President Barack Obama today used a courtroom anecdote to illustrate why he thought James Comey, a longtime former prosecutor who earlier served as the second-in-command at the U.S. Department of Justice, was the right pick to lead the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Obama, speaking at a ceremony for Comey today at FBI headquarters, touted Comey's effort to establish confidence in the American justice system. The president described Comey as a tough prosecutor who took on white-collar crime, sought to stem the tide of gun violence and confronted organized crime.
"There's a story from the time during his prosecution of the Gambino crime family, one of the defendants was an alleged hit man named Lorenzo," Obama said.
"During the trial, Jim won an award from the New York City Bar Association. When the court convened the next morning, everybody was buzzing about it," Obama said. "And suddenly a note was passed down from the defendant's table across the aisle to the prosecutor's table."
"It was handed to Jim and it read: 'Dear Jim, Congratulations on your award. No one deserves it more than you. You’re a true professional. Sincerely, Lorenzo,'" Obama said. "Now we don’t know how sincere he was, we don't know whether this was a veiled threat or a plea for leniency or an honest compliment."
"But I think it is fair to say that Jim has won the respect of folks across the spectrum, including Lorenzo. He's a perfect leader for an organization whose walls are graced by the words of the legendary former director: 'The most effective weapon against crime is cooperation,'" Obama said.
Obama in June nominated Comey to lead the FBI, replacing Robert Mueller III. The Senate confirmed Comey in July and he was sworn in September 4 in a private ceremony at the Justice Department. Today was the public ceremony.
Comey, before serving as deputy attorney general, spent most of his career as a federal prosecutor in New York and Virginia, with a few brief stints in private practice. Comey left Main Justice as the deputy attorney general in 2005 to join Lockheed Martin as senior vice president and general counsel. More recently, he served as general counsel at hedge fund Bridgewater Associates L.P. in Connecticut.