For any Democrats looking for a completely cathartic experience in James Comey's new book, prepare to be disappointed.
While the book certainly includes plenty of Trump flying off the handle and generally confirms the narrative of a rudderless commander in chief, Comey will leave Democrats a little less than satisfied with a couple disclosures.
The first is that he doesn't know that President Trump did anything illegal.
"I have one perspective on the behavior I saw, which while disturbing and violating basic norms of ethical leadership, may fall short of being illegal,” Comey said.
In other words, if you were hoping the former FBI director would push for Trump to be charged with obstruction of justice, it's not in there. Perhaps that reflects the fact that Comey has not been part of the investigation for nearly a year -- the investigation wasn't as focused on Trump when he was there -- and perhaps it's just Comey being circumspect.
But Comey did have a very close vantage point when it comes to perhaps the most significant event in the obstruction investigation: His own firing. He also oversaw the early stages of the collusion investigation. And based upon that and everything that's been made public since, he seems to want everyone to slow their roll a little bit and warns that, while Trump may be an awful leader in his mind, that's not the same as being a criminal.
The second may be the most interesting admission in the book. In discussing his fateful decision to disclose newly discovered Hillary Clinton emails 11 days before the 2016 election -- a decision that Clinton and many other Democrats blame for her loss -- Comey admits that politics may have played a role, albeit subconsciously.
Here it is, thanks to the New York Times's Michiko Kakutani:
It is entirely possible that, because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president, my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls. But I don’t know.
It's not entirely shocking that this might have been what happened -- I wrote about Comey's "unavoidably horrible decision" at the time -- but it is notable that Comey actually admits it. He essentially acknowledges that the decision might not have been made in a virtuous and ethical vacuum, whether he knew it or not.
To some Democrats, maybe it will be cathartic to read and hear that. Having Comey kind-of-admit it could provide some closure, perhaps. But it also rips the scab off a wound that hasn't exactly healed over the past 17 months. And it will confirm to many of them that the election was stolen from their side and that Comey was a bad actor.
Nate Silver, a proponent of the theory that Comey tipped the election, summed up those feelings:
Comey admitting politics may have played a role in that decision and admitting Trump may not be guilty are, in one way, some pretty fitting codas to this whole thing. Comey is a figure who has never been easy for either side of the political aisle to love. Trump isn't the first 2016 candidate, after all, whose potential crimes he has downplayed. Before the late Clinton email announcement, Comey made what Republicans regarded as an unseemly show out of not recommending charges against her.
So it's pretty fitting that, even in a book that Democrats have been eagerly awaiting, he will leave them somewhat less than fulfilled.