FBI director James Comey very likely was the final shove in defeating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. There were numerous accomplices, including President Donald Trump and Clinton herself, but his assistance had terminal importance and came on top of misdeeds aplenty.
Seriously afflicted by the Washington disease of self-worship, Comey has been in the news a lot lately. Fired by Trump, he is attempting to return the favor by degrading this man as “morally unfit” for the job. To further that cause while serving his own sanctimony and wallet, he has written a book bashing Trump’s vulgarity and fierceness. He talks about Trump’s small hands and likens him to a mob boss by way of contrasting erudition and civility. Or maybe not.
Comey is suspect on a number of fronts, such as his method of leaking the reason he thinks Trump got rid of him, contested statements made under oath and misuse of dirt dug up on Trump by the Clinton presidential campaign. A biggie is the way he trashed FBI protocols, helping make the agency look like a political werewolf. Let’s look at the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
When the FBI probe was over, Comey appeared in a nationally televised press conference to detail the Clinton misdeeds, showing how she had been grossly negligent, or “extremely careless,” as he put it. But while he left little doubt that gross negligence was criminal the way the law was written, he concluded there was no criminal intent and that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges under these circumstances.
As others have pointed out, it was not his job to say what a prosecutor should do, but Attorney General Loretta Lynch did follow his advice.
All of this was a huge break with protocol - no FBI director had ever before done such a thing - but he explained why in interviews about the book. Just saying the investigation should be dropped could make it look like the Justice Department was in cahoots with the Clintons. He knew she would be elected anyway, and so he pointed to her being “extremely careless” to make it clear the FBI was not trying to hide anything. This was particularly important because of Bill Clinton’s secret airplane meeting with Lynch during the investigation.
Comey said he did not himself believe there was any conniving by husband Bill to save Hillary, but here was an important reason to go to extra lengths to keep the appearance of legitimacy intact.
Then, of course, just 11 days before the election, he announced that the investigation was being reopened, and what loads of people assumed was that something major was up. It turned out to be nothing much, but Clinton’s poll numbers dropped as Trump’s rose. Once more, Comey’s excuse is that he thought she would surely win and no mention of the renewed investigation would make it look like something had been hidden to help her victory.
So what you have on the one hand is Comey more or less saying Clinton had not broken the law when he more or less confirmed she had. A contrary decision would have damaged her even with Lynch still not prosecuting. On the other hand, his unnecessary elucidation of the law and her actions was hurtful to the campaign. Even more hurtful was his announcing the reopening of the investigation without warrant. What it amounts to is the FBI helping to decide a presidential election.
Surprisingly, Comey is not for impeaching Trump. He thinks the American people should face up to their mistake in electing him and correct it. At the same time, of course, he is a witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s quest for an impeachable crime.
What will Comey’s contradictions add up to this time?
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.