James Brien Comey, Jr. (born December 14, 1960) is the seventh and current director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
He was the 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 Ashcroft recused 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.
Born in Yonkers, New York, Comey grew up in Allendale, New Jersey. He attended Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale. 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. He received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Chicago Law School in 1985. 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 1996-2001, 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 case concerning the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. While in Richmond, Comey served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Richmond School of Law.
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. In November 2002, he led the prosecution of three men involved in 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. 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 it took $3.1 billion in false loans. It was "one of the most elaborate and extensive corporate frauds in United States history."
In February 2003, Comey led the prosecution 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. In March 2003, he led the indictment of ImClone CEO Samuel Waksal, who pled guilty to 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. In April 2003, he led the indictment of Frank Quattrone. It was alleged that in 2000, he urged subordinates to destroy evidence sought by investigators looking into his investment banking practices at Credit Suisse First Boston. In November 2003, he led the prosecutions in "Operation Wooden Nickel", which resulted in complaints and indictments against 47 people involved in foreign exchange trading scams.
Comey is credited as the main prosecutor 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." In early January 2006, The New York Times, as part of its investigation into 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. 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 to attempt to win approval directly from Ashcroft for the program. According to the 2007 memoir of Jack Goldsmith, who had been head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the time, Comey 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. 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." Comey withdrew his threat to resign after meeting directly with President Bush, who gave his support to making changes in the surveillance program.
In April 2005, Comey announced that he was leaving the Department of Justice in the fall. In August 2005, it was announced that Comey would enter the private sector, becoming the General Counsel and Senior Vice President for Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Department of Defense's largest defense contractor. Comey's tenure took effect on October 1, 2005,. serving in that capacity until June 2, 2010, when he announced he would leave Lockheed Martin to join the senior management committee at Bridgewater Associates, a Connecticut based investment management firm. 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 directors of the London based financial institution HSBC Holdings, to improve the company's compliance program after its $1.9 billion settlement with the Justice Department for failing to comply with basic due diligence requirements for money laundering regarding Mexican drug cartels and terrorism financing. Since 2012, he has also served on the Defense Legal Policy Board.
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. “ 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. ”
Politico reported in May 2009 that White House officials pushed for Comey's inclusion on the short list of names to replace Associate Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. 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." 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. In May 2013, it was reported, and in June 2013 it was made official, that President Barack Obama would nominate Comey to be the next Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, replacing outgoing director Robert Mueller. Comey was reportedly chosen over finalist Lisa Monaco, who had overseen national security issues at the Justice Department during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. Comey was confirmed by the Senate on July 29, 2013, for a full ten-year term running the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was sworn in as FBI director at 4:32 pm on September 4, 2013.
In February 2015, Comey delivered an oration at Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown University, regarding the relationship between policemen and the African American community. In his July 2013 FBI confirmation hearing, Comey said that the oversight mechanisms of the U.S. government have sufficient privacy protections. In a November 2014 New York Times Magazine article, historian Beverly Gage reported that Comey keeps on his desk a copy of the FBI request to wiretap Martin Luther King, Jr., "as a reminder of the bureau's capacity to do wrong." Comey and his wife Patrice are the parents of five children. He is a Roman Catholic of Irish descent. At 6' 8", he is the tallest member of the Obama administration, and the tallest FBI director in history. Comey is a registered Republican who 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.