If there’s one person who is feeling a lot of heat right now, it’s FBI Director James Comey. He’s pretty much reopened the investigation into the Clinton email probe after thousands of emails relating to the initial review that was completed in July—found that Huma Abedin sent the former first lady emails on a laptop shared by her now estranged husband Anthony Weiner; Weiner is being investigated for his online interactions with an underage girl. FBI Director Comey felt it was necessary to inform the public that his agency would review these emails on Friday, which set off a firestorm with pretty much everyone, even people who want Hillary Clinton to lose in November.
There are not enough details, says the Clinton camp. It’s the Russians. This is playing politics. This is illegal. This is an abuse of power. And of course, this is really, really bad for Hillary Clinton. We’re now nine days away from going to the voting booth—and this development was plastered all over the top papers of key swing states. Yet, taken that aside right now, Comey has gone from top crime fighter at the FBI with impeccable integrity to hack over the course of this election…from both sides. Conservatives were in an uproar over his decision not to file charges against Hillary Clinton in July, even though his press conference ripped into her ethos regarding safeguarding classified material, along with her staff. As Chuck Todd noted, it was an indictment of her character, which made for great attack ads that never materialized under Trump. Democrats shrugged and said it was time to move on; nothing illegal was done here. Now, with the email fiasco rearing its head again, even the stench of it is sending Democrats in to full-freakout mode.
Clinton ally and lawyer Lanny Davis wrote how Comey’s announcement was possibly illegal. Economist and New York Times contributor Paul Krugman alleged that Comey was trying to swing the election. Guy wrote today how Attorney General Lynch tried to persuade Comey to withhold the announcement and not reactivate the probe. Comey doesn’t have to listen to the AG and her opinion was tainted the moment she allowed Bill Clinton onto her plane for a 30-minute chat, days prior to the FBI’s announcement that they weren’t going to charge Hillary for her email usage. On top of that, The Washington Post adds that DOJ officials told Comey he was deviating protocol concerning updating Congress on the status of the email probe:
Senior Justice Department officials warned the FBI that Director James B. Comey’s decision to notify Congress about renewing the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was not consistent with long-standing practices of the department, according to officials familiar with the discussions.
Comey told Justice Department officials that he intended to inform lawmakers of newly discovered emails. These officials told him the department’s position “that we don’t comment on an ongoing investigation. And we don’t take steps that will be viewed as influencing an election,” said one Justice Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the high-level conversations.
“Director Comey understood our position. He heard it from Justice leadership,” the official said. “It was conveyed to the FBI, and Comey made an independent decision to alert the Hill. He is operating independently of the Justice Department. And he knows it.”
Jane Mayer at The New Yorker touched on the same story:
“You don’t do this,” one former senior Justice Department official exclaimed. “It’s aberrational. It violates decades of practice.” The reason, according to the former official, who asked not to be identified because of ongoing cases involving the department, “is because it impugns the integrity and reputation of the candidate, even though there’s no finding by a court, or in this instance even an indictment.”
Traditionally, the Justice Department has advised prosecutors and law enforcement to avoid any appearance of meddling in the outcome of elections, even if it means holding off on pressing cases. One former senior official recalled that Janet Reno, the Attorney General under Bill Clinton, “completely shut down” the prosecution of a politically sensitive criminal target prior to an election. “She was adamant—anything that could influence the election had to go dark,” the former official said.
So, he’s a rogue agent? Is he Col. Kurtz avoiding errand boys collecting bills? On a conference call, Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein mentioned that Clinton campaign manager called these reports from DOJ officials warning Comey not to send the letter to Congress “startling,” though campaign chair John Podesta, who was also on the call, said “We are not charging him with anything other than taking an unprecedented step.” Fine, but Clinton’s surrogates and allies didn’t get the memo. The choppy narrative Democrats are pushing to assassinate Comey’s character shows little, other than a total meltdown, with accusations that he’s a Russian lackey; that smear was lobbed by Howard Dean. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) alleged that the Russians were behind the whole thing; he didn’t mention Comey specifically (via Free Beacon):
Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) suggested to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday that the Russians may have played a role in the FBI reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server after discovering new documents.
“So the question is: Where did these come from? How did they get to the FBI? Is Russia involved in this? We don’t have a clue where this stuff is coming from,” Ryan said.
On CNN, legal analyst Paul Callan wrote that it's time for Comey to leave the Bureau:
Donald Trump's oft-repeated claim that the FBI's investigation of "Crooked Hillary" and the presidential election itself were and are "rigged," seems to have thrown FBI Director James Comey into a state of panic. In foolishly making a public announcement that the bureau is reviewing newly discovered emails related to Hillary Clinton's personal server, he has inserted himself yet again into the presidential campaign.
Voters must now be subjected to endless speculation in the press and explicit accusations from the Trump campaign and other Republican candidates that Hillary Clinton is a "criminal" aided and abetted by a rigged FBI and Justice Department. Comey's "openness and transparency" will blow up in his face and further tarnish the FBI's reputation. He has reinserted the Bureau into the political process.
The director probably feared that leaks would lead to speculation that a renewed Hillary investigation was underway. In trying to get ahead of criticism of the FBI for jumping to a conclusion too quickly and closing the original Hillary Clinton email investigation, he has only made matters worse and dropped a huge new issue into the presidential campaign…
That’s certainly one side, but what about the notion if he did hold onto this announcement until after the election - in which the wrath twice as strong would have fallen upon him for sitting on an update on this investigation - depriving voters of critical information about a presidential candidate? Hillary Clinton put our national security at risk with her email arrangement; she lied about the circumstances relating to its establishment at the State Department; and the allegations of her possibly mishandling classified material remain unanswered. Comey’s reasoning for the update was detailed in a memo to FBI staffers:
Of course we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.
“At the same time, however, given that we do not know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression. In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter, and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.”
On the right, you have Rush Limbaugh saying that this probe was reloaded because…the FBI wants to take attention away from Wikileaks? Why? An FBI investigation into her emails is good press for Clinton? Of course it isn’t, so what’s the reasoning?
Rush Limbaugh says the FBI is starting a new review of Hillary Clinton’s emails to distract voters from WikiLeaks’s revelations about her.
“[FBI Director James] Comey is just doing this to take everybody’s attention off of the WikiLeaks email dump,” Limbaugh said on his radio broadcast Friday.
“The cynical view is that Comey is still carrying water for Clinton and is trying to get everybody to stop paying attention on the WikiLeaks dump because it’s starting to have an impact,” he continued.
“So you announce you’re opening the inquiry, get everybody all hot and bothered and focused on it, and after three or four or five days, you announce it’s a false alarm, nothing to see her, investigation now officially over, and meanwhile, in that five day period, everybody’s forgotten about WikiLeaks.”
Again, there are thousands of emails; this isn’t going to be three-day review. And everyone, even those who are ripping Comey, admitted that this latest chapter of the Clinton email saga could take a while, possibly concluding after the election.
Stein’s tweet pretty much sums up the Right’s freakout over the initial review of Clinton’s emails. That outrage torch has now been passed to the Democrats. But so what if this is unprecedented? Of course it is since this is the first time major presidential candidate has been under FBI investigation. Maybe this is new protocol for when the FBI will have to investigate future presidential candidates during an election season. The fact that the FBI was involved in this last summer doesn’t mean that connection, or their duty to review more evidence, just goes away when new facts arise. Rich Lowry of National Review wrote that the fact that Clinton was under the microscope by the Bureau meant they were going to be big players in the election no matter what.
life, fast, at you, etc… pic.twitter.com/ycQ9nebbyG— Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) October 29, 2016
As a result, all of this drama on the Right and Left about the emails, the FBI, and James Comey being a hack wouldn’t even be a topic of discussion right now if the Democrats didn’t pick such an awful candidate to be their standard-bearer. I’ll let Allahpundit elaborate more from his post on the subject:
Just so. The FBI opened its investigation into Clinton’s emails in August 2015, six months before the first votes were cast in Iowa. They could have recommended criminal charges against Hillary at any time between then and Comey’s press conference in July 2016. Every Democrat who cast a primary vote for her this year knew that. They didn’t care. They supported her, they voted for her, and eventually they nominated her. They viewed Emailgate as another Republican hobbyhorse a la Benghazi that sane people needn’t bother themselves about, to the point that Bernie Sanders chose to avoid the issue lest he be seen as parroting “right-wing attacks.” They politicized this by insisting on a damaged nominee. They chose to accept the risk of having their party’s electoral chances ripped apart in an instant if the FBI turned up some smoking gun of malfeasance in the emails that required them to recommend charges.
It’s not normal practice for the FBI to brief the public on ongoing investigations but then it’s not normal practice for half the public to nominate the target of an ongoing investigation for president, is it? Nominating Hillary this year when she was already under a cloud of suspicion was Democrats effectively daring the FBI to destroy its credibility as a nonpartisan agency with half the country by recommending charges. And they succeeded. When the time came in July for Comey to make a decision, he called a press conference, declared that Hillary and her team had been “extremely careless” in handling classified information — a synonym for gross negligence, just as the statute requires — but then farted out an excuse that it wouldn’t be fair ‘n stuff to prosecute someone who hadn’t shown obvious criminal intent. Democrats won their bet that Comey wouldn’t have the stones to upend the election by charging Hillary. Clearly, though, he felt badly enough about his dereliction of duty in letting her off for political reasons that he decided some form of punishment was in order, which is why he held that damning press conference to begin with. In lieu of having a federal grand jury decide whether there’s probable cause to believe Clinton committed a crime, it appears he chose to leave it to the national “jury” in November. He went out there, made the case against her like a good prosecutor does, and then put the ball in our court. It is, as many people have said, highly unusual for the FBI (let alone the director) to call a news conference to explain that charges against a suspect won’t be filed, but it’s also a foreseeable consequence of taking the even more highly unusual step of handing your party’s nomination to the subject of a criminal probe.
Whatever Comey was going to do was going to bring with it allegations of influencing the election and playing politics. There was no way around this pickle. He obviously choose what he feels is the course of action for the agency; the man visited the Hill twice on the matter, informing them of the update seemed not out of the ordinary, unlike nominating Clinton for president. In the meantime, Comey is facing character assassination on all fronts all thanks to the Democratic Party and their awful, awful candidate. Yes, Donald Trump isn’t much better. Then again, the FBI never investigated Trump for possibly mishandling classified information.
The rumor mill will also spin about why this development came about; there have been reports that Comey was facing an internal revolt at the FBI for refusing to charge Clinton, with agents noting that he “stood in the way.” We’ll see what comes of this, but informing the public of the new information about Clinton’s emails seemed to be the best of the horrible options that faced the embattled director regarding political blowback and protecting the reputation of the agency. It’s now a wait-and-see game.
Clinton camp decision to go hard at Comey comes w/ risk (obviously): encouraging him to justify letter by unveiling a piece of damaging info— Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) October 29, 2016