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James Comey says he doesn’t watch the Russian spy-themed TV series “The Americans.” Nor did he watch CIA thriller “Homeland” during his tenure as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a post he was dismissed from by President Donald Trump in May 2017.
“Because look: Why do I need that stress?” he told the PBS NewsHour before sitting down with anchor Judy Woodruff this week to talk about his book “A Higher Loyalty,” and recent developments in the Russia investigations.
“It’s like, ‘I’m gonna die.’ Why do I need that? I get that all day long. But now that I’m totally zen, and don’t wear ties anymore, maybe I will get back to it,” he said.
Instead, he loves the emotional TV drama, “This Is Us,” which he calls his “favorite program,” and said he cries after nearly every episode “like a baby.” “It’s just so good,” he said.
Comey said he also listens to Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar, whom his kids like. He also favors Beyonce, recounting to the NewsHour an FBI briefing he once received on a counterintelligence case called “Sandcastles.”
“They always have weird code names,” he said. “It was ‘Sandcastles,’ and so I said ‘Beyonce!’ And I was the only one in the room who had any idea what I was talking about. People were like ‘What?’ I said, ‘We built sandcastles’… Honest to God, I sung like that.”
So what does the new author read? Comey recommended three of his favorite recent books, all history. He just finshed “Grant” by Ron Chernow, which he said he loved because it was “a reminder of just how vicious and screwed up our politics have been” and that “we’ve been in places like this before.”
“It was a great reminder that everything you think is new is not new in a lot of ways,” he said. Chernow “talked about Andrew Johnson following Lincoln, and what a demagogue and racist Johnson was, and how ugly it was. I enjoyed that reminder, it centered me a little bit.”
Comey said he also loved “The Last Lion,” by William Manchester, the third book in a series about Winston Churchill during WWII.
And he recommended “Why the West Rules — For Now,” by British historian Ian Morris, which he said was recommended to him by an FBI legal attache in Beijing, along with Francis Fukuyama’s “Trust.” Morris’ book, he said, “is sort of a review of the cycles of human history and a little glimpse of the future. It’s really cool. It ends with A.I.”
He loved the book so much that one of the last things he said he did as FBI director was write a note to Morris thanking him. He also wrote to Sheryl Sandberg for her book “Lean In,” about leadership, which he recommended to the whole FBI.
Watch part 1 of Judy Woodruff’s interview with James Comey here, and part 2 on the show Tuesday night.
Elizabeth Flock is an independent journalist who reports on justice and gender. She can be reached at email@example.com
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