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James Comey Describes the Four Stages of Being the Subject of Donald Trump's Attacks and It's Brutal...for Trump

Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former FBI Director James Comey remains a controversial figure.

While many still cite his last minute announcement in 2016 and the affect it had on the presidential election, others note his very public clashes with President Donald Trump.


Depending on one's political leanings, either is seen as a reason to vilify or laud Comey. One thing everyone should be able to agree on however is Comey's experience with being the target of a Trump attack.

Comey shared insights on just that topic in a newly published opinion piece in The Washington Post. The former Deputy Attorney General under George W. Bush broke the experience down into stages.

He wrote, regarding the impact on the lives of those public servants and private citizens Trump and his acolytes target:

"What's it like to be personally and publicly attacked by the President of the United States? Like many others in and out of government, I have some experience."
"I have also watched friends and former colleagues deal with vicious, repeated assaults. The attacks have interfered with their ability to find work after government service, as even employers who see through the lies fear hiring a 'controversial' person or being attacked themselves."
"It can mean reassuring concerned friends and family, who can't imagine themselves the target of presidential wrath, that you're doing just fine. And it also means avoiding much of social media, because every presidential assault unleashes truly disturbed Trump supporters on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter."
"So, it's hard on good people, especially those who don't have savings to fall back on."

Then Comey began to lay out the stages of a presidential attack:

"At first, the attack is stunning and rocks your world. Waking up to find the president has tweeted that you are guilty of treason or committed assorted other crimes and are a [insert any one of this president's epithets here] is jarring and disorienting. That's the first stage, but it doesn't last."

According to the lawyer and former FBI Director:

"The second stage is a kind of numbness, where it doesn't seem quite real that the so-called Leader of the Free World is assailing you by tweet and voice. It is still unsettling, but it is harder to recapture the vertigo of the first assault."
"But the longer it goes on, the less it means."
"In the third stage, the impact diminishes, the power of it shrinks. It no longer feels as though the most powerful human on the planet is after you. It feels as though a strange and slightly sad old guy is yelling at you to get off his lawn, echoed by younger but no less sad people in red hats shouting, 'Yeah, get off his lawn!'"

Then in the fourth and final stage:

"[W]e need to fight through our fatigue and contempt for this shrunken, withered figure. Spurred by the danger he poses to our nation and its values, we have to overcome the shock and numbness of earlier stages."
"We must not look away."
"We must summon the effort necessary to protect this republic from Alexander Hamilton's great fear, that when an unprincipled person 'is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity — to join in the cry of danger to liberty — to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion — to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day — It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may "ride the storm and direct the whirlwind".'"

People responded to Comey's assessment.







As usual, much of the discussion of Comey and his OpEd centered on people's opinions about the man and his part in the 2016 presidential election and lingering resentment against the controversial public figure.

However, few can dispute Comey and Trump—and his MAGA followers—maintain a contentious relationship to this day.

The book Sinking in the Swamp: How Trump's Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington is available for pre-order here.