There could be two FBI directors

Fired FBI chief James Comey : "Trump is a disaster that can help the US"

Yes, that's right, it really is incredibly big. "The giraffe" is the name of the former director of the US domestic secret service, James Comey, who was fired by Donald Trump. And on this Tuesday evening, the "FBI giraffe" moves with casual leisurely, so very giraffe-like, onto the stage of the "Kino International ". Comey has come for a book talk. His book is called “A Higher Loyalty” in English and “Greater than the Office” in German.

It is an "autobiography" in thick quotation marks. In fact, it's a book about Donald Trump. In mid-April it was published simultaneously in the USA and Germany (Droemer, 384 pages, 19.99; book review here) Here in Berlin, Comey used to meet his colleagues from the German security authorities. Today he comes as a mixture of political group entertainer and evangelist.

A little boyish, with a pocket square but no tie: So this is the man who some think he owes the world to Donald Trump. Just two weeks before the 2016 US presidential election, James Comey made public that the FBI had reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton. As Secretary of State, Clinton had sent confidential business emails from a private mail server. The FBI had already established that, but had not brought charges. Well, just before the election, more emails had surfaced on the laptop of the husband of one of Clinton's close associates, Anthony Weiner, a rather colorful personality.

An outcry went through the country. Trump had made the email affair a central part of his campaign anyway, and now he was given new food shortly before the election. Clinton supporters, on the other hand, saw Comey's publication as an attempt to exert political influence. The fact that the FBI was already following up contacts between Trump's campaign team and Russia, ie investigating the “Russia affair”, the possible influence of Russia on the US presidential election, only became an issue after Donald Trump was elected.

Trump's revelations did no harm

As if he wanted to make up for Trump's election, Comey then published information that would have what it takes to bring the president down if the old political ones were still valid. Trump, Comey testified before Congress, and he writes in detail in his book, urged him to stop the investigation against Michael Flynn, the President's former National Security Advisor, who had contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kisljak during the election campaign. Trump also demanded "loyalty" from him in a one-on-one conversation, according to Comey, an unheard-of process. Comey wrote a memo about this shortly after the conversation and made the process public - it didn't harm Trump.

The investigation into the Russia affair is now led by Robert Mueller. In May 2017, Donald Trump fired James Comey. On Tuesday evening, Comey describes the moment when he learned of his own dismissal, a scene that is also described in detail in the book. Comey had traveled to Los Angeles for an FBI recruiting event. Before the event, he spoke to staff from the local FBI office in a room. Behind the group, on the wall of the room, there were televisions. The breaking news suddenly started running on several news channels: “Comey fired.” “I felt taken by surprise and a bit disoriented,” says Comey laconically. He says he retired to an office to first confirm his own release. When he left the room again, some employees cried.

If the events of the last few years still challenge him today, little of it will be felt on this evening in Berlin. “Did you influence the choice?” Asks Holger Stark, head of the investigative department at “Zeit”, who is interviewing Comey. "I dont know. I hope and pray that it isn't, ”Comey replies.

Comey seems to be comfortable in his new role as contemporary writer and entertainer. He is a good narrator, he describes situations in great detail: the color of the wallpaper in the White House, the topography of rooms, or, for example, that scene in the White House shortly after Donald Trump took office: at a public meeting with the heads of America Secret services are trying to hug Trump coram publico Comey - the man America says he got into office. Comey is half able to fend off the gesture, on TV it looks like Trump is kissing him and Comey says he is still stunned today at how instinctively (or not) Trump acted.

All of this is terrifyingly entertaining, just as Trump is terrifyingly entertaining. And yet one also has a bad feeling about this premature historicization, the humorous distance of the former FBI director.

As if to make up for it, Comey ended the evening with a passionate and pathetic plea for trust in the power of American democracy and civil society - just as his book ends. He calls Trump again "morally unsuitable" for the office and receives great applause from the Berlin audience. The USA, according to Comey, would rise like Phoenix from the ashes of the "forest fire" he sees Trump as.

America is strong, the "giant" will wake up again, said Comey. "I see that in the student protests against guns, in the many women who are now running for Congress, in the many families who are discussing the truth with their children again," he says. "We used Donald Trump in a strange way, he's the disaster that can help us overcome polarization." Well then. Amen.

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