• James Comey writes an op-ed for The Washington Post about president Trump
  • Comey warns of the dangers an "unprincipled" Trump poses to American democracy
  • Comey says Trump is a "shrunken, withered figure" despised and laughed at by even his closest confidants
  • Americans must "summon the effort necessary to protect this republic"

Back in October, former FBI director James Comey jokingly said in a TV interview he'll move to New Zealand if Donald Trump is re-elected in 2020.

“From my new home in New Zealand, I still will believe in America,” said Comey to laughter from the audience.

Comey isn't alone in this sentiment among popular Americans. Before the 2016 election, supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “Now it’s time for us to move to New Zealand” if Trump was elected. She still lives in New York City.

Comey's comment about moving to New Zealand reflects the enduring bewilderment among the majority of Americans about Trump's popularity in the Republican Party and its supporters despite the president's unending string of scandals.

Trump's presence also reminds the people he's hurt -- including Comey -- there can be no return to normalcy while Trump's still around. Comey is trying to cope with that reality, hence his quips like moving to New Zealand.

In an op-ed published by The Washington Post, Comey talked about what's it’s like to be personally and publicly attacked by the president of the United States. But more important than this, Comey warned about Trump's destruction of democracy in the United States and the weakening of the democratic institutions that hold the country together.

Comey, who Trump fired as FBI director in May 2017, said Trump's attacks on him and others that oppose him have interfered with their ability to find work after government service.

"It’s hard on good people, especially those who don’t have savings to fall back on," wrote Comey. "But the truth is that, in many ways, it is not as hard as you might think, especially as it continues endlessly, leaking power, shrinking its source."

He described four stages in the process that leads from criticism to the ultimate realization Trump is a "shrunken, withered figure" despised and laughed at by even his closest confidants.

In the first stage, Trump's attacks "rocks your world." The second stage is "a kind of numbness, where it doesn’t seem quite real that the so-called Leader of the Free World is assailing you by tweet and voice. It is still unsettling, but it is harder to recapture the vertigo of the first assault."

James Comey
Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., June 8, 2017. Getty Images/Saul Loeb

The impacts of Trump's assaults diminish in the third stage. Comey said it "no longer feels as though the most powerful human on the planet is after you. It feels as though a strange and slightly sad old guy is yelling at you to get off his lawn, echoed by younger but no less sad people in red hats shouting, 'Yeah, get off his lawn!'"

It's at this stage where Comey says Trump seems diminished, "much as he has diminished the presidency itself."

He said foreign leaders laugh at Trump and throw his letters in the trash. American leaders offer condescending prayers for his personal well-being (think Nancy Pelosi). Trump’s “trusted” advisers talk about him behind his back and treat him like a child. Principled public servants defy Trump's orders not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.

The fourth and final stage sees the dawning of the realization American democracy has to be protected from Trump.

"We must not look away," says Comey. "We must summon the effort necessary to protect this republic from Alexander Hamilton’s great fear, that when an unprincipled person 'is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity -- to join in the cry of danger to liberty -- to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion -- to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day -- It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’ ”