Matt touched on this earlier, but this disclosure from fired FBI Director James Comey really highlights the extent to which key decisions he made over the course of the Clinton email investigation were made through a politicized, non-law-enforcement-centric, prism. Ironically, by making this admission, which he blithely skates past, Comey effectively confirms a core complaint shared by his critics on the Right and Left alike: That his self-importance and ego turned him into a problematically political actor. Liberals -- who, ironically, will drive Comey's book sales -- are still livid that the Bureau's ex-chief decided to notify Congress that he was re-engaging the dormant Clinton email probe just days prior to the election, based on newly-discovered information. They point to some analysis that this move could have cost Clinton the election, even though Comey reasserted his recommendation not to recommend charges before voters went to the polls. In his book, Comey insists he took this action for Hillary's own good:
As for his controversial disclosure on Oct. 28, 2016, 11 days before the election, that the F.B.I. was reviewing more Clinton emails that might be pertinent to its earlier investigation, Comey notes here that he had assumed from media polling that Clinton was going to win. He has repeatedly asked himself, he writes, whether he was influenced by that assumption: “It is entirely possible that, because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president, my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls. But I don’t know.”
"But I don't know." Insert [shrug emoji] here. He thought she was going to win, so this was about protecting her legitimacy as president. Oops! Here's the thing: Even if you're sympathetic to Comey's reasoning at the time, why should political polling have played any role whatsoever in the decision-making process regarding how a criminal investigation is conducted? Of course there was going to be unique sensitivities at play, given who was under scrutiny. But allowing political prognostications to color and impact major choices lends credence to the idea that law enforcement has become dangerously politicized. Democrats will also argue that Comey's original sin was breaking precedent and commenting on the probe at all. If he wasn't going to recommend charges (he writes that he was dubious of Loretta Lynch's impartiality in the matter, due to still-classified information), he should have stuck with tradition and kept his mouth shut. Instead, he very publicly castigated Clinton's "extremely reckless" conduct in the process of quasi-exonerating her of criminal wrongdoing. In many Republicans' mind, that latter bit was Comey's grave error. Clinton's conduct fit the bill for gross negligence (as Comey himself admitted), and his excuses about proving "intent" were both irrelevant and unpersuasive. Clinton should have been charged. Did Comey decide not to push for that outcome because he thought doing so might be too disruptive to the state of the presidential race? Did he perform a polling analysis during his process of weighing this determination?
Comey is also back in the business of discussing the so-called "pee tape" allegations from the unsubstantiated Steele dossier, to which President Trump strenuously objected. For some reason, Comey has decided to say that the claim could be true, even though he has no idea either way. As for that infamous dossier, ABC anchor George Stephanopolous has taped an exclusive interview with the author of A Higher Loyalty, and here's one of the exchanges that has leaked ahead of Sunday's broadcast:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you tell him that the Steele dossier had been financed by his political opponents?— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) April 13, 2018
COMEY: No. I didn’t...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But did he have a right to know that?
COMEY: That it had been financed by his political opponents? I don't know the answer to that.
So Comey knew all about the partisan provenance of the explosive and unconfirmed file that had been compiled against Trump, but never informed Trump of that relevant detail, with which Trump could defend himself? At least the president wasn't alone in this respect; that same detail wasn't adequately disclosed to FISA judges either. This sort of reminds me of how told Trump in private, repeatedly, that he wasn't under investigation -- but wouldn't say so publicly, driving Trump up a wall. It seems like James Comey managed to infuriate almost everyone over the course of his handling of the Clinton and Trump probes. But at least there was one man who solemnly reaffirmed Comey's good intentions:
It's the "On the verge of tears" that makes this. pic.twitter.com/Q23sWahaK6— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) April 12, 2018
I'll leave you with this, er, memorable review of A Higher Loyalty (light content warning):
What explains the "bitchy" pre-tape speculation and hand size winks? Hey, Mr. Integrity (who has some fair reasons to despise Trump) has gotta sell books to an anti-Trump audience to whom he was once a villain somehow.