“The Department of Justice,” James Comey explained on Thursday evening, “has a duty of candor to the courts and to Congress.”
The former FBI director was talking about William Barr and the “less than honorable” way that Comey believes the attorney general described Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report—in Barr’s summary letter to Congress, during the press conference he held before releasing the redacted document to the public, and in a Senate hearing afterward. “His testimony was not candid,” Comey said.
Comey has as many detractors as, and possibly more than, Barr does, but credibly accusing him of not being candid is hard. Indeed, Comey’s steadfast commitment to “a duty of candor” explains a lot about his rocky career in public life, both where he went right and where he arguably went wrong. For better or worse, he’s rarely been silent, and rarely evasive. That combination has helped shape public perception not only about his time at the Justice Department, but also about his post-FBI career as a Donald Trump gadfly.
On Thursday, Comey addressed a national audience at his own CNN town hall—or at least the couple million viewers, apparently including President Trump, who haven’t gotten tired of hearing from him in recent months. Two years after the president fired him, Comey has been just about everywhere: writing in the pages of The New York Times, appearing on CBS This Morning, joking about running for president, posting contemplative (and in some cases, inscrutable) photos on Twitter. His town hall, a venue typically reserved for presidential candidates, was actually his second solo session on CNN in a little more than a year—the network gave him an hour to hawk the initial release of his book, and another one timed to this week’s debut of the paperback version.