James Comey
Former FBI Chief James Comey testifies before the Senate intelligence committee on Capitol Hill on June 8.

Former FBI Director James B. Comey is headed to academia.

Howard University announced Wednesday that Comey will serve as the Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy for the upcoming academic year. The historically Black university in Washington, D.C., founded in 1867, also said Comey will be the keynote speaker at Opening Convocation on Sept. 22.

“I am pleased to welcome Mr. Comey to Howard,” Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick said in a statement. “His expertise and understanding of the challenges we continue to face today will go a long way in sparking rich discussion and advancing meaningful debates across campus.”

On social media, response to the university’s announcement has been mixed due to issues such as Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email controversy and past statements about policing. Ta-Nehisi Coates‏, author and national correspondent for The Atlantic, attended Howard. Coates tweeted:

Some agreed with his sentiments, others did not:

Comey was responsible for overseeing the investigation of the Clinton email controversy during the 2016 presidential election. Some analysts have said that his communications regarding the investigation contributed to Clinton’s loss and the election of Trump.

“Hillary Clinton would probably be president if FBI Director James Comey had not sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28,” Nate Silver wrote in a column in May. But he also added, “The letter isn’t the only reason that Clinton lost. It does not excuse every decision the Clinton campaign made.”

Clinton called the timing of FBI Director James Comey’s announcement about the second email probe one of the factors contributing to her defeat in the election.

Only 8 percent of African Americans voted for Trump, according to Pew Research Center, and Clinton received 88 percent of the vote, which is less than the percentage former President Barack Obama earned in both elections.

Comey has also been criticized for his statements in 2015 linking the scrutiny of police in the wake of police-related killings of Black men and women to spikes in crime saying officers were reluctant to do their jobs.

Crystal Brown, vice president and chief communications officer at Howard said in an interview that Comey “recognizes that the criminal justice system is not perfect and there are elements that need to be reformed in order to ensure everyone is treated equally under the law.”

Brown said that he wanted to come to Howard “to engage with the student body and discuss how law enforcement can work together with them and the broader public to restore confidence and create a system that is fair for all.”

During Comey’s yearlong appointment as King Chair at Howard, he will lead five lectures featuring experienced, senior public service executives who have developed and advanced public policy initiatives. He will donate his entire King Chair compensation of $100,000 to a Howard University scholarship fund. The fund will support students coming from a foster home environment.

“Howard has a longstanding history of being a vibrant academic community and the perfect place to have rich dialogue on many of the most pressing issues we face today,” Comey said.

Obama appointed Comey as FBI director in September 2013, and President Donald Trump abruptly fired him on May 9. At the time, he was investigating if there was collusion by Trump’s campaign with Russia’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats and Republicans alike have called for an independent investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election.

Following his dismissal, Trump met with Russian officials at the White House on May 10.

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting, which an American official read to The New York Times.

“I faced great pressure because of Russia,” he said. “That’s taken off.”

“I’m not under investigation,” Trump said.

At a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, Comey accused Trump of firing him to try to undermine the agency’s investigation. He said he believed Trump had directed him in February to drop an FBI probe into the Republican president’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, as part of the broader Russia investigation.

Comey’s memoir, which is expected to provide more details, will be published in the spring of 2018.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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