by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
When President Trump suddenly fired FBI director James Comey in May 2017, quite a few retired bureau officials eagerly defended Comey’s record as director, and denounced Trump’s abrupt, seemingly self-serving decision. But some of those same retired FBI agents are now turned off by the pugnacious, high-profile persona of the former director as he prepares to launch the book tour for his autobiography, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.
In 25 years at the FBI, James Gagliano handled a wide variety of duties. … Back in June 2017, when Comey was preparing to testify before the Senate, Gagliano said, “Nobody’s going to question Comey’s honor and his character” and said he was “disgusted” with the way that Trump treated the former director.
Now, Gagliano says he was once a “mild fan” of Comey, but has been unhappy with the former director’s decision to venture into the public eye, writing a tell-all book and promoting it on a highly visible press tour.
“This current effort to meet the president in the public square, at his own game of slinging mud and punching and contributing smugness to the debate, it’s a bad look for him,” Gagliano says. “I think it’s going to diminish the FBI, and I think it’s going to diminish whatever’s left of Comey’s reputation.”
Former special agent Bobby Chacon, who now works in Hollywood as a technical advisor and story consultant, has had a similar change of heart. Back when President Trump didn’t even tell Comey that he was fired in person or by phone, Chacon bristled. “Nobody deserves to be treated like that,” he told the Guardian. But since then, he has come to concur that Comey is burning through the goodwill he accumulated over the course of his career in the bureau. …
… Nancy Savage, executive director of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI and a 34-year veteran of the bureau, believes that a key moment for Comey’s reputation in the bureau was his July 5, 2016, press conference, criticizing Clinton for “extremely careless” handling of classified information but concluding that “no reasonable prosecutor” would choose to press criminal charges.
“Comey was well liked and well thought of as a director overall by FBI employees, although many former agents believed he crossed the line when he publicly declined prosecution of Hilary Clinton,” Savage says.