Donald Trump’s attacks on the truth and the rule of law will damage the norms upon which our country was founded, according to James Comey, the former FBI director.

Comey was a keynote speaker on June 6 at the annual Pershing INSITE advisor conference in Orlando, FL.

Comey recounted a terrifying childhood incident that led him to his career in law enforcement. He opined on the Mueller investigation, Hillary Clinton’s emails, prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart, and more broadly, on the traits of effective leadership.

But his sharpest comments were directed to the current administration.

Comey said he doesn’t care about Trump’s views on policies, but about “what’s above that”: American values.

“Donald Trump threatens truth and the rule of law,” he said. “His approach to the job is going to do damage to our norms.”

He recalled that George W. Bush spent much of his presidency defending his claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and Barack Obama was held accountable for saying that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” He is afraid that Trump’s falsehoods are so numerous that Americans will not bother to try to hold future presidents accountable.

“The president lies so much this touchstone melts away,” Comey said.

On a somewhat positive note, Comey likened the Trump era to a forest fire, which does damage but spurs new growth. For example, he said, the importance of civics courses is coming back. “I feel good about that,” Comey said.

A life lesson as a teenager

Comey grew up in New Jersey. As a senior in high school, while at home one night with his younger brother, a serial rapist-robber kicked in the door. He was planning to attack his sister, who wasn’t home at the time. Comey initially ignored the noise, but the robber pointed a gun at his brother and forced him to go upstairs. Comey heard the noise from his parents’ room, opened the door and saw his brother lying face down on the bed.

He confronted the robber, who then threatened to kill his brother.

Comey spoke with the robber and eventually established a level of trust. The robber eventually locked the two of them in the bathroom. They quickly escaped, but were caught again. Comey reflected that he had broken the trust he had worked to create, and was sure he and his brother would be killed.

Eventually, the police arrived and they were rescued. Comey did not say whether the robber was ever caught.