In an environment where some crave black and white, FBI Director James Comey took the only course he could in the Machiavellian hall of mirrors in which he found himself. Many are howling at his July 5th announcement in shades of gray, but upon reflection, they should understand what history will say: Comey gave us a gift of extraordinary value.
Backdrop: In an earlier life, it was my privilege and honor to work with dozens of women and men of the FBI at various levels from the second Reagan Administration through George W. Bush’s first Administration. Though I have never worked for the FBI and am not an apologist for that agency, without exception, I found Bureau staff to be professionals of the utmost integrity, people you’d want at your side in a time of danger.
Of course, my experiences with the Bureau spanned the Clinton years. Remember Filegate? Remember how the Clintons attempted to skewer the Bureau because so many of their appointees weren’t “clearable?” Young agents in the 90’s are in positions of power now, and, I’m guessing, have not forgotten their experiences with eight years of the Clintons—both of them. Though I have not spoken with a single FBI source, current or retired, it is not hard to conclude no love is lost between the parties, and there’s no reason why James Comey or anyone in his agency would want to do Hillary Clinton a favor. They had every reason to do their jobs well—and they did.
Here’s how I think James Comey cut the Gordian Knot:
- 1. Comey did not have to be a member of Mensa to conclude that with this Administration in power, there would never be an indictment of Hillary Clinton for jaywalking or any other crime. Despite noises of transparency, he could not help but notice the president’s own public dismissal of Clinton wrongdoing weeks ago, so he knew there was going to be a cover-up. What took him to the edge and over it may well have been Attorney General Lynch’s thirty minute meeting with Bill Clinton.
- 2. Comey knew, more than anyone else, that for Clinton, the game was rigged, but he and his agency were in an impossible position. Were he to spike the investigation, and “clear” her, he knew a significant likelihood of senior FBI executive resignations and/or leaks from staff would forever damage the credibility of his beloved agency.
- 3. Comey was certain that given the overwhelming evidence of Clinton’s “extreme carelessness,” her serial lies, the repeated violations of law by her and staff under her direction, she could not possibly be indicted by Democrats because the spillover would soil many important shoes. But what if he chose to make a recommendation for indictment? This is the key point everyone has missed: that recommendation would have been like a tree falling in the forest.
- 4. Most important, Comey understood, was that if the FBI recommended an indictment, there would never be a public acknowledgement of it, and there would never be a layout—in any detail—of the specific evidence compiled about Clinton’s complicity. Why? Because an announcement of the Bureau’s referral for indictment would be unprofessional, prejudicial, and probably illegal.
- 5. Next, he knew, an indictment referral would disappear into the partisan bowels of DOJ, where it would suitably languish, until sometime before Labor Day, when Attorney General Lynch, would issue a banal statement claiming that “after a thorough review of the FBI’s exhaustive investigation, there are no grounds to take further action.” No detail would be forthcoming, and the American people would be convinced to conclude her innocence. Or if a report was released, it would be scrubbed by the same people who gave us the Benghazi talking points. You can see that, can’t you? Comey did.
- 6. So Comey realized the only way to get all the pertinent information out in front of the people was to do exactly what he did, in the interest of “transparency,” as he said on Tuesday. In the intervening hours he’s been subject to much criticism, not just from the talking heads, but no doubt, from headhunters at the White House. But Comey knew that, too.
What James Comey did—and for this alone, historians should lavish their praise—was to bring to Hillary Rodham Clinton the only justice she might ever receive. By laying out for us her willful negligence, her repeatedly disqualifying behavior for the presidency, he has permitted the American people to judge the matter for themselves—in the court of public opinion.
What Comey also knows is this: The State Media crowd, fawning lackeys who stain the profession of journalism, will hasten to declare the matter ancient history and move on. The Republican candidate has so far demonstrated a maddening ineptitude in staffing and running a campaign, in disassociating himself from the unsavory instincts of his psyche and some of his supporters, and perhaps, in handling such a rare gift to the voting public. Should Trump cede the election to Clinton, Comey needed to find a way for the honor and integrity of his agency to survive intact. He did.
The greater tragedy in all of this is that a Trump failure to win the Oval Office will ensure the disgraceful and purportedly criminal behaviors of the Clintons being buried forever. And James Comey knows that, too.
For all that you and the FBI have done for us, Director Comey: Thank you, sir.