“This Is Not Normal”: James Comey Responds to Trump’s Jail Threat

The former FBI director warns about the president’s attacks on the rule of law.

Andrew Harrer/AP

Over the course of a series of tweets sent on Sunday, President Donald Trump attacked James Comey, the FBI director he fired, as a liar and a “slimeball.” One tweet suggested Comey should be in jail.

In an interview transcript released Tuesday by NPR, Comey described his reaction to the president’s threat: “This is not normal.”

“This is not OK,”  Comey continued. ” There’s a danger that we will become numb to it, and we will stop noticing the threats to our norms. The threats to the rule of law and the threats, most of all, to the truth.”

“This is not some tin pot dictatorship where the leader of the country gets to say, ‘The people I don’t like go to jail,’” Comey told NPR’s Steve Inskeep. “Our Lady Justice wears a blindfold…Lady Justice can’t be peeking under the blindfold to see if Donald Trump wants her to convict so-and-so and not convict so-and-so.”

Read Comey’s full response below:

Comey: President Trump, I don’t follow him on Twitter but I get to see his tweets tweeted, I don’t know how many, but some tweets this past couple of days that I should be in jail. The president of the United States just said that a private citizen should be jailed. And I think the reaction of most of us was, “Meh, that’s another one of those things.” This is not normal. This is not OK. There’s a danger that we will become numb to it, and we will stop noticing the threats to our norms. The threats to the rule of law and the threats most of all to the truth. And so the reason I’m talking in terms of morality is, those are the things that matter most to this country. And there’s a great danger we’ll be numbed into forgetting that, and then only a fool would be consoled by some policy victory.

Inskeep: Can you state it even more plainly, because there are many people on the other side of the divide here. What’s wrong with the president saying you should be in jail?

Comey: The rule of law involves the apolitical administration of justice. This is not some tin pot dictatorship where the leader of the country gets to say, “The people I don’t like go to jail.” Our Lady Justice wears a blindfold. And the reason all those statues all over the country have a blindfold is, that’s the way it has to be. Lady Justice can’t be peeking under the blindfold to see if Donald Trump wants her to convict so-and-so and not convict so-and-so. If we lose that, we’ve lost the rule of law, and so there’s great danger in the president of the United States saying “You should be in jail.”

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  • Noah Lanard

    Noah Lanard is a reporter at Mother Jones. Reach him at nlanard@motherjones.com.