What does James Comey's "A Higher Loyalty" mean in the big picture?

Published: Apr. 17, 2018 at 11:16 AM EDT
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Former FBI director James Comey's controversial new autobiography, "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" was just published today, but it has been making waves in the political realm for weeks. The book has been on the top of's best-sellers list for almost a month, and Comey's exclusive interview with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos about his book averaged 9.8 million viewers this past Sunday night.

But what does this new book mean long-term in our country's political landscape?

Bill Hormann spoke with 13abc's political analyst and political science professor at Bowling Green State University Dr. Melissa K. Miller to get her insight on the matter.

Below is a rough transcript of their conversation.

Bill: Hillary Clinton would have likely fired Comey if she had won. In the interview, Comey struggles with the thought he helped Mr. Trump get elected. Does that color his reasoning behind writing the book?

Dr. Miller: I think Comey’s reasoning is pretty clear: he wants to repair his tarnished reputation… tarnished among both the Democrats and the Republicans. Neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party are big fans of the former FBI Director. Sunday night’s interview probably does not change that.

Democrats will probably go to their graves believing that Comey’s re-opening of the email investigation 11 days out cost Clinton the election. They may be pleased that Comey has cast a really harsh spotlight on the president – comparing him to a crime boss – but I’m not sure that will make up for their deeply rooted belief that Comey cost Clinton the election.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have revved up a major “discredit Comey” operation. The RNC has launched a “Lyin’ Comey” website to discredit the former FBI Director. The president himself has tweeted that Comey is an “untruthful slimeball” who belongs in jail for lying to Congress and leaking classified information.

Bill: Comey comes off as thoughtful in his answers, but what do you think of his personal comments about the President, given the political climate?

Dr. Miller: Comey’s personal comments about the president were riveting because they amounted to a highly public assault on a sitting Republican president – and it’s not from an obvious political opponent like Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer. James Comey is a former top official in the Trump Administration – one who has served both R and D presidents – who is accusing the president of being a “serial liar” who is “untethered to the truth” and could be liable to Russian blackmail.

Meanwhile the president is giving the story “legs” by unleashing a Twitter tirade, calling Comey an “untruthful slimeball” who belongs in jail for lying to Congress and leaking classified information.

It’s playing out like an epic battle – two powerful men trying to get the upper hand when the stakes are high

The significance of the interview lies in how it affects voters who may be wavering about the president and the Republican Party. White suburban women are already being recognized by both parties as the key segment of the electorate that could decide the 2018 midterms. They came out big for Donald Trump in 2016, but may not be there for the Republicans in 2020 – precisely because of questions about the president’s character – questions that were reinforced in tonight’s interview with James Comey.

Bill: Mr. Comey is a witness in the Russia investigation. Now he's going public with details. Could what Comey says jeopardize that investigation?

Dr. Miller: Comey is a key witness in the Mueller investigation.

In fact, his firing set off a stream of events that led to the investigation itself.

But keep in mind that James Comey is a former prosecutor and FBI Director. I am fairly certain that he was very careful in both the book and the interview about what he said.

For instance, the details he shared with George Stephanopolous about the dinner he had at the White House were already public – much of what he described tonight was part of his congressional testimony in the spring and summer of 2017.

In the end, I don’t think that either the book or the interview change the Mueller investigation. The big question is whether they change the political climate for the midterm elections. And the answer? It’s too soon to tell.