James Comey - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

James B. Comey, Jr. (born December 14, 1960) was United States Deputy Attorney General, serving in President George W. Bush's administration. As Deputy Attorney General, Comey was the second-highest ranking official in the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and ran the day-to-day operations of the Department, serving in that office from December 2003 through August 2005. He was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York prior to becoming Deputy Attorney General.

In December 2003, as Deputy Attorney General, Comey appointed the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, close friend and former colleague Patrick Fitzgerald, as Special Counsel to head the CIA leak grand jury investigation after Attorney General John Ashcroftrecused himself. In August 2005, Comey left the DOJ and he became General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Lockheed Martin. In 2010, he became General Counsel at Bridgewater Associates. In early 2013, he left Bridgewater to become Senior Research Scholar and Hertog Fellow on National Security Law at Columbia Law School. He also joined the London-based board of directors of HSBC Holdings.

On May 29, 2013 President Barack Obama announced plans to appoint Comey to succeed Robert S. Mueller III as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Yonkers, New York, Comey grew up in Allendale, New Jersey.[1] He attended Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale.[2] Comey graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1982, majoring in chemistry and religion. His senior thesis analyzed the liberal theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and the conservative televangelist Jerry Falwell, emphasizing their common belief in public action.[3] He received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Chicago Law School in 1985.

Early career (1985-2001)[edit]

After law school, Comey served as a law clerk for then-United States District Judge John M. Walker, Jr. in Manhattan. Then, he was an associate for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in their New York Office.

He joined the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, where he worked from 1987 to 1993. While there, he served as Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division. He helped prosecute the Gambino crime family.

From 1996 through 2001, Comey served as Managing Assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the Richmond Division of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. He was the lead prosecutor in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing case in Saudi Arabia.Cite error: A set of tags are missing the closing (see the help page). While in Richmond, Comey also served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Richmond School of Law.[4]

Bush years (2002-2005)[edit]

U.S. Attorney[edit]

He was the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, from January 2002 to the time of his confirmation as Deputy Attorney General on December 11, 2003.[4] In November 2002, he led the arrest and prosecution of three men involved one of the largest identity fraud cases in American history. The fraud had lasted two years and resulted in thousands of people across the country collectively losing well over $3 million.[5] He also led the indictment of Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas of bank fraud, wire fraud, and securities fraud. His sons: Timothy J. Rigas and Michael J. Rigas as well as executives James Brown and Michael Mulcahey were also charged with participation in these crimes. Rigas was convicted of the charges in the summer of 2004 and on June 27, 2005 was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Adelphia Corporation was forced to file for bankruptcy after it acknowledged they took $3.1 billion in false loans. It was "one of the most elaborate and extensive corporate frauds in United States history."[6]

In February 2003, he led the investigation of Martha Stewart who was considered for the charges of securities fraud, obstruction of justice, and lying to an FBI agent. She sold 3,928 shares of ImClone Systems, making $227,824. The next day, the Food and Drug Administration refused to accept the company's application for Erbitux.[7] In March 2003, he led the the indictment of ImClone CEO Samuel Waksal, who plead guilty of avoiding to pay $1.2 million in sales taxes on $15 million worth of contemporary paintings. The works were by Mark Rothko, Richard Serra, Roy Lichtenstein, and Willem de Kooning.[8] In April 2003, he led the indictment of Frank Quattrone. They alleged that in 2000, he urged subordinates to destroy evidence sought by investigators looking into his investment banking practices at Credit Suisse First Boston.[9] In November 2003, he led the "Operation Wooden Nickel", which resulted in complaints and indictments against 47 people involved in foreign exchange trading scams.[10]

Deputy Attorney General[edit]

Martha Stewart case[edit]

Comey is credited as the main protagonist in Martha Stewart's 2004 conviction for obstruction of justice, stating "This criminal case is about lying - lying to the FBI, lying to the SEC, lying to investors." [11]

NSA domestic wiretapping[edit]

In early January 2006, The New York Times, as part of their investigation into alleged domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency, reported that Comey, who was Acting Attorney General during the March 2004 surgical hospitalization of John Ashcroft, refused to "certify" the legality of central aspects of the NSA program at that time. The certification was required under existing White House procedures to continue the program.[12]

After Comey's refusal, the newspaper reported, Andrew H. Card Jr., White House Chief of Staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and future Attorney General, made an emergency visit to the George Washington University Hospital[4], to attempt to win approval directly from Ashcroft for the program.[12] According to the 2007 memoir of Jack Goldsmith, who had been head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the time, he went to the hospital to give Ashcroft support to withstand the pressure from the White House.

Comey confirmed these events took place (but declined to confirm the specific program) in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on 16 May 2007.[13][14][15][16][17][18] FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, like Comey, also supported Ashcroft's decision; both men were prepared to resign if the White House ignored the Department of Justice's legal conclusions on the wiretapping issue. FBI director Mueller's notes on the March 10, 2004 incident, which were released to a House Judiciary committee, confirms that he "Saw [the] AG, John Ashcroft in the room. AG is feeble, barely articulate, clearly stressed."[19] Comey withdrew his threat to resign after meeting directly with President Bush, who gave his support to making changes in the surveillance program.[20]

Post-Bush years (2005-Present)[edit]

In April 2005, Comey announced that he was leaving the Department of Justice in the fall. In August 2005, Comey was appointed as General Counsel and a Senior Vice President of Lockheed Martin. It was announced on June 2, 2010, that he would leave Lockheed Martin to join Bridgewater Associates, LP. On February 1, 2013, after leaving Bridgewater, he was appointed by Columbia University Law School as a Senior Research Scholar and Hertog Fellow on National Security Law. He was also appointed to the board of HSBC Holdings plc in London. Since 2012, he has also served on the Defense Legal Policy Board.

Testimony before congressional committees[edit]

In May 2007, Comey testified before both the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and the House Judiciary subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law on the U.S. Attorney dismissal scandal. His testimony contradicted that of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who said the firings had been due to poor performance on the part of some of the dismissed prosecutors. Comey stressed that the Justice Department had to be perceived as nonpartisan and nonpolitical in order to function.[21]

The Department of Justice, in my view, is run by political appointees of the President. The U.S. attorneys are political appointees of the President. But once they take those jobs and run this institution, it's very important in my view for that institution to be another in American life, that -- because my people had to stand up before juries of all stripes, talk to sheriffs of all stripes, judges of all stripes. They had to be seen as the good guys, and not as either this administration or that administration.[21]

Supreme Court consideration[edit]

Politico reported in May 2009 that White House officials pushed for Comey's inclusion on the short list of names to replace Associate JusticeDavid Souter on the US Supreme Court.[22]Politico later reported liberal activists were upset about the possibility of Comey's name being included. John Brittain of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law stated, "[Comey] came in with the Bushies. What makes you think he'd be just an inch or two more to the center than Roberts? I'd be greatly disappointed." [23]

Same sex marriage[edit]

In 2013, Comey was a signatory to an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage during the Hollingsworth v. Perry case.[24]

FBI nomination[edit]

In May 2013, it was reported that Democratic President Barack Obama would nominate Comey to be the next FBI Director, to replace Robert Mueller III. He was chosen over finalist Lisa Monaco, who had overseen national security issues at the Justice Department during the Benghazi attacks on 9/11/2012.[25]

Personal life[edit]

He and his wife Patrice are the parents of five children. Comey is a registered Republican in Westport, Connecticut. Comey donated to U.S. Senator John McCain’s campaign in the 2008 presidential election and to Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign in 2012 presidential election.[26]


  1. ^McCaffrey, Shannon. "For new deputy attorney general, a department under fire", The Boston Globe, December 14, 2003. Accessed August 21, 2011. "As a teenager, he got a frightening taste of what it's like to be a crime victim when an intruder broke into his home in Allendale, N. J., while his parents were out and held his brother and him hostage at gunpoint. The captor fled and never was apprehended."
  2. ^Weiser, Benjamin. "Man in the News; Reputation for Tenacity; James Brien Comey", The New York Times, December 2, 2011. Accessed August 21, 2011. "EDUCATION: Northern Highlands Regional High School, Allendale, N.J.; B.S., College of William and Mary; J.D., University of Chicago Law School."
  3. ^[1] "Mr. Comey Goes To Washington." (New York magazine, October 2003). Retrieved May 21, 2007.
  4. ^ abDeputy Attorney General James B. ComeyThe White House. (no date). Retrieved May 18, 2007.
  5. ^http://www.wired.com/politics/security/news/2002/11/56567
  6. ^http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/telecom/2002-09-23-adelphia-indict_x.htm
  7. ^http://money.cnn.com/2003/02/06/news/companies/martha/
  8. ^http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/health/2003-03-03-waksal_x.htm
  9. ^http://money.cnn.com/2003/04/23/news/quattrone/
  10. ^http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2003/11/19/forex_031119.html
  11. ^Prosecuting Martha Stewart: The overview NYTimes June 5, 2003
  12. ^ abLIchtblau, Eric; Risen, James (January 1, 2006). "Justice Deputy Resisted Parts of Spy Program". New York Times. Retrieved June 6, 2010. 
  13. ^Comey Senate Judiciary Committee Transcript, May 16, 2007. Congressional Quarterly, Inc.
  14. ^Isikoff, Michael; Evan Thomas (June 4, 2007). "Bush's Monica Problem: Gonzales, the president's lawyer and Texas buddy, is twisting slowly in the wind, facing a vote of no confidence from the Senate". Newsweek (The Washington Post Company). Archived from the original on 2007-06-01. Retrieved 2007-05-29. 
  15. ^(Editorial) (May 16, 2006). "Mr. Comey's Tale: A standoff at a hospital bedside speaks volumes about Attorney General Gonzales.". Washington Post. pp. A14. Retrieved 2007-05-25. 
  16. ^Eggen, Dan; Amy Goldstein (May 18, 2007). "No-Confidence Vote Sought on Gonzales". Washington Post. pp. A03. Retrieved 2007-05-25. 
  17. ^Congressional Quarterly (May 15, 2007). Transcript: Senate Judiciary Hearing "Senate Hearing on U.S. Attorney Firings (Transcript, Part 1 of 5)". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-05-25. 
  18. ^Lichtblau, Eric (January 2, 2006). "Bush Defends Spy Program and Denies Misleading Public". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-25. 
  19. ^Eggen, Dan (August 17, 2007). "FBI Director's Notes Contradict Gonzales's Version Of Ashcroft Visit". Washington Post. 
  20. ^Eggen, Dan; Kane, Paul (May 16, 2007). "Gonzales Hospital Episode Detailed". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  21. ^ abJames B. Comey. Testimony Transcript. Hearing of the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law. House Committee on the Judiciary. May 3, 2007. Retrieved May 18, 2007.(Congressional Quarterly transcripts, via the Washington Post.)
  22. ^[2] "James Comey pushed for Supreme Court" (Politico.com, May 2009). Retrieved May 17, 2009
  23. ^[3] "Some on left souring on Obama"], Politico.com, May 2009, Retrieved May 17, 2009.
  24. ^http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/28/the-pro-freedom-republicans-are-coming-131-sign-gay-marriage-brief.html
  25. ^http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/us/politics/obama-to-pick-james-b-comey-to-lead-fbi.html?_r=0
  26. ^http://www.politico.com/story/2013/05/james-comey-fbi-92010_Page2.html#ixzz2UkJwWwdL

External links[edit]

NameComey, James
Alternative names
Short descriptionDeputy Attorney General
Date of birthDecember 14, 1960
Place of birthYonkers, New York
Date of death
Place of death