A Higher Loyalty

Truth, Lies, and Leadership

by James Comey

Number of pages: 312

Publisher: Flatiron Book

BBB Library: Politics and Public Affairs

ISBN: 978-1250192455

About the Author

James Brien Comey Jr. is an American lawyer who was the 7th Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2013 until his dismissal in May 2017.


Editorial Review

When Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey on May 9, 2017, it ignited a political firestorm. The man at the center of that storm has kept silent—until now. James Comey writes for the first time about his role in the historic 2016 election and its aftermath. In A Higher Loyalty, Comeyalso talks about the cases he worked on, which are considered some of the most fascinating and controversial criminal cases in recent history, that helped shape his views of justice, fairness, and ethical leadership.

Book Reviews

“While spilling the beans on Trump, the ex-FBI director portrays himself as both high-minded and willing to share his own pratfalls.”—The Guardian

“A lot depends, on reading the book, whether Comey’s versions of various events ring true. Mostly they do, and Comey emerges as a decent, well-meaning and thoughtful public servant willing to reflect on his mistakes. The attributes for ethical leadership he advocates–humility, confidence, a willingness to listen and more–are undeniable.”—The Independent

““A Higher Loyalty” is the first big memoir by a key player in the alarming melodrama that is the Trump administration. Comey has worked in three administrations, and his book underscores just how outside presidential norms Trump’s behavior has been—how ignorant he is about his basic duties as president, and how willfully he has flouted the checks and balances that safeguard our democracy, including the essential independence of the judiciary and law enforcement.”—The NewYork Times

“This is a troubling and important account of the clash between power and justice.”—Publishers Weekly

“In a way, the two men—Trump and Comey—have made their limited, narrow narratives all about themselves. In the first, Trump chooses to do so, in the other it was inevitable.”—Firstpost

Books on Related Topics

Wisdom to Share

The life of lies. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. Loyalty oaths. An us-versus-them worldview. Lying about things, large and small, in service to some warped code of loyalty. These rules defined the Mafia, but I’d be surprised how often I’d find them applied outside of it.

The FBI should be independent and totally divorced from politics, which was what the ten-year term for the director was designed to ensure.

We would demand and develop ethical leaders. I worked to build an atmosphere of trust. I would need that culture of truth, when the FBI ended up, improbably and unexpectedly, in the middle of the 2016 election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

I knew the democrats would talk about me wanting the spotlight, being out of control, driven by ego. I knew the republicans would accuse the Department of Justice of incompetence and corruption. But I believed—and still believe—that it was the best thing to do.

Our long-standing tradition is to avoid any decision that might have an impact on an election. That tradition was part of my identity.

Speak or conceal—both terrible options.

Assuming, as nearly everyone did, that Hilary Clinton would be elected president of the United States in less than two weeks, what would happen to the FBI, the Justice Department, or her own presidency if it later was revealed, after the fact, that she was still a subject of an FBI investigation? What if, after the election, we actually found information that demonstrated prosecutable criminal activity?

If I based my decision on the idea that I might help elect Donald Trump, the FBI is lost.

Whether it was true or not, an important feature of disarming any effort to coerce a public official is to tell the official what the enemy might be doing or saying. The FBI calls that a “defensive briefing.”

The president of the United States had invited me to dinner and decided my job security was on the menu.

He said, with a serious look on his face, “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.”

Ethical leaders never ask for loyalty. Those leading through fear require personal loyalty. Ethical leaders care deeply about those they lead, and offer them honesty, decency, commitment, and their own sacrifice.

The “leader of the free world,” the self-described great business tycoon, didn’t understand leadership.

Donald Trump’s presidency threatens much of what is good in this nation.

I wrote this book because I hope it will be useful to people living among the flames who are thinking about what comes next. I also hope it will be useful to readers long after the flames are doused, by inspiring them to choose a higher loyalty, to find truth among lies, and to pursue ethical leadership.