James Comey and the Fallacy of His Being Apolitical
I already wrote earlier about that truly stunning NYTimes piece yesterday on the Comey letter. But it was a very long and informative piece and one post by no means exhausts all that we have learned. I second Jamil Smith:
Comey had no business doing what he did before the election. None. I feel that even more strongly now after reading that @nytimes report.
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) April 23, 2017
Correct. Comey continues to try to dress himself up in purely apolitical robes.
“The day before he upended the 2016 election, James B. Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, summoned agents and lawyers to his conference room. They had been debating all day, and it was time for a decision.”
“Mr. Comey’s plan was to tell Congress that the F.B.I. had received new evidence and was reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton, the presidential front-runner. The move would violate the policies of an agency that does not reveal its investigations or do anything that may influence an election. But Mr. Comey had declared the case closed, and he believed he was obligated to tell Congress that had changed.”
“Should you consider what you’re about to do may help elect Donald Trump president?” an adviser asked him, Mr. Comey recalled recently at a closed meeting with F.B.I. agents.
He could not let politics affect his decision, he replied. “If we ever start considering who might be affected, and in what way, by what we do, we’re done,” he told the agents.
But in truth the analysis the Comey team made seemed to be-Hillary would win anyway and when she’s POTUS it would have looked bad.
“In my mind at the time, Clinton is likely to win,” Mr. Steinbach said. “It’s pretty apparent. So what happens after the election, in November or December? How do we say to the American public: ‘Hey, we found some things that might be problematic. But we didn’t tell you about it before you voted’? The damage to our organization would have been irreparable.”
“Conservative news outlets had already branded Mr. Comey a Clinton toady. That same week, the cover of National Review featured a story on “James Comey’s Dereliction,” and a cartoon of a hapless Mr. Comey shrugging as Mrs. Clinton smashed her laptop with a sledgehammer.
Congressional Republicans were preparing for years of hearings during a Clinton presidency. If Mr. Comey became the subject of those hearings, F.B.I. officials feared, it would hobble the agency and harm its reputation. “I don’t think the organization would have survived that,” Mr. Steinbach said.
The assumption was that the email review would take many weeks or months. “If we thought we could be done in a week,” Mr. Steinbach said, “we wouldn’t say anything.”
Then: it was done in a week. And yet you upended an election over a pretty faulty assumption-that should have been obvious. It was obvious all along that most of those phantom emails were probably duplicates. Why could they not have anticipated before upending an entire election?
“The spirited debate continued when Mr. Comey reassembled his team later that day. F.B.I. lawyers raised concerns, former officials said. But in the end, Mr. Comey said he felt obligated to tell Congress.”
“In other words politics was all over this investigation from the start. Indeed, while Comey told Congress that usually FBI investigations take a long time, he and his agents gave themselves an artificial deadline in the Emailgate probe. They felt they couldn’t let the election pass without their weighing in on it.”
“Then there is the whole shocking etymology of the Comey Press Conference-the Comey Letter gets all the attention but the presser was also indefensible and without merit.”
In my earlier piece I documented an astonishing fact revealed in the NYT piece: Comey based the need for a presser on internal documents he was privy to via Russian hackers.
Meanwhile, the basis for his presser was again explained as being totally political:
Two days later, on the morning of July 5, Mr. Comey called Ms. Lynch to say that he was about to hold a news conference. He did not tell her what he planned to say, and Ms. Lynch did not demand to know.
On short notice, the F.B.I. summoned reporters to its headquarters for the briefing.
A few blocks away, Mrs. Clinton was about to give a speech. At her campaign offices in Brooklyn, staff members hurried in front of televisions. And at the Justice Department and the F.B.I., prosecutors and agents watched anxiously.
“We were very much aware what was about to happen,” said Mr. Steinbach, who had taken over as the F.B.I.’s top national security official earlier that year. “This was going to be hotly contested.”
“With a black binder in hand, Mr. Comey walked into a large room on the ground floor of the F.B.I.’s headquarters. Standing in front of two American flags and two royal-blue F.B.I. flags, he read from a script.”
“He said the F.B.I. had reviewed 30,000 emails and discovered 110 that contained classified information. He said computer hackers may have compromised Mrs. Clinton’s emails. And he criticized the State Department’s lax security culture and Mrs. Clinton directly.”
“Any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position” should have known better, Mr. Comey said. He called her “extremely careless.”
“The criticism was so blistering that it sounded as if he were recommending criminal charges. Only in the final two minutes did Mr. Comey say that “no charges are appropriate in this case.”
“The script had been edited and revised several times, former officials said. Mr. Strzok, Mr. Steinbach, lawyers and others debated every phrase. Speaking so openly about a closed case is rare, and the decision to do so was not unanimous, officials said. But the team ultimately agreed that there was an obligation to inform American voters.”
“We didn’t want anyone to say, ‘If I just knew that, I wouldn’t have voted that way,’” Mr. Steinbach said. “You can argue that’s not the F.B.I.’s job, but there was no playbook for this. This is somebody who’s going to be president of the United States.”
So let me get this straight: people had to know so they could factor this in their voting decisions? So political considerations was totally the factor. Comey was literally concerned about making sure Americans knew every possible negative about Hillary before they voted.
Yet he didn’t think that they had a similar need to know about Russia and Trump. Based on what Steniback says, this is indefensible that they didn’t inform the national about Trump.
What is clear is this:
“Mr. Reid’s letter sparked frenzied speculation about what the F.B.I. was doing. At a congressional hearing in September, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, pressed Mr. Comey for an explanation, citing his willingness to give details about his investigation of Mrs. Clinton.”
“After you investigated Secretary Clinton, you made a decision to explain publicly who you interviewed and why,” Mr. Nadler said. “You also disclosed documents, including those from those interviews. Why shouldn’t the American people have the same level of information about your investigation with those associated with Mr. Trump?”
“But Mr. Comey never considered disclosing the case. Doing so, he believed, would have undermined an active investigation and cast public suspicion on people the F.B.I. could not be sure were implicated.”
“I’m not confirming that we’re investigating people associated with Mr. Trump,” Mr. Comey said to Mr. Nadler. “In the matter of the email investigation, it was our judgment — my judgment and the rest of the F.B.I.’s judgment — that those were exceptional circumstances.”
“Even in classified briefings with House and Senate intelligence committee members, Mr. Comey repeatedly declined to answer questions about whether there was an investigation of the Trump campaign.”
“Mr. Comey and other senior administration officials met twice in the White House Situation Room in early October to again discuss a public statement about Russian meddling. But the roles were reversed: Susan Rice, the national security adviser, wanted to move ahead. Mr. Comey was less interested in being involved.”
“At their second meeting, Mr. Comey argued that it would look too political for the F.B.I. to comment so close to the election, according to several people in attendance. Officials in the room felt whiplashed. Two months earlier, Mr. Comey had been willing to put his name on a newspaper article; now he was refusing to sign on to an official assessment of the intelligence community.”
Uh, did you get that? He actually said in early October it would look too political for the F.B.I. to comment so close to the election. In late October he felt that the country had an absolute right to know that the investigation may or may not be opened again and there may or may not be something incriminating in them.
1. Comey completely broke with protocol with the email probe but was very cautious with the Russian probe.
2. Either he was wrong to break with protocol in Emailgate or was way too cautious with Russiagate.
It’s one other the other. In comparing both probes it’s clear there was a different standard.
P.S. As we saw in my poll out last week, the long awaited poll results are in, and right now I’m just 11 points down vs. Peter King (GOP-NY-District 2). And the voters don’t even know who I am yet.
There is nothing more important in getting answers to Trump-Russia collusion than a Democratic House in 2019. Please donate to help me in my part of the effort to fight for a Dem House.
Thank you. We must have a Dem House. And so, we will.