Are there times, in the dead of night, just after Donald Trump has appalled the world with some newly horrific act, when James Comey is gripped by the dreaded thought: It was me who put that man in power?
The answer Comey gives is unexpectedly swift and direct. “Yes, actually. Mostly because people say that to me all the time. So I hear that quite a bit.” And what does he do with that thought? “It’s very painful. And I sometimes wonder, if I could go back in time, would I do something deeply unprincipled? I wouldn’t. All it does is make it painful, [because] I think Donald Trump is doing – and will do – great damage to my country. But that just adds to the pain.”
It has been 13 months since Trump fired Comey from the job he loved, as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Comey only learned he had been sacked as he was addressing FBI agents in Los Angeles, when the news flashed across TV screens at the back of the room.) Out of office he might be, but he is rarely out of the news. When he and I met this week – in Berlin, as Comey promotes European editions of his well-reviewed and bestselling memoir, A Higher Loyalty – the former FBI director was dealing with the fallout of last week’s report by the inspector general of the Justice Department into the two pivotal decisions Comey took in 2016, decisions that seemed first to save the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and then to bury it.