The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Donald Trump is contagious. He turned James Comey into Donald Trump.

Then-FBI Director James B. Comey in 2016. (Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is contagious. He turns everyone he touches into Donald Trump.

Now he has done it to James B. Comey.

The former FBI director has a book to sell, one that knits a compelling and credible story about his experiences with a president who built “a cocoon of alternative reality that he was busily wrapping around all of us.”

If only Comey had stayed focused on what is important. But instead, he stooped, revealing a pettiness, insecurity and need for affirmation that are among the hallmarks of Trump’s own character.

He noted that the president’s hands were not as large as his own, and we know what that means. Comey, who is 6-foot-8, observed that Trump is shorter than he appears to be on television, that his face is “slightly orange, with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles.” All that was missing was a middle-school-worthy nickname. Liddle Donald? Eye Socket Man?

The former FBI director also wanted us to know that President Barack Obama respected his integrity and his ability, even after Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation contributed to her 2016 defeat. He tells us that a tearful Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) sympathized with his “impossible position.” As he blasts the president for being driven by ego, Comey reveals that his own stays in high gear as well.

In Trump’s orbit, it would seem, there can be no such thing as a hero. Another case in point: White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. The four stars that Kelly earned as a Marine were not enough to shield him from what has rubbed off through his prolonged exposure to Trump.

Comey writes that after he was fired by the president, Kelly — then homeland security secretary — called him to say that he wanted to resign, rather than work for “dishonorable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner.” Less than a year later, Kelly would show that he was capable of calling a top staffer accused of spousal abuse “a man of true integrity and honor.” Nor could he resist humiliating former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the way out, making sure that reporters were informed that Tillerson was on the toilet when Kelly delivered the news of his dismissal.

In big ways and small, everyone around him ends up being Trump.

Read more:

Further excerpts from James Comey’s book, if the existing ones are anything to go on

In his new book, James Comey calls for ‘ethical leadership.’ But does he live up to it?

Sure, McCabe and Comey made mistakes. But that’s not why they were fired.