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A Higher Loyalty

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Butterbean --- 237 days ago -


Butterbean --- 236 days ago -

The day of the firing:

Fittingly, it all finally ended in a blizzard of awful behavior.

I was in Los Angeles on May 9, 2017, to attend a Diversity Agent Recruiting event. This was an effort we had previously mounted in Washington and Houston, where we invited talented young lawyers, engineers, and business school graduates of color to come listen to why they should take cuts in pay and become FBI special agents.

I loved these events-which were in keeping with our quest to attract more minority agents-and the two so far had been hugely successful. Diversifying the Bureau was the key to our sustained effectiveness.

As noted earlier, the major obstacle was that so many young people, especially high-potential black and Latino men and women, thought of the FBI as "The Man." Who would want to work for "The Man"?

I loved these events because it gave me and other FBI leaders the chance to show these talented people a bit more about what "The Man," and the woman, of the FBI were really like.

These young people were hungry to make a difference, and we could show them what lives of service, sacrifice, and making an extraordinary difference for good looked like. Almost nobody leaves the FBI once they taste the life of a special agent.

My mission was to dare these great young people to try to join that life.

The yield from events in Washington and Houston had been surprisingly high. I was coming to L.A. to speak to more than five hundred potential new agents. I knew that audience held many future special agents.

I couldn?t wait to connect with them.

Although the recruiting event was in the evening, I went early enough to have time to visit the FBI's Los Angeles field office. I was committed to walking around FBI offices everywhere, floor by floor and cubicle by cubicle, meeting every employee and shaking every hand. It was worth the effort because I could tell it meant a lot to our people to have the director thank them personally.

In a big organization like the FBI, with offices around the country and the world, it helps to remind people that you appreciate the hard work they do. That you care about them, not just professionally, but about them-and their families.

Every time I traveled, I carved out hours to visit the field offices to meet the amazing people that staffed them.

I met dozens of L.A. employees standing at their desks. The L.A. office leadership had also done something thoughtful and assembled those who didn't have desks-the cleaning staff and those working in the communications room. They were all sitting at tables in a large command center room. I began addressing them at about 2 P.M. Los Angeles time, 5 P.M. in Washington.

I explained that we had rewritten the FBI's mission statement in 2015 to make it shorter and to better express the importance of our responsibility. Our newly defined mission was to "protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States."

I said I wanted it shorter so everyone would know it, connect to it, and share it with neighbors and especially young people. I expected everyone to realize --

And then I stopped in midsentence. 

Butterbean --- 235 days ago -

Nobody called:

On the TV screens along the back wall I could see COMEY RESIGNS in large letters. The screens were behind my audience, but they noticed my distraction and started turning in their seats.

I laughed and said, "That's pretty funny. Somebody put a lot of work into that one." I continued my thought. "There are no support employees in the FBI. I expect--

The message on the screens now changed.

Across three screens, displaying three different news stations, I now saw the same words: COMEY FIRED. I wasn't laughing any longer. There was a buzz in the room. I told the audience, "Look, I'm going to go figure out what's happening, but whether that's true or not, my message won't change, so let me finish it and then shake your hands." I said, "Every one of you is personally responsible for protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution of the United States. We all have different roles, but the same mission. Thank you for doing it well." I then moved among the employees, shaking every hand, and walked to a private office to find out what was happening.

The FBI director travels with a communications team so he can be reached by the Justice Department or White House in seconds, any time of day or night. But nobody called. Not the attorney general. Not the deputy attorney general. Nobody.

I actually had seen the attorney general the day before. Days earlier, I had met alone with the newly confirmed deputy attorney general at his request so he could ask my advice on how to do his job-which I held from 2003 to 2005.

In late October, shortly before the election, the now-DAG had been serving as the United States Attorney in Baltimore, and he invited me to speak to his entire staff about leadership and why I made the decisions I did in July about the Clinton email case. He praised me then as an inspirational leader.

Now, he not only didn't call me, he had authored a memo to justify my firing, describing my conduct during 2016 as awful and unacceptable. That made absolutely no sense to me in light of our recent contacts.

All I knew was what was being reported in the media. After much scrambling, we learned that a White House employee was down on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, trying to deliver a letter to me from the president. I took a call from my wife, who said she and the kids had seen the news. I replied that I didn't know whether it was true and we were trying to find out what was going on. Pat Fitzgerald called and I told him the same thing.

I took an emotional call from General John Kelly, then the secretary of Homeland Security. He said he was sick about my firing and that he intended to quit in protest. He said he didn't want to work for dishonorable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner. I urged Kelly not to do that, arguing that the country needed principled people around this president.

Especially this president. 

Butterbean --- 234 days ago -

Into the unknown:

My amazing assistant, Althea James, got the letter from the White House guy at the front door down on Pennsylvania Avenue. She scanned it and emailed it to me.

I was fired, effective immediately, by the president who had repeatedly praised me and asked me to stay, based on a recommendation from the deputy attorney general, who had praised me as a great leader, a recommendation accepted by the attorney general, who was both recused from all Russia-related matters and who, according to President Trump at our dinner, thought I was great.

The reasons for that firing were lies, but the letter was real. I felt sick to my stomach and slightly dazed.

I stepped out of the office, and a large group of L.A. FBI employees had gathered. Many were tearful. I spoke to them briefly, telling them that the FBI's values were bigger and stronger than any one of us. It broke my heart to leave them, I said, but they should know it was their quality as people-honest, competent, and independent-that made this so painful.

I hated to leave them.

I went to the office of the Los Angeles FBI leader, Deirdre Fike. I had chosen her for that job and trusted her judgment. My first instinct, and hers, was that I should attend the diversity event anyway, as a private citizen. This was something I cared deeply about, and I could still urge these talented men and women to join this life, even if I would no longer be part of it. Eventually, though, we decided I would be a distraction because a media circus would crash the event. I could do more harm than good. I decided to go home.

Which raised the question: How would I get home? I left that decision to the man who minutes earlier had become the acting director of the FBI, my deputy, Andrew McCabe. The news had been just as big a surprise to him as it had been to me.

Now he was in command. He and his team had to figure out what was lawful and appropriate. In the shock of the moment, I gave some thought to renting a convertible and driving the twenty-seven hundred miles back alone. But then I realized I was neither single nor crazy.

The acting director decided that, given the FBI's continuing responsibility for my safety, the best course was to take me back on the plane I came on, with a security detail and a flight crew who had to return to Washington anyway. We got in the vehicle to head for the airport. 

Butterbean --- 234 days ago -

The president's vitriol:

News helicopters tracked our journey from the L.A. FBI office to the airport. As we rolled slowly in L.A. traffic, I looked to my right.

In the car next to us, a man was driving while watching an aerial news feed of us on his mobile device. He turned, smiled at me through his open window, and gave me a thumbs-up. I'm not sure how he was holding the wheel.

As we always did, we pulled onto the airport tarmac with a police escort and stopped at the stairs of the FBI plane. My usual practice was to go thank the officers who had escorted us, but I was so numb and distracted that I almost forgot to do it.

My special assistant, Josh Campbell, as he often did, saw what I couldn't. He nudged me and told me to go thank the cops.

I did, shaking each hand, and then bounded up the airplane stairs. I couldn't look at the pilots or my security team for fear that I might get emotional. They were quiet.

The helicopters then broadcast our plane's taxi and takeoff. Those images were all over the news.

President Trump, who apparently watches quite a bit of TV at the White House, saw those images of me thanking the cops and flying away. They infuriated him. Early the next morning, he called McCabe and told him he wanted an investigation into how I had been allowed to use the FBI plane to return from California.

McCabe replied that he could look into how I had been allowed to fly back to Washington, but that he didn't need to. He had authorized it, McCabe told the president. The plane had to come back, the security detail had to come back, and the FBI was obligated to return me safely.

The president exploded. He ordered that I was not to be allowed back on FBI property again, ever. My former staff boxed up my belongings as if I had died and delivered them to my home.

The order kept me from seeing and offering some measure of closure to the people of the FBI, with whom I had become very close.

Trump had done a lot of yelling during the campaign about McCabe and his former candidate wife. He had been fixated on it ever since.

Still in a fury at McCabe, Trump then asked him, "Your wife lost her election in Virginia, didn't she?"

"Yes, she did," Andy replied.

The president of the United States then said to the acting director of the FBI, "Ask her how it feels to be a loser" and hung up the phone. 

Butterbean --- 233 days ago -

The chance to address the FBI:

On June 8, 2017, I testified publicly before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which wanted to hear about my interactions with President Trump. For whatever reason, the president had only increased people's interest in my perspectives.

I decided to write an account of some of my dealings with him and submit it in advance to the committee, so that I wouldn't need to speak for a long time at the start of my testimony, and to give the senators a chance to digest what I wrote and ask follow-up questions.

I wanted to use my brief opening statement to accomplish one thing-to say good-bye to the people of the FBI, something President Trump did not have the grace or charity of spirit to allow me to do. It also allowed me to deny, on their behalf and mine, the lies the administration had told about the FBI being in disarray.

I knew they would be watching and I could speak directly to them.

I practiced what I wanted to say in front of Patrice and one of our daughters. They were shocked that I intended to speak without notes, but I told them it had to come from the heart and that, if I brought a text, I would end up staring at it.

As nerve-racking as it was to speak without notes in front of millions of people, that was the way it would mean the most to the people of the FBI. Patrice was also concerned that in my nervousness, I would smile like a fool or frown as if somebody had died. I had to find a place between those two.

I questioned my decision to go without notes as I stood in a conference room waiting to walk into the Senate hearing room. What if I freeze? What if I get all tangled up in my words? I don't normally get nervous in public, but this was nuts. But it was too late.

I walked with the leaders of the committee down the long private hall behind the dais, turned left, and stepped into something surreal. I have seen lots of cameras in my day and heard my share of shutter clicks.

Nothing compared to this scene. 

Butterbean --- 233 days ago -

The opening statement:

When I was appointed FBI Director in 2013, I understood that I served at the pleasure of the President. Even though I was appointed to a 10-year term, which Congress created in order to underscore the importance of the FBI being outside of politics and independent, I understood that I could be fired by a President for any reason or for no reason at all.

And on May the 9th, when I learned that I had been fired, for that reason I immediately came home as a private citizen. But then the explanations, the shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me.

They confused me because the President and I had had multiple conversations about my job, both before and after he took office, and he had repeatedly told me I was doing a great job and he hoped I would stay. And I had repeatedly assured him that I did intend to stay and serve out the remaining six years of my term.

He told me repeatedly that he had talked to lots of people about me, including our current attorney general, and had learned that I was doing a great job and that I was extremely well liked by the FBI workforce.

So it confused me when I saw on television the President saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation and learned, again from the media, that he was telling privately other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russia investigation.

I was also confused by the initial explanation that was offered publicly, that I was fired because of the decisions I had made during the election year.

That didn't make sense to me for a whole bunch of reasons, including the time and all the water that had gone under the bridge since those hard decisions that had to be made. That didn't make any sense to me.

And although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI Director, the administration then chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader.

Those were lies, plain and simple, and I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them and I'm so sorry that the American people were told them.

I worked every day at the FBI to help make that great organization better. And I say "help" because I did nothing alone at the FBI. There are no indispensable people at the FBI. The organization's great strength is that its values and abilities run deep and wide.

The FBI will be fine without me. The FBI's mission will be relentlessly pursued by its people, and that mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.

I will deeply miss being part of that mission, but this organization and its mission will go on long beyond me and long beyond any particular administration. 

Butterbean --- 232 days ago -

The epilog:

I AM WRITING IN A time of great anxiety in my country. I understand the anxiety, but also believe America is going to be fine. I choose to see opportunity as well as danger.

Donald Trump's presidency threatens much of what is good in this nation. We all bear responsibility for the deeply flawed choices put before voters during the 2016 election, and our country is paying a high price: this president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven, and about personal loyalty.

We are fortunate some ethical leaders have chosen to serve and to stay at senior levels of government, but they cannot prevent all of the damage from the forest fire that is the Trump presidency.

Their task is to try to contain it.

Policies come and go. Supreme Court justices come and go. But the core of our nation is our commitment to a set of shared values that began with George Washington-to restraint and integrity and balance and transparency and truth. If that slides away from us, only a fool would be consoled by a tax cut or a different immigration policy.

I wrote this book because I hope it will be useful to people living among the flames who are thinking about what comes next. I also hope it will be useful to readers long after the flames are doused, by inspiring them to choose a higher loyalty, to find truth among lies, and to pursue ethical leadership. 

Butterbean --- 232 days ago -

So it ends

The personal sense of humor throughout surprised and delighted me.

I found the book to be believable and closely matched to what I recall on newscasts of the time period. A good, solid, honest read.

Your critiques or opinions are encouraged. 

I_won't_tell --- 232 days ago -

Good riddance to bad rubbish.


fuzz81 --- 232 days ago -

If it wasn?t a political decision, what was it? A lack of any evidence of the conspiracy theorists claims? Yep. 

Emperor of Kingwood --- 231 days ago -

Its pretty clear that Comey and Strzok were in the tank for Clinton. This became painfully obvious when Comey made the no indictment announcement on Clintons email investigation instead of Lynch. That's not the job of the FBI and unprecedented. Cops don't make the indictment decision, federal prosecutors do.

The other glaring problem is the wording of the announcement where one word was replaced and the behest of Strzok and Comey that took it out of being an indictable offense.

Comey was used by Lynch and Clinton. 

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