FBI Director James Comey over-stepped his bounds this past summer in discussing investigative matters with the press and sharing his opinions, above and beyond the findings. Now he has done it again, breaking with longstanding protocol and adding a nebulous bombshell (Should we call it a dirty bomb?) to the mix 11 days before the election.
There was very little substance to what he disclosed, and he did it on a Friday — leaving things open for a weekend of speculation and spin. Both the Clinton and the Trump campaigns have demanded fuller disclosure – for widely divergent reasons. This is a can of squirmy worms that is going to be with us for a long time coming. And, according to this piece in Newsweek, it actually has very little, if anything, to do with Hillary.
There’s an excellent piece about this in the New Yorker. The Justice Department has very clear directives about NOT doing precisely what Comey just did in an election season. And the New Yorker piece includes numerous examples of the Department’s decisions to hold back.
So this feels like it could be yet another example of members of the GOP believing that their values and concerns trump (yes, trump) fair play. No doubt Comey has been under incredible pressure from the right and the conspiracy theorists and Clinton-haters. He already went too far this summer in trying to explain himself, and he set himself up for more of the same pressure by caving the first time … so now he is doing it again.
There’s this commentary, quoted in the Washington Post:
Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman in the Obama administration, said the FBI rarely releases information about ongoing criminal investigations and does not release information about federal investigations this close to political elections.
“Comey’s behavior in this case from the beginning has been designed to protect his reputation for independence no matter the consequences to the public, to people under investigation or to the FBI’s own integrity,” Miller said.
Miller and other former officials pointed to a 2012 Justice Department memo saying that all employees have the responsibility to enforce the law in a “neutral and impartial manner,” which is “particularly important in an election year.”
Miller said he had been involved in cases related to elected officials in which the FBI waited until several days after an election to send subpoenas. “They know that if they even send a subpoena, let alone announce an investigation, that might leak and it might become public and it would unfairly influence the election when voters have no way to interpret the information,” Miller said.
He’s described as a man of integrity, but to my eye it looks like Comey is protecting his butt. If he didn’t reveal this pre-election and it came out post-election he’d be tarred and feathered by some. But that’s why there are longstanding protocols and practices. In fact, it’s reported that the Attorney General expressed her preference that he stick with protocol and he rejected that advice.
So, he actually went pretty far out on a limb to do this. He had cover (protocol and the AG’s expressed preference). And (as noted above) he chose to do it on a Friday, which I find interesting.
Whether it’s simply to protect his job and his reputation with the right, or whether it’s to affect the election, or some kind of a nifty conglomeration of both, is something only he knows. And if I had to guess, he’s probably got himself so convinced that he’s correct and acting from the moral high ground that neither of these two possibilities is a conscious thought in his mind.
But, then again, maybe this has all just moved Mr. Comey closer to early retirement. CNN has now called for his resignation, in another interesting piece.
Speaking of ‘retirements,’ though … is anyone else f**king tired of the way dudes like Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton undermine the women in their lives? I mean, really. Maybe it’s time for Hillary to separate, too. Just sayin’.