FBI Director James Comey has been the punching bag for everyone. Democrats thought he was a partisan agent for releasing a letter to Congress informing them that the FBI would be reviewing new emails found on the laptop of Clinton aide, Huma Abedin. Then-Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) ripped the director, saying that he singlehandedly cost Democrats the 2016 election. On the other hand, if Comey had decided to release the letter after the election, he would be slammed by Republicans for sitting on information pertinent to an investigation into whether Hillary Clinton mishandled classified information through her unsecured and unauthorized homebrew email server while serving as our top diplomat. She did all her official business through that private email system.
Now, as Congress prepares to look into possible links between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign, Democrats have somewhat softened their hatred towards Comey, or they have been much less vocal about it. Trump had the option to ask for Comey’s resignation, but in an interview with Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo last night—the president said that he has confidence in him. He went on to remind us that he feels Comey actually saved Clinton’s 2016 campaign (via Washington Examiner):
Speaking to Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo, Trump was asked if it was a mistake not to ask Comey to step down and if it's too late to do so now.
"No it's not too late," Trump said. "But you know, I have confidence in him. We'll see what happens. It's going to be interesting."
"Don't forget when Jim Comey came out, he saved Hillary Clinton," Trump said. "People don't realize that. He saved her life. Because I call it 'Comey 1.' And I joke about it a little bit. When he was reading those charges, she was guilty of every charge. And then he said she was essentially OK."
Trump is referring to Comey’s July 5, 2016 press conference, where he ripped the Clinton staff for their extreme carelessness in handling highly sensitive and classified information through an unsecure server, but added that no charges would be brought against the former first lady, which drew the ire of Republicans [emphasis mine]:
FBI investigators have also read all of the approximately 30,000 e-mails provided by Secretary Clinton to the State Department in December 2014. Where an e-mail was assessed as possibly containing classified information, the FBI referred the e-mail to any U.S. government agency that was a likely “owner” of information in the e-mail, so that agency could make a determination as to whether the e-mail contained classified information at the time it was sent or received, or whether there was reason to classify the e-mail now, even if its content was not classified at the time it was sent (that is the process sometimes referred to as “up-classifying”).
From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional e-mails were “up-classified” to make them Confidential; the information in those had not been classified at the time the e-mails were sent.
The FBI also discovered several thousand work-related e-mails that were not in the group of 30,000 that were returned by Secretary Clinton to State in 2014. We found those additional e-mails in a variety of ways. Some had been deleted over the years and we found traces of them on devices that supported or were connected to the private e-mail domain. Others we found by reviewing the archived government e-mail accounts of people who had been government employees at the same time as Secretary Clinton, including high-ranking officials at other agencies, people with whom a Secretary of State might naturally correspond.
Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.
For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation. In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on e-mail (that is, excluding the later “up-classified” e-mails).
None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.
With respect to potential computer intrusion by hostile actors, we did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked. But, given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal e-mail extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related e-mails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.
There was no criminal indictment, but NBC’s Chuck Todd said that the press conference was an indictment of the Clinton camp and the former secretary of state’s judgment, something that the Trump campaign should have exploited but didn’t. Trump won the election regardless. Oh, and as for Comey being a partisan agent, well—he wanted to write about how the FBI was looking into allegations of Russian interference in an op-ed in the summer of 2016. Who stopped him? That was the Obama White House.