I wasn’t going to mention the fact that F.B.I. Director James B. Comey sent a letter to members of Congress this past Friday, telling them that new evidence had surfaced pertaining to the agency’s investigation into the private emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This, as multiple news sources have since reported, was in clear violation of established agency protocol, which dictates that active cases not be commented on, a fact which was apparently explained to Comey by representatives of both Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Director Comey, however, chose to send the letter anyway. While Comey informed his employees that the break in protocol was necessary, given that he’d testified recently that the investigation into Clinton’s email had been closed, it would appear that most impartial observers seem to think that he made this announcement when he did, just eleven days prior to the election, in hopes that it might adversely effect the Clinton campaign.
It should be noted that, when Comey sent out this letter to members of Congress, he had not even seen the content of the emails in question, which had apparently surfaced as a result of an unrelated investigation involving former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. As it was reported shortly after Comey’s letter to Congress was made public, he’d yet to even receive a warrant for the emails in question before making the announcement that the investigation into Clinton’s email was being re-opened.
So, to summarize, Comey was told that new Clinton emails had surfaced in relation to an investigation into Anthony Weiner, the ex-husband of Huma Abedin, vice chairwoman of the Clinton campaign, and, before he even looked at them, and against all established protocol, he went public, saying that the case against Clinton was being re-opened, knowing full well that it would dominate the weekend news cycle and likely impact the outcome of the election… Here for what it’s worth, is what Comey sent to members of his staff, explaining why he’d done this.
“Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations,” he said, “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 don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.”
And now, as you might imagine, people are coming after Comey, accusing him of attempting to sway the election, which is a clear violation of the Hatch Act. And those challenging Comey aren’t just on the left. In today’s New York Times, Richard W. Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, penned an op-ed, explaining why he’d filed an ethics complaint against the F.B.I. Director. Here’s an excerpt.
The F.B.I. is currently investigating the hacking of Americans’ computers by foreign governments. Russia is a prime suspect.
Imagine a possible connection between a candidate for president in the United States and the Russian computer hacking. Imagine the candidate has business dealings in Russia, and has publicly encouraged the Russians to hack the email of his opponent. It would not be surprising for the F.B.I. to include this candidate and his campaign staff in its confidential investigation of Russian computer hacking.
But it would be highly improper, and an abuse of power, for the F.B.I. to conduct such an investigation in the public eye, particularly on the eve of the election. It would be an abuse of power for the director of the F.B.I., absent compelling circumstances, to notify members of Congress that the candidate was under investigation. It would be an abuse of power if F.B.I. agents went so far as to obtain a search warrant and raid the candidate’s office tower, hauling out boxes of documents and computers in front of television cameras.
The F.B.I.’s job is to investigate, not to influence the outcome of an election.
Such acts could also be prohibited under the Hatch Act, which bars the use of an official position to influence an election. That is why the F.B.I. presumably would keep those aspects of an investigation confidential until after the election. The usual penalty for a violation is termination of federal employment.”
That is why, on Saturday, I filed a complaint against the F.B.I. with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations, and with the Office of Government Ethics. I spent much of my career working on government and lawyers’ ethics, including as the chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush. I never thought that the F.B.I. could be dragged into a political circus surrounding one of its investigations. Until this week…
Interestingly, Painter wasn’t the one one to frame the issue by drawing a comparison to Trump’s association with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released a letter today asking Director Comey why he’d come forward to say that the F.B.I. would be looking at new emails from Hillary Clinton, but had remained quiet on the active F.B.I. investigation into the connections between Trump and Putin. After saying, “Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law,” Reid asked about the double standard, and why Comey hadn’t come forward with information he possesses on Trump’s ties to Russia. The full letter can be see below, but here’s a clip.
…In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know the information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interested from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.
By contrast, as soon as you came into possession of the slightest innuendo related to Secretary Clinton, you rushed to publicize it in the most negative light possible.
Moreover, in tarring Secretary Clinton with thin innuendo, you overruled longstanding tradition and the explicit guidance of your own Department. You rushed to take this step eleven days before a presidential election, despite the fact that fora all you know, the information you possess could be entirely duplicative of the information you already examined which exonerated Secretary Clinton…
Like I said at the top, I didn’t plan to write about this most recent revelation of Comey’s. I was pretty sure, right off the bat, that it was going to be nothing more than another instance of politically motivated bullshit, and, given what’s been reported since, that certainly seems to be the case. The subsequent revelation of Reid’s that the F.B.I. is in possession of “explosive information” proving coordination between the Trump campaign and Putin, however, made the story a lot more interesting to me, as I don’t doubt for a minute that Putin has been actively attempting to influence the outcome of this election. More importantly, though, I wanted to share this tonight as I knew it would give me an opportunity to say the following… Whatever we’ve seen and heard thus far, you can bet your ass that it will absolutely pale in comparison to what we’re going to see over the course of this coming week. By the time this week is over, I predict we’ll be looking back on the Access Hollywood “pussy grabber” tape fondly, as a quaint relic of simpler times… Seriously, I think things are going to get very strange this week, as election day approaches and the race tightens. To be honest, at this point, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Jesus came back, or spaceships started landing… Whatever happens, I wish you all luck. I’ll see you on the other side, assuming we all survive it.