James Comey and the most riveting 20 minutes of congressional testimony. Maybe ever.

May 30, 2013

James Comey will soon become a household name as the new director of the FBI, assuming confirmation hearings go well before the Senate Judiciary Committee this summer.


James Comey

Forgive us here at The Fix if we assume Comey will ace his hearing -- we're still in awe from his last high-profile appearance before that panel.

It was May 2007, and the newly empowered Democrats were conducting sweeping oversight investigations of the Alberto Gonzales-led Justice Department, particularly the unusual firings of a handful of U.S. attorneys a few years earlier.
The investigations, however, seemed to be losing steam.

Enter James Comey -- and a then-little known staffer, Preet Bharara. Bharara was senior counsel to Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), the political pit bull who had led much of the DOJ probe in the Senate, and more importantly, Bharara had previously worked as a junior federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York when Comey was the U.S. attorney there. (Previous U.S. attorneys in this plum post include Louis Freeh and Rudolph Giuliani -- and the current occupant is none other than Bharara.)

What Bharara knew that the House Democrats didn't know was that Comey wanted to tell this amazing story about a constitutional crisis in the hospital room of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2004. So Bharara arranged for Comey to testify before a Senate subcommittee.

The usually loquacious Schumer stopped asking Comey questions and just let him give a long statement telling the tale of something that seemed like a movie plot.  You could hear a pin drop in the Dirksen hearing room, and in fact we did, when one reporter -- stunned at what he was hearing -- literally just dropped his pen onto the press table.

Words don't do this testimony justice, so just watch it.

Paul Kane covers Congress and politics for the Washington Post.
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