Meet James Comey, who was inspired to become a prosecutor after he was held at gunpoint in high school, rose to FBI director, and is now one of Trump's favourite punching bags

  • Nearly a year and a half after President Donald Trump fired him as FBI director, James Comey has re-emerged on the political stage.
  • Comey’s testimony to House investigators and vocal criticism of Trump have made him a consistently high-profile player in the drama surrounding the president’s legal troubles.
  • His appearances in the political spotlight and on Trump’s Twitter feed are just a small part of his decades-long career.

Former FBI Director James Comey has made regular appearances in the political spotlight since the 2016 election. From his high-profile firing to his testimony in Congress, Comey has managed to maintain his political relevance.

Comey’s tangles with Trump are the latest in a decades-long legal career alongside major players like the special counsel Robert Mueller. Originally inspired by a hostage situation, he ended up leading cases against New York’s financial elite, chef Martha Stewart, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Here’s how Comey ended up where he is today.


Born in Yonkers, New York, Comey graduated from New Jersey’s Northern Highlands Regional High School. In 1977, Comey and his younger brother were held at gunpoint in their parents’ home. Comey’s said the scare inspired him to become a prosecutor and better empathise with victims.

Source: “60 Minutes”


Comey attended the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where he studied chemistry and religion. He graduated with honours in 1982.

Facebook/William and Mary

Sources: CNN, College of William & Mary


Comey graduated with a J.D. from University of Chicago Law School in 1985. After being waitlisted at first, Comey got an impromptu interview during a campus visit and joined classmates including Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. He earned a reputation as a brilliant, but humble, student.

Natalia Bratslavsky/Shutterstock

Source: The Chicago Tribune


From 1987-1993, Comey served as assistant US attorney for the Southern District of New York before becoming partner at private law firm McGuireWoods, where he specialised in criminal defence and commercial litigation.

Source: US Chamber of Commerce


In 1996, Comey joined the special committee investigating the Whitewater Development Corporation and allegations that former President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary were involved in a fraudulent real estate deal.


Comey served as the assistant US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond until 2002, when he became US attorney for the Southern District of New York.


As attorney for SDNY, Comey brought charges against Martha Stewart for conspiracy, obstruction of justice and securities fraud in 2004. She was convicted on all counts, sentenced to five months in prison, 2 years probation, and charged $US30,000 in fines.

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesMartha Stewart exits court after the sentencing phase of her conviction on a stock-trading scandal July 16, 2004 in New York City.

After becoming Deputy Attorney General in 2003, Comey worked with then-FBI Director Robert Mueller on bringing charges against Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling in 2004.

Source: The Washington Post


Comey then moved back into the private sector, taking an executive role at Lockheed Martin in 2005 and becoming general counsel at Bridgewater Associates, a Connecticut-based investment company.

As US Attorney, Comey filed criminal charges against 47 currency traders in 2003 after an 18-month undercover operation.


In 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Comey upon then-director Robert Mueller’s retirement. Obama called Comey “the perfect person” to replace Mueller, as “he doesn’t care about politics; he only cares about getting the job done.”

Source: The Washington Post


Comey was confirmed as FBI director July 29. 2013 by a 93-1 vote and sworn in on September 4, 2013.


Comey entered the political spotlight in July 2016 when he testified to the House Oversight Committee on the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. He called Clinton’s actions “extremely careless” but said no “reasonable prosecutor” would move forward with a case.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Then-candidate Donald Trump hit back at Comey’s announcement, suggesting that the investigation was part of a “#RiggedSystem.”


In October 2016, eleven days before the presidential election, Comey announced that the FBI was reviewing new emails belonging to Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The emails were found as part of an investigation into Abedin’s husband, former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Source: Business Insider


After reviewing the emails, Comey announced that the agency still wouldn’t pursue criminal charges against Clinton. The announcement came two days before the presidential election and The timing of the renewed investigation and announcement drew sharp backlash from lawmakers and cast Comey at odds with other intelligence officials.

Source: Business Insider


A 568-page Justice Department report later faulted Comey for mishandling the investigation, calling his conduct “insubordinate,” but not affected by bias.

Win McNamee/Getty

Source: Business Insider


Comey was FBI director when President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, and the two appeared cordial at first.

Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty ImagesPresident Donald Trump and then-FBI Director James Comey in the White House in January 2017.

On January 27, 2017, Trump allegedly asked Comey for “loyalty” at a private dinner, otherwise suggesting he would be fired, according to testimony Comey gave in April 2018.

Source: Business Insider


In February 2017, Trump allegedly asked Comey to discontinue the investigation into his former national security adviser and the first high-profile member of Trump’s campaign to be indicted, Michael Flynn. Flynn would later plead guilty to lying to the FBI and end up helping the special counsel’s Russia investigation.


After Comey acknowledged the ongoing FBI investigation into possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia, Trump allegedly called him in March and April to ask if Comey could “lift the cloud” of the investigation.

Source: Business Insider


Trump then took public aim at Comey, ramping up his Twitter hits a day before Comey was due to testify in front of Congress.


Trump then prompted outcry from both sides of the aisle when he fired Comey on May 12, 2017, saying days later it was because of “this Russia thing.”

Source: Business Insider


After a taunting tweet from Trump, Comey said he changed his mind on keeping his experience “in a box.” The New York Times reported on secret memos from Comey and Trump’s conversations in May 2017, which Comey later admitted to leaking.

Source: The New York Times, Business Insider


In April 2018, Comey turned his testimony about conversations with Trump into a memoir title “A Higher Loyalty.” Several teasers released from the tell-all revealed Comey’s highly critical take on Trump, who tweeted amid the book’s release to call Comey an “untruthful slime ball.”

Source: Business Insider


Trump has continued his public swipes at Comey, usually in combination with claims about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images


Comey was subpoenaed on November 22 by the House Judiciary Committee for private testimony about the FBI’s actions in the 2016 campaign. He initially resisted the closed-door proceedings, then settled for a delayed transcript release after the December 7 testimony.

Source: Business Insider


However, his testimony didn’t offer any firm resolution. Comey said after his testimony that House Republicans were not conducting “a search for truth” but “a desperate attempt” to attack the investigation on Trump. Trump said, with no evidence or explanation, that Comey’s statements were “all lies!”

Source: Business Insider


As Mueller’s investigation ramps up legal trouble for Trump, Comey’s recent official moves against the president and public pleas for voters to ‘use every breath we have’ in the 2020 election seem to mean he isn’t going anywhere.

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesJames Comey.

Source: Business Insider

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.