they prompted written protest from the special counsel himself?”
Comey also asks, “How could Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, after the release of Mr. Mueller’s report that detailed Mr. Trump’s determined efforts to obstruct justice, give a speech quoting the president on the importance of the rule of law?..... What happened to these people?”
Comey answers his questions by asserting that it takes a great deal of character to resist caving into pressure from Trump—and Barr and Rosenstein, Comey laments, lacked the type of character that Mattis displayed.
Comey concludes his op-ed by stressing that integrity is the thing one is likely to sacrifice in order to remain in Trump’s good graces.
“To stay,” Comey explains, “you must be seen as on his team. So, you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values. And then, you are lost. He has eaten your soul.”