Comey talks Trump, what's next for him during UConn speech

James Comey, former FBI  Chief, shakes hands with UConn President Susan Herbst following a talk on Monday, October 15, 2018 at the school's Jorgensen Center.  The event was part of the lecture series,  Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum, and open to UConn students, faculty and staff.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
James Comey, former FBI Chief, shakes hands with UConn President Susan Herbst following a talk on Monday, October 15, 2018 at the school's Jorgensen Center. The event was part of the lecture series, Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum, and open to UConn students, faculty and staff. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

Storrs — Former FBI Director James Comey wasted no time Monday night during a speech at the University of Connecticut in talking about his firing by President Donald Trump.

Just minutes into a roughly half-hour speech to a receptive audience at UConn’s Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, Comey recounted how he learned of his firing, which he initially thought was a prank, while speaking with FBI employees in Los Angeles.

Comey, 57, who was named FBI director by former President Barack Obama in 2013, was fired by Trump in May 2017.

After his firing, which Comey said surprised him and left him feeling numb, his wife, Patrice, began prodding him about what he was going to do next. After he and Patrice lost their son Colin just nine days after he was born in the summer of 1995 from a common yet preventable bacterial infection, she advocated for changes in medical practice. After he lost his job, she asked Comey: “What good are you going to make follow this?”

As he read news about politics, the entertainment industry, sports, and “so many other parts of our lives,” he realized there was “so much bad leadership, so much lying,” and he worried that would deter young people, especially, from wanting to become leaders. So he decided to “use his voice to try paint a picture” of what leadership should look like, through his own mistakes, things he’s learned.

“I never wanted to be a celebrity. I never wanted to be an unemployed celebrity,” said Comey, whose book "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership" was published in April.

Comey’s speech, a mix of humor and more serious moments, was part of the Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issue Forum series. The speech, for which Comey was paid about $100,000, was funded by the Fusco family. Comey did not take questions from the media but did participate in a 45-minute question-and-answer session with UConn President Susan Herbst after his speech.

His speech covered a wide range of topics, including serving under former presidents Obama and George W. Bush, whom he called institutionalists, who were “deeply respectful” of the distance between the president and the FBI director, and who “used humor to great effect.”

“I have never seen President Trump laugh,” he said. “Laughing requires a balance of confidence and humility.”

Comey served as the deputy attorney general under Bush and FBI director under Obama.

When asked by Herbst if he has ever thought about running for political office, he said, “I’m never going to run for political office.” He wants to continue teaching and said his next venture will be helping his wife, a court-appointed special advocate, to write a book about nontraditional families (the couple have been foster parents). He explained his role will mainly to be use his name recognition to “help her get her message out.”

He told Herbst, if he had to do it again, he likely would not change the way he handled the Hillary Clinton email scandal.

As for Trump’s critiques of the FBI and DOJ and how it impacts the work the departments do, Comey said the people he’s talked to are of two minds. They find it “demoralizing” because their neighbors, friends and family ask them about it. But on the other hand, they’re “fiercely proud of the mission and know that it will go on long after any president and they’ll be OK in the long run.”

j.bergman@theday.com

 

James Comey, former FBI  Chief, speaks UConn President Susan Herbst following a talk on Monday, October 15, 2018 at the school's Jorgensen Center.  The event was part of a lecture series, Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum, and open to UConn students, faculty and staff.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
James Comey, former FBI Chief, speaks UConn President Susan Herbst following a talk on Monday, October 15, 2018 at the school's Jorgensen Center. The event was part of a lecture series, Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum, and open to UConn students, faculty and staff. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
A crowd listens as James Comey, former FBI  Chief, speaks Monday, October 15, 2018 at UConn's Jorgensen Center.  The event was part of the lecture series, Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum, and open to UConn students, faculty and staff.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
A crowd listens as James Comey, former FBI Chief, speaks Monday, October 15, 2018 at UConn's Jorgensen Center. The event was part of the lecture series, Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum, and open to UConn students, faculty and staff. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
James Comey, former FBI  Chief, speaks Monday, October 15, 2018 at UConn's Jorgensen Center.  The event was part of the lecture series, Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum, and open to UConn students, faculty and staff.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
James Comey, former FBI Chief, speaks Monday, October 15, 2018 at UConn's Jorgensen Center. The event was part of the lecture series, Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum, and open to UConn students, faculty and staff. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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