It was July 2016 when then-FBI Director James Comey stepped to the microphone to give details on the much-awaited investigation into Hillary Clinton. Specifically, Mrs. Clinton was being investigated for storing classified government materials on a private server she had built as opposed to a government-administered server she was required to use. Additionally, she deleted thirty thousand pieces of material from that server – a good deal of it determined to be classified, government property.
Sounds pretty bad, right? In fact, if you or I were to hide or destroy government documents and communication, it wouldn’t be a discussion. You’d be spending this and many Christmases to come in the federal pen. It’s so obviously lawless behavior. It’s not even debatable. But Mrs. Clinton is a free woman today. And she has James Comey to thank.
The reason to look back on this period in history is to understand the double-speak and gaslighting of today. During that 2016 press conference, Comey did, in fact, layout devastating and unseemly wrongdoing by Mrs. Clinton. Then he stunned everyone by simply declaring he didn’t find she did all that bad stuff “intentionally.” Nope, Comey concluded she was just sloppy. Mistakes happened. It’s bad, but she didn’t mean to. Nothing to see here.
It would be the very justification Comey would use to proclaim his own innocence after the devastating Inspector General report released last week. “Hey everybody, the Inspector General didn’t accuse me of all the horrible things Donald Trump said I did! Do you see?! I’m a good guy! I didn’t do anything wrong.’
It’s a great gimmick, and a “truth” only by an important technicality - not by the facts.
When Inspector General Horowitz was called to testify before the Senate last week, Republicans pressed him repeatedly to explain why the FISA courts had been misled by the FBI to secure warrants to spy on the Trump 2016 campaign. Horowitz was also repeatedly asked to explain what he found related to political bias within the agency that led to flagrantly abusive behaviors and violated policies.
Again and again, Horowitz demurred. Frankly, it was hard to watch. All honest people read the partisan texts between a couple of FBI agents assigned to the Trump 2016 case. All honest people know a phony, baseless political document paid for by Trump’s political opposition was used as justification to trick a court into granting permission to spy on the Trump campaign.
Once again, just as the facts were clear in Mrs. Clinton’s illegal server case, the case against Comey and political actors inside the FBI was clear as a day. But the key distinction between them was who was leading the respective investigations and what Department of Justice policy actually says about releasing the findings.
Let’s rewind back to May of 2017, just months into President Trump’s administration when it was determined Director Comey should be fired from his post at FBI. The man who recommended it to the President gave a very specific reason for it. He violated DOJ policy in the way he announced the findings of Mrs. Clinton’s investigation. From the formal letter:
“The director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General's authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement. At most, the Director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors…however, the Director announced his own conclusions about the nation's most sensitive criminal investigation, without the authorization of duly appointed Justice Department leaders.”
I’ll shorthand that. Hey Comey, investigators aren’t supposed to render verdicts and intent. They’re supposed to present the facts and shut up about speculation.
Last week, Inspector General Horowitz did the appropriate thing by refusing to assign motives to the bad behavior of FBI officials in 2016/2017. Horowitz is doing the right thing. The proper thing. The thing DOJ rules require. They aren’t supposed to render judgments. They aren’t supposed to guess at motives. They aren’t supposed to confirm or deny the intent behind the actions they uncover.
Yes, it’s obvious to you and me the FBI acted with malice and political intent, but unless Horowitz was able to prove it – he had no choice but to lay out the facts, declare them alarming and unprecedented, but ultimately remain silent on intent and motive because that’s not the job of professional investigators.
Bottom line, Comey was fired back in 2017 for violating DOJ policy when declaring Mrs. Clinton innocent and lacking intent. Today, Comey is using Horowitz remaining silent on intent as some kind of perverted vindication. “You see, he didn’t say I was guilty of intent, so I’m not!”
Only the slimiest, practiced lawyer fluent in DOJ parlance can go public and make such a case with a straight face.
To be clear, Horowitz has said while he won’t comment on motives or bias, no one within FBI leadership should take his report to be a vindication. In fact, Horowitz said it was either “sheer gross incompetence or intentional misconduct.” Further, in one of the rarest events in Washington – the presiding FISA court judge issued an admonishment of FBI leadership after reviewing Horowitz’s findings this week.
"The frequency with which representations by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether the information contained in other FBI applications is reliable," Judge Rosemary Collyer wrote.
The gravity of this cannot be ignored. The leadership of our signature law enforcement agency has been caught red-handed abusing surveillance capabilities to take down politicians they don’t like.
Meanwhile, the Democrats scream President Trump –a man who’s been abused by the powerful is instead of abusing his power.
Call it double-speak, Orwellian, gaslighting, or whatever you’d like. Those guilty of actual abuse of power are on cable news and on book tours smiling and claiming vindication at this hour as they offer commentary on cable news to a complicit media, deflecting their clear abuse of power while assigning it to an innocent president.
It’s a dark day. It appears the actual power abusers will only be brought to justice next Election Day. We’re the judge and jury. Until then, we’ll have to continue navigating our way through this Democrat/media looking glass.
Looks like I picked the wrong year to quit drinking.